The Westminster College community has come together to provide funds for students displaced after Spring semester changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Westminster website, housing and dining credits will be issued to students who left campus after the extended Spring break because of COVID-19. ASW also announced a ‘COVID-19 relief fund’ offering students up to $400 on a case-by-case basis.
ASW’s relief fund is focused on helping students who are facing circumstances such as food insecurity or increased need because of lifestyle transitions influenced by the semester adjustments.
“Many of you may have lost your on- and off-campus jobs or needed to spend unanticipated funds for travel,” ASW said in an email to the student body. “We as leaders of ASW want you to know that we are in this together.”
The ASW funds do not apply to tuition, housing or dining reimbursements from Westminster College.
Westminster administration is funding housing and dining credits separately, with more specific plans on how these will be disbursed being announced in the coming months, President Beth Dobkin said in an interview with The Forum.
Housing credits are being issued to residential students who moved out following the extended Spring Break.
“Students who were unable to return to their campus residence hall after spring break […] will be issued a credit for their room charges through the end of the spring term,” according to the Westminster website.
It has not been announced whether these credits will be directly added to tuition accounts for future housing costs or issued checks sent to student homes.
“I’m a little disappointed about still having to pay for it now when I’m not even living there, but I guess it will be nice to have it for next semester,” said Brynlie Green, a first-year English major, in an email.
Although students said that they had not heard any updates on the credits since leaving, they were impressed by the help they were receiving to safely and quickly move out.
“It was pretty stressful,” Green said. “I didn’t realize how much stuff I really had until I had four hours to pack up my life.”
During the transition, students said that Residence Life helped students practice safe distancing to ensure movers safety.
“They staggered times and dates for everyone so that everyone had less interaction while they were moving out, too,” said first-year student Hannah Clawson.
They are also ready to respond to students whose plans changed unexpectedly because of the situation.
“I originally thought I was going to stay on campus […] but once I got back I realized I didn’t want to stay there all by myself with few resources,“ said Olivia Rice, a first-year environmental studies major. “They responded very quickly and told me I could just move out that day since I was there and from out of state.”
Rice is from Elko, Nevada, and was originally staying in Hogle Hall before she left. She said her experience was the best she had had with Residence Life.
Since leaving, Rice said that she didn’t know much about the housing credit at all, but thinks that Westminster students are fortunate to have the credits offered.
“I have friends who are attending other colleges who aren’t getting refunds or credits, so I’d say we’re lucky,” Rice said.
Additionally, students with a dining account with Bon Appetit will be receiving a credit that extends the use of remaining amounts. Any funds that students don’t spend by the end of the academic year usually go to the school after summer. Instead, the amount will continue into the 2020 Fall semester.
“Credit will also be issued for any amounts paid that are remaining on Bon Appetit food accounts at the end of the semester,” according to the Westminster website. “These credits can be used for either the upcoming May Term, Summer or Fall semester.”
For those on campus, hours for Shaw Student Center remain limited based on situation updates. Bassis Student Center remains closed until further notice.
Anyone facing food insecurity on campus can also find free food supplies at the student pantry in front of the ASW office in Shaw during building hours.
Parking Pass Credit
Because some students, faculty and staff are still living or working on campus, parking pass credits will not be issued for Spring semester.
Determining the use of parking passes at this time would be difficult to distinguish because campus is still considered open.
“At this time we are not considering giving any refunds for parking for Spring semester. Much of the semester had been completed before spring break, and while classes are now being held remotely, the college is not closed,” said Syd Tervort, Interim V.P. of Finance and Operations. “Some students are still coming to campus for instruction or materials, some are still living in campus housing, some faculty and staff have work that can only be performed on campus, and parking regulations remain in effect.”
Technology and Facility Fee Credit
At this time there is no information on possible reimbursements for student technology and facility fees following the limited access to the resources.
“Our department has no information on potential fee refunds,” said Hannah Davenport, student account specialist. “I consulted my supervisor and neither of us are aware of any specific person or department that would be able to help.”