When Sophomore Indica Simpson first received the email about mandatory move-out, she called the Student Residence Center (SRC). She was told that, because she had renewed her lease for 2021, she could leave her items in her dorm.
Simpson was at home in Nevada for spring break, visiting family. She was under the impression the break was only for a week.
But on Friday, March 20, Coronado Hall Coordinator Johana Gourdin sent out an email stating that without an exception to stay, “residents (are) expected to have vacated (their) assigned space by Tuesday the 24th.”
When Simpson requested clarification, she was told the previous information she received was null.
“Unfortunately, the information you received on Wednesday may be incorrect as the department has not yet decided on that matter. Look out for an email once the plans are solidified,” Simpson was told in an email.
Simpson said the mixed messaging was distressing.
“Every single person that I’ve talked to has told me something different,” Simpson said. “Which is very frustrating because that’s all my personal belongings. That’s everything I own.”
A follow-up email sent to her on March 26 by Hall Coordinator Drew Della-Ratta said Simpson now has until April 5th to pick up her belongings otherwise, they will be donated to Lobo Reclaim.
While Simpson was again given the option to discuss an alternative if she could not make it back in time, she said that she still has no way of knowing when she will be able to return.
“My state is under quarantine...It’s not like I’m just sitting here dragging my feet, I’m not allowed to leave the state,” Simpson said.
Simpson was one of 2,256 students living on-campus when UNM ordered the campus to shutter to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The rapid changes, some of which UNM has apologized for, have left some students adrift in uncertain times.
Ana Milan, Associated Students of UNM vice president-elect and international student from Ecuador, flew home for spring break, only to find that the country would be closing its borders in 24 hours. Milan’s family rushed to the airport to try to book her a flight back to New Mexico, but it was canceled shortly after.
Although Milan has a new flight scheduled for April 7, she had to arrange an alternate move out date with RLSH.
“[RLSH] has been pretty understanding with me, they know it's not my fault that I got trapped in Ecuador...They just told me not to worry about it,” Milan said. Milan is currently an RLSH resident advisor.
Yet Milan faces another set of COVID-19 changes as it relates to her education.
Under normal circumstances, staying in Ecuador and taking her classes online would threaten her student visa status. As the Department of Homeland Security states on its “Study in the States” page, “Only one online or distance learning class can count toward a full course of study for an F-1 student during each term or semester.”
In response, the Global Education Office (GEO) assured international students that the federal government would be flexible in response to the pandemic.
“All F and J students have been granted a temporary exception to the on-line class restrictions for the remainder of spring semester,” GEO said on their website.
Milan said that during the pandemic, international students should make sure they keep up with their student emails so they can reach out sooner rather than later if anything is unclear.
“If you want all these resources like RLSH and GEO to help you, you need to communicate with them. Always make sure you are updated on the situation, always keep track of what’s going on so if you need help you’re able to get that help,” Milan said.
ASUNM President-elect Mia Amin, who is an international student from India, also had advice for international students struggling to handle the pandemic while being far away from home.
“I understand how hard it can be because I spent 18 years of my life in a very comfortable environment, and then moving here...it’s hard to find friendships in a completely new place that will match up to that,” Amin said. “As much as you can, call and talk to friends and family back home because that’s important.”
In addition, Amin said any students who need additional support are welcome to email her for help at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I have been fortunate to have a lot of great opportunities at UNM through which I’ve met people who have offered me support during this time, so if there’s anyone in the community who really needs help, they can reach out to me and I would love to help them out,” Amin said.
The new deadline to vacate the dorms is April 5. Residents can also request prorated refunds for housing and meal plans, according to RLSH’s website.
Alex McCausland is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @alexkmccausland