More than 50 sophomores in two sororities had to wait nearly a month to move into their home in Barnett Hall at the beginning of the semester due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Then came the bad news. No sooner had they unpacked their bags, the students in Kappa Delta (KD) and Alpha Delta Pi (ADPi) were forced to move out of their rooms in Barnett to create space for quarantine housing.
“By relocating 59 residents in Barnett Hall, we can likely accommodate upwards of 150 students needing isolation and quarantine accommodations,” said Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Christopher Miller, in an email to the displaced students.
Initially, the officials talked of moving some of the students off campus to a hotel, according to university emails obtained by The Tiger and interviews with several of the sorority members.
But that set off protests from students and parents, emails show. They thought it was unfair to force students off campus, especially since some had no cars for the commute. The backlash had an impact.
The university reconsidered and made accommodations. It found housing for the students in other living quarters on campus, according to emails between Associate Director of Residential Living Brianna Lombardozzi and students. The unhappy students also received moving assistance, free parking passes and other financial incentives.
“Clemson gave us about a week’s notice that we were moving out of our dorms in Barnett, originally telling us that we were moving to an off-campus hotel and then switching it up two days before the move to keep us on campus at Douthit,” said Kappa Delta sophomore nursing major Kyra Merrill.
“It was a tough move because we were only given options to move during the school week when a lot of us had exams and classes, but I’m glad they decided to keep us on campus,” said Merrill. “I understand why it was a tough situation, but I think that it could have been handled a lot better by administration.”
Barnett Hall is one of the low-rise housing buildings in the horseshoe on Clemson’s campus and has been home to the KD and ADPi sorority halls. Students who live in these halls are traditionally sophomores. Almost all other sorority and fraternity halls are placed on the Greek Quad and in Norris Hall on the other side of campus with the exception of three sororities in Smith Hall, another low rise building on the horseshoe.
Rising case counts and reaching isolation and quarantine capacity
At the time that members of KD and ADPi began reaching out to The Tiger about the planned displacement, Clemson had an estimated 718 affiliates in active isolation on Oct. 8, both on- and off-campus. There were 532 on-campus students being provided accommodations by Clemson Home for either isolation or quarantine (Clemson does not distinguish between the two in its data).
532 in isolation and quarantine is a high number, given the isolation capacity at the start of in-person instruction of 629-674 beds – 455 off-campus, 174 at Thornhill Village and 45 in Douthit Hills. The university last reported its isolation capacity to The Tiger on Oct. 28 as 867 beds, an increase of 193 with 372 on-campus beds and 495 off-campus beds.
When Clemson informed the student body of the prior movement of both sororities in the October Student Affairs Digest on Oct. 21, there were 372 affiliates in active isolation.
Forced to find other housing accommodations
Due to COVID-19 and the university’s delay for on-campus move in, many students who were going to live in Barnett found other housing accommodations and were able to be released from their housing contract on the hall before September, according to several sorority members who wished to be unnamed. Looking at the halls before the move, a majority of KD members stayed while a majority of ADPi members found other accommodations.
The initial plan when the news was first given to the KD students was a move to the Comfort Inn & Suites in Clemson, according to several KD members. The students would be living there for the remainder of the year. The problem with this move is that the Comfort Inn is considerably far off campus and does not allow for the same experience as living on Clemson’s campus. Many students and their families argued that the move to living off campus was not fair, and many people did not have cars in order to make the commute to campus for classes and eating meals.
After backlash and further arguments against the move to a hotel, Kappa Delta residents in Barnett Hall were reassigned to full apartments in Douthit Hills B and C, according to the emails between Lombardozzi and students. Due to the change in pricing between Douthit Hills and Barnett Hall, students were extended the same price to live in Douthit Hills as they had been paying before on the hall. Students were also given a free parking pass and an option to cancel their meal plans as the new housing in Douthit Hills holds a full kitchen.
Because of the low numbers on ADPi’s floor in Barnett, a space on the quad in Wannamaker Hall was found to be available and able to house the students. Clemson provided these students moving assistance or an option to release from their housing contract with a $1000 credit, according to emails sent by Miller.
“I was a little annoyed at first just because we were [in Barnett] for such little time before we had to move, but I actually love it over [in Wannamaker] as it is so much better,” said ADPi sophomore biology major Lillian Sumner. “Housing repainted some common rooms and stuff for us which was nice.”
The lack of notice and upsetting situation made by housing caused many other students to wonder if Clemson had prepared themselves enough for this semester and COVID-19. Many questions still remain. Will this happen again and to which on-campus students?