Concerns are growing among students and faculty members about plans by some colleges to keep residence halls at full capacity this fall, which goes against the recommendations of public health agencies.

Students and faculty members from campuses within the University of North Carolina system are demanding an explanation for why residence halls will be occupied at full capacity in the fall despite a warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that doing so would put on-campus housing at the “highest risk” of spreading coronavirus.

Lauren Whitehouse, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, signed up to live in an on-campus apartment with three other students before the pandemic intensified in March. Whitehouse said she will not be living in the apartment this fall; she considers the risk of living in a full-capacity dorm room to be too high. She was grouped with random roommates, who she said are “very social” and whom she’s recently seen on social media out at clubs and not adhering to public health guidelines.

“I’m really concerned about living with people who I think won’t follow restrictions,” said Whitehouse, who has one semester remaining before she graduates in December. “I know they’ll be going out when we come back as well. I know a lot of people in our age group are not taking it seriously.”

But after multiple requests to UNCW Housing and Residential Life officials to be let out of the housing contract, her request was denied because one of the two classes she is taking in the fall for her geoscience major meets occasionally in person for field study. The university allows students to cancel their housing contracts without penalty if all their classes are scheduled to be fully online in the fall, according to an FAQ page for students about UNCW’s reopening plan.

“I’m currently working very hard to figure out how I’m going to pay for an apartment that I’m not going to be living in, because I don’t feel safe living there,” Whitehouse said.

Plans for full-occupancy residence halls appear to be consistent among several universities within the UNC system.

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