Ryerson University. (The Canadian Press)

Ryerson University. (The Canadian Press)

Students at several colleges, universities asked to vacate dorms over COVID-19

Students said they understood why they were advised to move out, but were nonetheless stressed out

Students at several post-secondary institutions were asked or told Wednesday to move out of their dorms in response to COVID-19, forcing many to search for housing or move between cities at a time when Canadians have been advised to stay home.

Some schools, such as the University of Ottawa and Toronto’s Ryerson University, said students living on campus were required to vacate their rooms, and set deadlines for the move to be complete.

Others, including McGill University and Algonquin College, said they were asking or encouraging students to leave voluntarily.

Most institutions said exceptions could be made for international students and those with “exceptional circumstances,” or who needed more time to arrange an out-of-province move.

The decision marks the latest in a series of measures meant to curb the risk and impact of the novel coronavirus on campuses.

In recent days, colleges and universities have largely shut down their buildings and moved classes online, as well as cancelled in-person exams and co-op placements.

Some students said they understood why they were advised to move out, but were nonetheless stressed out by this latest hurdle, which comes amid growing uncertainty about their education and future.

Jason Beharriell, a first-year radio broadcasting student at Hamilton’s Mohawk College, spent several hours worrying he would be forced to move out of his dorm before learning he had been granted an exemption.

Beharriell, 40, said he was concerned about arranging a last-minute move given that he uses a wheelchair and currently has four, each serving a different purpose.

His hometown of Sault Ste Marie, Ont., is a nine-hour drive away and finding housing locally seemed unlikely under the circumstances, he said.

ALSO READ: B.C.’s largest universities move classes online amid coronavirus spread

“It’s sort of difficult because I have all my equipment here. And it would probably be more beneficial just for me to stick it out here and hermit it out and just keep to myself,” he said Wednesday.

He said there initially appeared to be a lot of confusion over whether students were being asked, or told, to leave. Still, he said: “I don’t want to blame anybody. Really, everybody’s in a panic.”

A spokesman for Mohawk College said Wednesday that students who are able to leave their dorms are “strongly encouraged” to do so, but noted supports will be in place for those who can’t.

Landon Nesbitt, a first-year student at Ryerson, said most students living on campus had already left by the time the school told them they had to.

The 19-year-old, who is studying performance acting, said only those from other countries or provinces stuck around after the university classes were cancelled last week.

But many of those are now having to move by Monday afternoon, and Nesbitt said several friends have offered him a place to stay until he can fly home to Edmonton next week.

“Most of us kind of knew was coming because everything else has been shutting down,” he said.

“My plan right now is to kind of put all my stuff in storage somewhere this weekend… That’s kind of my life right now — in my dorm room trying to find somewhere to put all my stuff and not going outside.”

The bigger stressor, Nesbitt said, is wondering if he’ll be able to find a summer job to pay for his next semester given the widespread closure of restaurants and venues.

Most post-secondary institutions were offering pro-rated refunds to students moving out of dorms due to the novel coronavirus.

The University of Ottawa said it believed requiring students to leave by Sunday afternoon to be an appropriate response to the current public health emergency.

“It is another critical step in our necessary efforts to employ social distancing to flatten the infection curve and reduce the impact of the virus,” the school said in a statement.

At the University of Guelph, undergraduates have also been given a Sunday deadline, though graduate students are allowed to stay in their residences in accordance with their tenancy agreement, a spokeswoman said.

Deirdre Healey said that so far, roughly 200 domestic and international students have asked to extend their stay in housing due to extenuating circumstances. Those who do stay may be asked to move into residences with more apartment-like units, she said.

“These units have kitchens and fewer people share a washroom. These units are also more appropriate spaces for individuals who are in self-isolation,” she said in an email.

McGill University, meanwhile, said it has “strongly encouraged” students in residences to consider returning home as soon as possible if they are able to.

“For those who cannot return home at this time, measures have been put in place to facilitate that students in residences adhere to the practice of social distancing and proper hygiene in accordance with the recommendations of public health,” the university said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for Algonquin College said the school expects 50 to 75 per cent of students will voluntarily vacate its Ottawa dorm, which has 1,040 beds.

Student residences currently remain open at the University of British Columbia, according to a notice posted on its website Wednesday morning, and at the University of Alberta.

“Given the fluidity of the situation, our operations are under ongoing evaluation to determine the safest options for our students,” University of Alberta spokeswoman Hallie Brodie said in an email.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich Fire Department on the scene after a car crashed into the Walmart in Uptown. (Photo courtesy Dan Wood)
PHOTOS: Saanich firefighters free trapped workers at Uptown Walmart

Incident reported as explosion after driver rammed through wall

Tiny packets of carrots ready to be distributed in Victoria. (Submitted/Victoria Seed Share)
Free Victoria seed sharing collective bags work experience funding

Fully volunteer run Victoria Seed Share will get a boost from provincial grant

The CRD is working on a solid waste management plan to reduce the amount of material sent to Hartland Landfill. (Black Press Media file photo)
No time to waste: Greater Victoria closes in on plan for garbage

CRD board to consider final draft solid waste management plan in May

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s help in identifying the man suspected of being involved in a stabbing. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP trying to identify stabbing suspect who wielded rusty knife

Stabbing followed argument between two men at Port Place Shopping Centre April 1

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

Immunization plan comes with built-in options for any unused vaccines at the end of the day

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Vancouver’s park board general manager issued a new order Friday restricting tents and other temporary structures from being set up in Strathcona Park after April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver park board issues order to restrict tents in Strathcona Park

The order issued Friday restricted tents and other temporary structures from being set up after April 30

Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning says the players who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are recovering and the team still intends to play a 56-game season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks players ‘mostly on the other side’ of COVID outbreak: general manager

The athletes have had a “whole range” of COVID-19 symptoms, said team physician Dr. Jim Bovard, but no one has needed to be hospitalized

Police are investigating after a man was shot Thursday, April 8 while sitting in a car in Vancouver. (Black Press files)
Man shot in Vancouver while sitting in a parked car: police

The victim is currently in critical condition. Police say no arrests have been made.

Most Read