Student Dorm Closures: Impact on Students


Title (Dublin Core)

Student Dorm Closures: Impact on Students
Glory Turnbull Oral History, 2020/07/28

Description (Dublin Core)

COVID-19 caused St. Mary's University to shut down rapidly on campus after spring break. Most students didn't return after spring break, and had to make later plans to return to get their personal items (including clothes, textbooks, and other items that they may have urgently needed). Some students, who didn't have a place to return to, worked with St. Mary's residence life to make arrangements to remain in the dorms. Students who stayed faced a unique set of challenges and uncertainty with what lay ahead. Combined degree student (undergraduate and graduate) Glory Turnbull, a resident in on campus housing, reflects in this oral history on what these rapid closures of campus meant to them.

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Type (Dublin Core)

oral history

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Interviewer (Bibliographic Ontology)

Glory Turnbull

Interviewee (Bibliographic Ontology)

Glory Turnbull

Location (Omeka Classic)

Victoria, Texas

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Transcription (Omeka Classic)

Hi, my name is Glory. And I'm a student at St. Mary's University. And I was a student during the spring 2020 semester when the COVID-19 crisis really took off. And basically, I'm just going to kind of explain the email I've included in the St. Mary's University COVID-19 archiving project.

And the reason why I've decided to include it is because it's probably the most terrifying email I've received. As of yet, I trust that more horrifying things will be sent my way as I get older. The reason why it was so terrifying to receive is that, at the point that I received this email, I was working under the impression that I'd be living on the St. Mary's campus until the end of the spring semester, I hadn't gone home for spring break, and I hadn't gone home for the extended spring break, I'd applied to stay on campus for longer, as they were trying to sort out what to do in the face of a pandemic, a lot of really difficult decisions were being made. And one of those decisions was to close down the residence halls as much as they could.

And so they sent out this email on March 18th 2020 basically telling all the students who were on campus and still had their stuff on campus to completely move out by March 23, at 5pm. So, for a lot of students, that's not really a problem, I want to say most students have a place where they can go: their family, they'll typically live with them during the summer, or they have an apartment during the year. But for me, I just didn't really have that. I don't feel comfortable going home, I didn't. I didn't have an apartment at the time, clearly, I was staying on campus. And I genuinely did not know what to do. Whenever I got this email. I opened it in the morning, it was accompanied by an email from the president of St. Mary's as well. And you know, when you're half asleep, and you wake up, and you just kind of swipe some of your notifications away. But whenever you see something kind of important, you know, you click on it, and you give it a scan.

And so, laying in bed on the morning of March 18, I just completely started freaking out. As soon as I saw that the residence halls were closing. In the email, you'll see that it says that, under extreme circumstances, they would allow students to stay on campus for longer than March 23. And I didn't know if my case is extreme enough, you know, like, what, what's extreme, it's a pandemic, we've got international students who are stranded here, we've got students who maybe don't have parents, and I do, I just didn't want to live with them. Not for any, like, petty reason. But you know, my mom's an alcoholic. My stepdad is extremely homophobic and conservative, and that just doesn't align with the way that I live my life and how I identify, and so I didn't feel safe living either of those places. To be suddenly, you know, scrambled to start finding apartments. You know, step one, have a cry. I'm a big crier. So I, you know, shed a few tears. And then I'm a planner too. So get the planning, what am I gonna do? What's my plan? And what's my strategy? And so during this semester, I work four jobs, right? Work four jobs, taking two grad classes, six undergrad classes, how on earth? But you know, working four jobs, you make money, you have a little bit of leeway.

So I started looking for apartments. And I remember during this like these few days, it was raining, because apartments usually won't show their units that are available in the rain. There's some kind of liability reason that they just don't want to have someone slip I guess, on their property and then run into a lawsuit or something like that. So I called a few apartments, and they wouldn't show their units because it's raining. So it rains on the 18th, rains on the 19th, rains on the 20th.

This whole time, I'm kind of scrambling to figure out what to do. Because I informed I think residence life that hey, I kind of think I need to stay on campus for a little bit longer. But they hadn't really gotten back to me yet. And that feeling of uncertainty was just kind of horrible.

And even though I was freaking out, there is also a lot of kindness that was sent my way... I guess people I didn't expect were suddenly like, hey, well, if you can't find anything, you can stay with me, from just the most unexpected people, which isn't to say that, like, I'm isolated from St. Mary's community usually, or that I don't think the people that I see regularly would want to help me, just that you don't really know, who's gonna be there for you, when you haven't really had to ask for help before. So it was just really touching that so many people came together to support me. And like, send me resources or, you know, ask her out and try and give me an answer a little bit faster. So I could put my mind to rest.

So even though this was like, the start of, I guess, a downward spiral, it helped, that there were people there that I could rely on. And that, even though I would have to keep doing four jobs in all of my classes, throughout the semester, no matter where I would end up, that people cared about me, and they were invested in me succeeding and surviving this semester, you know, living to tell another fucking tale. Like I said, I'm kind of a crier. And, yeah, that's my COVID-19 story. It's just one email. That kind of changed everything. It was the starting point for everything getting a hell of a lot worse, but also realizing that there are people who care about me, that don't want to see me, you know, stressed out or failing, or scrambling to get an apartment, or, you know, sleeping on couches or something like that. Which isn't the worst thing that could happen.

But, you know, I have a support system. It's there, even if I don't realize it, how we all have support systems. There are people that care about all of us, even if it's kind of invisible when you don't need anything from people. And I'll always be grateful to the people that took care of me during that time.

I mean, everything kind of ended up fine. I stayed at St. Mary's, with approval from the Residence Life Office until April, and then I got an internship. And it was my absolute dream position. You know, I don't know... things kind of balance out. When horrible things happen, sometimes, good things come of it. And things have to balance out eventually. You can only suffer so much until something good happens to you. But yeah, that's all, bye.

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This item was submitted on September 29, 2020 by Lindsey Wieck using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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