Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's February 2 print edition.
UT-Austin told residents of Creekside Residence Hall they had to move out Jan. 27 after they were originally told they had until Jan. 31 to move to another residence hall.
On Dec. 15, University Housing and Dining told Creekside residents the dorm would close Jan. 31 to consolidate students living on campus, according to an email to residents obtained by The Daily Texan. Creekside residents were asked to move to Moore-Hill Residence Hall, or request to move to a different residence hall, according to the original email. Residents were not informed the move date changed to Jan. 27 until that afternoon.
“Circumstances have changed and everyone and their belongings must be out of the building by the end of today,” the Jan. 27 email said. “Due to the shortened time frame, we will work with residents to coordinate moving all belongings from Creekside starting today. If you are in your Creekside room, staff will assist you with your move.”
According to the email, UHD staff would enter the rooms of residents who were not on campus to gather their belongings and relocate them to their assigned rooms in Moore-Hill.
A Creekside resident, who requested anonymity due to their employment by the University, said UHD staff began bagging residents’ items shortly after 3 p.m., minutes after the email was sent at 2:47 p.m. Jackson Shilliday, a Creekside resident, said UHD employees left the dorm at about 5 p.m.
University spokesperson J.B. Bird said the date was moved up because undergraduate hybrid classes started in person Feb. 1. The University announced on Jan. 8 classes would be going online.
"That's just one of those things, we wish we'd done it all at the same time,” Bird said when asked why students weren’t informed of the change earlier. “It wasn't optimal."
Civil engineering senior Shilliday, who has lived at Creekside since his freshman year, said it was shocking to receive news that they had to move out by Jan. 31 when they couldn’t move back to the dorms until Jan. 15.
“If you replace the words ‘UT Housing and Dining’ with ‘landlord,’ … it would be a wild, wild story for a landlord to come to you the day of and say, ‘You have X number of hours to move out, move all of your stuff to this other place a couple blocks down the road,’” Shilliday said.
Bird said residents were told they would have to move out in December as part of UT’s financial mitigation.
“(Closing Creekside) allows us to keep costs in check,” Bird said. “It also congregates students closer to resources, closer to the activities in the campus community.”
Bird said he wished the University had told residents earlier to give them time to plan their move-out process.
“It is not convenient,” Bird said. “There are inconveniences for everyone.”
Art Markman, head of the academic working group for COVID-19 planning, said there were discussions about turning Creekside into a COVID-19 isolation facility, but he wasn’t sure if the change would occur.
Bird said he believes the University has discussed turning Creekside into an isolation facility, but could not confirm if clearing out residents was related.
“You do have to discuss a lot of options to make sure you’re ready to handle the very rapidly evolving conditions of a pandemic,” Bird said.
The anonymous Creekside resident said UHD handled the situation irresponsibly.
The resident said many students, being “typical college students,” hadn’t started packing and were waiting until the last minute to move out.
“They placed a burden and urgency on all the staff and residents in the middle of a regular class day and in the middle of a pandemic and it was just irresponsible,” the resident said.