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HRL asks some students to leave campus earlier than expected, causing sudden travel plans and expenses

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Update: This story was updated at 7:25 p.m. Friday to reflect that the international student who graduated this spring was approved to receive money from the Student Assistance Fund.

After granting students unable to return home housing for the summer, Housing and Residence Life unexpectedly changed some students’ required move-out dates due to Fall semester planning.

Duke allowed some students to stay in on-campus housing over the summer, including those who faced difficulties returning home due to coronavirus-related airline complications or worried they wouldn’t be permitted to return to the U.S. in the fall. 

Some of these students had graduated, making this summer the first time Duke has housed recent graduates, according to Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life.

“HRL is proud to have been able to offer additional support to both students and recent graduates during this extenuating time,” Gonzalez wrote in an email to The Chronicle. 

In late June, however, HRL moved up the dates by which some students who won’t be on campus in the fall have to leave campus. Gonzalez wrote that the move-out changes resulted from the development of Fall semester plans.

“The University's announcement of an earlier start date for the Fall semester required an earlier date to accommodate the new fall move-in time period and the time frame needed to return items sent to storage as part of the pack/ship/store program,” he wrote. 

He confirmed that students continuing at Duke can stay for the rest of the summer. They will be moving in July, most directly to their Fall housing assignment.

An international student who graduated this spring, and who asked to remain anonymous to not publicly reveal her financial situation, said that she believed extended campus housing was necessary due to the inability of many international students to return home.

“I am immensely grateful that Duke let me be on campus until now and honestly, I don't know what I would do if they didn't. I didn't have enough funds to find a place for myself off campus and I would risk losing my full time job offer in the U.S. if I had left the country then,” the graduated student wrote in a message. 

She wrote that many international students who remained on campus either lost their job offers or can’t return to their home countries because the flights were cancelled.

The graduated student wrote that she was given an extension to remain on campus until August 10. 

But on June 22, she received an email from Housing and Residence Life that told her she would now be expected to move out by July 13. 

“Our records indicate you graduated this past spring semester. Therefore, we now can only house you until July 13th, 2020. We will need you to move out of your on campus assignment by 5pm on July 13,” read the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle.  

The graduated student wrote that “the request to move by the 13th July came out of nowhere.” Although she was able to begin a scheduled apartment lease early, she wrote that she was struggling to come up with the first month’s rent and that she had applied for funds from the Student Assistance Fund.

“If the Duke [Student] Assistance Fund ends up helping me with the first month's rent, I would consider myself one of the lucky ones really,” she wrote July 9, before the request was approved. 

At 10:37 a.m. on July 10, she was notified that she had been approved to receive about half the money she had requested. 

Gonzalez told The Chronicle in an email that students asked to leave were referred to the Student Assistance Fund for support.

Samia Zaman, a junior from Dhaka, Bangladesh, who is taking the Fall semester off, wrote in an email that she chose to stay on campus over the summer after her first flight home in May was cancelled and her second was “indeterminably deferred.” 

She is also participating in a virtual research program this summer and wrote that her home environment would likely not be conducive to productivity. 

Zaman has been planning for more than a year to take her junior Fall semester off for health and personal reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic, she wrote. 

She wrote that she was initially told she was allowed to remain on campus until August 12.

On July 1, she received an email from Housing and Residence Life notifying her that she would now be expected to move out by July 24. She was able to push her move-out date back to July 25 in order to fly on a weekend so that she didn’t have to miss any days of her research program.

Zaman wrote that as soon as she received the email, she rushed to find a flight home. 

“Thankfully, there was one Economy class ticket for July 25 left (and no ticket before July 22 available at all, regardless of class/expense),” she wrote, explaining that she narrowly avoided having much more difficulty returning to Bangladesh. 

On July 8, the anonymous recent graduate received an email from Daniel Watt, the residence coordinator for Kilgo Quad, informing students that there had been a miscommunication regarding move-out dates. 

The email, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle, announced that graduating seniors were expected to move out on July 26, while non-graduating students should move into their fall housing assignments on July 23.  

Zaman wrote that she received the same information in her email exchanges with HRL that same day, July 8. 

The recent graduate wrote that although she knows Duke’s plans are dynamic during this unprecedented time, she wishes they had been more proactive about helping the students they were asking to leave earlier than originally planned. 

“I do understand that Duke needs to clear out the rooms to have them ready for the next semester. I just wish that they would work with us more closely to help us figure out alternative options and how we might be able to afford them,” she wrote. 

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