On July 24, the Associated Student Program Board (AS) Senators Dania De Ramon and Sen. Anusikha Halder met with Associate Director Mario Munoz from the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Housing, Dining, Auxiliary Enterprises department to discuss housing plans for the 2020-2021 school year. The senators examined critical information regarding housing space, the 2 & 2 program, housing contracts, and living conditions on campus.
UCSB is planning to keep its dorms open for the Fall quarter with careful physical distancing guidelines in place. Existing contracts that have been signed will be upheld for continuing students, but they may not get the same room assignments they selected during the housing application process.
UCSB recently sent out its first batch of contracts for freshmen and transfer students, and new contracts will be sent out depending on how many students accept and sign the contracts from the first batch. About a third of incoming freshmen and transfers will have the opportunity to live on campus. However, with the increasing number of students choosing to stay home for the Fall quarter, more housing contracts may become available in the future.
Depending on how the COVID-19 situation unravels, students who may want to cancel their housing contracts can do so until Sept. 1. Although the UCSB’s housing website has not yet been updated to reflect this change, timely contract cancellations will come at no charge. However, after Sept. 1, students will not only need to pay a $350 fee but will also need to find a replacement for their canceled residence.
Students must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before moving in. UCSB will have a self-serve move-in process and issue every resident a cloth mask on move-in day. Rather than hosting the move-in period over two days, UCSB expects to host it over 10 days instead to reduce physical contact and crowd density. The latest updates from UCSB say that rooms will now most likely only be for single-occupancy but will still be charged at the same rate as double-occupancy rooms. To view a list of housing rates depending on meal plans, click here.
New sanitation measures will also be put in place. UCSB plans to build plexiglass paneling at the front desk and install hand sanitizing dispensers at every building entrance. Residents will be required to wear a face-covering whenever they are outside their rooms and must use hand sanitizer whenever they enter a building. Bathrooms will be cleaned four times a day and will come equipped with automated faucets and toilets to reduce virus transmission. New occupancy limits will be enforced for recreational rooms, bathrooms, and elevators. Guests in individual rooms will not be allowed under any circumstances.
If the conditions of the pandemic improve or if a vaccine is found, UCSB may reevaluate its social distancing standards and change the regulations within the residences accordingly. Students planning to return to campus for the winter must complete a new housing contract in October, and students planning to return for the spring must complete the contract in January.
Under normal circumstances, students who live in the residence halls for their first two years are guaranteed apartment housing for their third and fourth year under the 2 & 2 program. Given the conditions of the pandemic however, housing with the 2 & 2 program is not currently guaranteed. Yet, few students have opted to continue living on campus in pursuit of the program’s benefits. While this plan is not concrete and is still in development, students who initially wanted to go through the 2 & 2 program but canceled their housing plans because of the pandemic, may be able to get their desired housing during their third and fourth years.
The dining commons will also only offer prep-and-go pickup orders for the Fall quarter. Unlike the previous quarter which required students to order their food online, the dining halls will now offer a physically distanced order kiosk. The dining commons will also extend its operational hours to spread out the number of diners over the day, and the Carrillo and De La Guerra dining commons may later open its outdoor seating for limited use. If the COVID-19 situation improves, the dining halls will likely follow the same operational protocol as other restaurants in California.
Furthermore, UCSB’s housing department will provide additional accommodations for immunocompromised students, including delivered sack meals and testing services through Student Health. For students who test positive for COVID-19 and need to be in quarantine, UCSB will offer The Club & Guest House by the Commencement Green and the West Cottages in Isla Vista. The Club & Guest House has 34 available rooms and 300 beds, each room comes with private bathrooms and food delivery services.
These housing plans are still currently in development in accordance with the changing conditions of the pandemic. Additionally, the housing department is still waiting on approval for these plans from Chancellor Yang and Governor Gavin Newsom.
“We want to be as transparent as possible,” said Sen. Anusikha Halder, AS On-Campus Senator, in an interview with The Bottom Line. “The governor already gave his say-so on K-12 schools, so we’re still waiting for what will happen with the UC system. This is an evolving process and we want to do our best to convey the right information.”
UCSB housing plans, while still tentative, are meant to be flexible with any changes that may come about in the next few months. As the pandemic has shown, many things are subject to change. The best way to handle the current situation is to prepare well, and keep both yourself and others safe.