On Iowa, go home: University of Iowa students move out of residence halls

Hawkeyes have until March 29 to move out of residence halls as the UI aims to contain the COVID-19 spread locally.

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Katie Goodale

In this triptych, UI sophomore Jake Wayne (left), UI junior Chengwei Yue and UI freshman Katie Eganhouse pose for portraits as they move out of the residence halls over the weekend. The UI announced on March 18 that students would have to move out as classes are moved online for the remainder of the semester due to COVID-19.

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

Updated:


Traffic off Interstate 80 is typically a marker of residence-hall move-out. Clinton and Dubuque Streets are packed with parents’ vehicles and filled with the hustle and bustle of families carting belongings out of each on-campus living facility. Moving carts jam the hallways inside as students seek to move their items out from their temporary homes and into cars in just a few swift trips.

That wasn’t the scene in recent days as Hawkeyes returned to the residence halls to pack up their belongings and move out suddenly at the University of Iowa’s direction amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Clouds hung over the campus as Hawkeye parents’ vehicles sparsely lined Clinton Street and the parking lots situated near east- and west-side residence halls. With the move-out period extending from March 19-29, this setup is intended to ease traffic to allow timely access to UI Hospitals and Clinics and ensure social distancing as families pack up students’ belongings.

The university will send students pro-rated adjustments to their university bills for housing and dining charges, though officials haven’t shared further details with specifics on that information.

Katie Goodale
UI freshman Zoee Buffalo (left) moves out of Burge residence hall on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The University of Iowa announced Wednesday that classes would be moved online and students would have to move out of the residence halls for the rest of the semester because of COVID-19.

UI first-year student Zoee Buffalo, a Burge Hall resident from Tama, Iowa, who studies exercise science within the public-health major, was among those who came to campus to move out on the first day available, March 19.

Buffalo said she was with a lot of her college friends when the UI emailed students notifying them to head home for the semester and vacate the residence halls.

“They all came to my house and we were just eating lunch, and then we all got the email at the same time,” she said. “It was kind of sad. And then … the moving out part was so confusing, because they didn’t really explain how to do it, and then when my sister and I found out that we can move out, we just picked the earliest time that we could just to get it done and over with.”

She signed a lease to live in an apartment next year, but recalled — with a laugh — memories of her months in Burge Hall, which some students call “Dirty Burge.” She said she’s had to trudge downstairs for numerous fire alarms and there were problems with people pushing out ceiling tiles.

Katie Goodale
UI junior Chengwei Yue moves out of Peterson residence hall on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The University of Iowa announced yesterday that classes would be moved online and students would have to move out of the residence halls for the rest of the semester because of COVID-19. Yue is an international student from China studying business management.

RELATED: UI classes will move online for rest of semester, spring commencement canceled

“I don’t even know when the whole corona[virus] thing will be done — if it would be done [by next academic year], or if it’ll be done before school even ends and everyone could technically come back and nobody will,” she said. “So, I don’t know. I wasn’t ready for all this.”

Across campus on the west side of the Iowa River, UI junior Chengwei Yue, a Petersen Hall resident from China who studies business management, said he will take his friend’s room in an apartment after he graduates this spring, but is working on a short-term housing solution.

He’s also worried about access to office hours and taking exams now that instruction will be virtual for the remainder of the spring semester.

“Because the … campus is closed, I don’t think I should be here anymore,” he said.

Parked alongside the empty basketball court behind the east-side residence halls on March 21, UI second-year student Jake Wayne, a Burge Hall resident studying chemical engineering from Romeoville, Illinois stowed his belongings inside a truck to be driven back home on the other side of the Mississippi River.

UI sophomore Jake Wayne moves out of Burge residence hall on Thursday, March 19, 2020. The University of Iowa announced yesterday that classes would be moved online and students would have to move out of the residence halls for the rest of the semester because of COVID-19.

Though only three days after the UI called for students living on campus to pack up and move out, Wayne said the university’s decision to send people and move instruction online didn’t entirely surprise him.

He said he’s met some of the greatest people he knows here in his two years at the UI — and some of the worst — but he’ll stay close with the good ones nonetheless despite the physical distance.

“I can’t say I’m happy about it, but there’s really nothing I can do about it,” he said. “They’re really doing it for the sake and health of the student body, so, it has to be done, it has to be done.”

When he returns to campus, he’ll live in an apartment, but aside from that transition, he’s “hoping that it just starts out like any other year.”

RELATED: UI seniors face the reality of canceled commitment this spring

In the parking lot behind Currier Hall, UI first-year student Katie Eganhouse packed up her things along with her mother and said feelings of sadness and tiredness prevailed after the news that classes for the remainder of the semester would move online.

The Currier resident from Kansas City, Kansas, who’s on the pre-physician assistant track, said she has spent social-distancing time generally only leaving to get medicine for her family or other items for her grandparents so they don’t have to go outside. But as someone who aspires to pursue a career in the medical field, she said this pandemic “made me want to help more.”

She anticipates the eventual return to campus will be different, as Hawkeyes will be cooped up inside for the coming weeks.

“It’s going to be kind of weird to be going to classes and stuff when we come back, and kind of a little scary still, if we come back in August — which, I don’t know if we will,” she said. “… Just because, I mean, it wouldn’t be that long. It’d be like five months from now and I’d still have concerns about what’s going on.”

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