Student residents reflect on early exodus from campus housing

By Janine Faust, Editor-in-chief

Madison Korowicki, a first-year chemical engineer who had been living in Forbes Hall, said she was “initially kind of excited” when she learned Pitt was moving classes online on March 11. Soon, though, she realized she wouldn’t be seeing her friends for the rest of the semester after Pitt requested students living in residence halls move out.

“I was considering trying to stay around campus, but pretty much everyone I knew was going home so it was pointless to stay,” she said.

Across the country, students are emptying out of residence halls an entire month early due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The majority of U.S. colleges and universities have requested that students living on campus pack up and head home to combat potentially spreading the virus. Pitt made the decision last week, asking students to “not return” to University housing, if they have the option. The announcement followed Chancellor Patrick Gallagher’s directive on March 11 stating that Pitt would transition to remote learning following an extra week of spring break.

Students were assigned a move-out date and time on the housing portal and received partial refunds for housing and meal plans. The process began on March 12 and will last until Friday, March 20.

Korowicki said she does consider it wise of Pitt to be proactive amid the outbreak, but isn’t sure what the path ahead looks like as she gets used to self-quarantining and remote learning at home.

“It seems like it’ll be OK but I don’t know, now I have to be home 24/7 instead of on campus with friends doing my typical routine … it’ll be a weird adjustment,” she said.

Stuthi Iyer, a first-year history and philosophy of science major, moved out of Tower B on Sunday. She said the announcement from Pitt felt very sudden compared to other universities and she was shocked when she heard the decision.

“It was like the apocalypse was coming or something … I never thought this was an option, to be at home the rest of semester,” she said.

Helen Bovi, a first-year Mandarin and international affairs major living in Sutherland until recently, said she is going to live with her mother in their New Jersey residence, though the two primarily reside with family in Milan. While she’s shocked and sad to be leaving early, she said she approved of Pitt’s decision because she is aware how dire circumstances are back in Italy, where most of her relatives live.

“I think it’s the right choice because I’m seeing what’s going on in Italy and my family is not allowed to leave the house and everything is closed,” she said. “I feel like it’s good to be taking precautions before it gets really bad.”

Caroline Layding, an undeclared first-year previously living in Tower A, said the experience of moving out on Monday was “eerie” because the semester wasn’t over yet. She recounted watching staff wipe down housing carts during the process.

“I know it’s definitely the safest option and the healthy thing for me and my roommates and everyone at Pitt, but selfishly I’m a little sad,” she said. “A week ago I wasn’t even thinking this was a possibility, some of [my friends] I didn’t even say goodbye to.”

For most students, their first priority upon going home is to adjust to remote learning and then watch what happens over the next few months as the pandemic continues. Iyer is wondering if she will be able to secure a position in a summer research lab following the changes in the spring semester and the ongoing outbreak. Korowicki is unsure if she and her friends will be able to take a summer trip together as planned, and Bovi does not know if she will be able to go work in New York City.

Despite the suddenness of the change and ensuing uncertainty, Layding said Pitt handled the unexpected exodus of students well. She was impressed with the assignment of specific dates and times for moving out to each student and was glad to be receiving a percentage of her room and board back.

“I have two older brothers in college. Pitt has been the best at communicating what’s going on and being timely and specific,” she said.

Bovi agreed that Pitt has done a good job with the move-out process and is especially glad they are allowing exemptions for students who cannot afford to leave the residence halls.

“That might have been me if I didn’t have a place to stay here,” she said.