Deadline to move approaches as UNCW splits roommates over virus concerns

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The deadline is creeping up for students to move after the University of North Carolina Wilmington announced students living in a double occupancy room must move to a single occupancy room or go home.

One parent of a UNCW junior is unhappy with the options the university has provided.

“You have to give everyone the same rights, otherwise you give them no rights at all,” UNCW Parent Donald Olson-Thornburg said.

Olson-Thornburg says his daughter is an upperclassman living in the on-campus apartments, where she and her roommate have their own bedrooms but share common areas like a bathroom and kitchen.

When the news broke, she was notified they would be getting another roommate to fill an empty room.

Originally, she found out the new roommate was a student coming from a dorm with an existing COVID-19 cluster, but the assigned student has changed twice since then.

Amid the confusion and uncertainty, she just wanted to end her lease and finish her semester online, as some of the freshmen and others living in the double-occupancy housing had done.

But Olson-Thornburg says her request has been denied multiple times.

“If you’re going to give one group of students the opportunity to say I want to move strictly online and you’re not going to give the other students the same ability then it’s kind of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Olson-Thornburg said. “These upper-classmen aren’t being given that option. They’re just being forced to take these kids in and that’s all they can say about it.”

Additionally, he says his daughter’s roommate is immunocompromised.

“Her roommate has an issue with her immune system so she’s not playing with a full deck of cards anyway,” Olson-Thornburg said. “That’s just added stress on top of trying to get an education at a university.”

He says he would like to see students moving from areas with clusters be tested before they move to a new location.

And the bottom line?

“To have my daughter have the same opportunity afforded to her that the underclassmen have had so that she can make the decision based on what she wants,” Olson-Thornburg said. “And that’s what it comes down to, she’s not able to make the decision because the university is tying her hands.”

A spokesperson for the university says all students who shared a room with another student were given the opportunity to leave campus housing, but students in single occupancy rooms were not included because “they can continue to maintain appropriate social distances from others within their existing living arrangements.”

When asked if additional measures would be taken for students moving to new locations, the UNCW spokesperson says students who tested positive are in isolation and students exposed to positive cases are required to quarantine. Additionally, students are asked to complete a daily health assessment and free COVID-19 testing is available at the student health center.

The university says they are still working through final decisions and assignments as they have been flexible with student schedules. At this time, about half of the students required to move opted to move off campus and the other half is moving into a single occupancy room.

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