‘This has been an absolute disaster’: Students forced to leave dorm to make room for COVID-19 isolation facilities


CW / Hannah Saad

Students prepare to move out of Burke.

Jessa Reid Bolling | @jr_bolling, News Editor

Just six days into the fall semester, Amalia Halpin, a freshman who was majoring in public health, has decided to drop out from the University. Her decision came after being told she had two days to move out of her dorm in Burke West Residence Hall and relocate to another residence facility on campus. 

UA students living in Burke West Residence Hall were informed Monday, Aug. 24 that they are being consolidated to other housing facilities on campus to make rooms available for expanded COVID-19 isolation facilities. The move comes days after administrators warned about the University’s COVID-19 isolation facilities reaching full capacity if infection rates continue to spread at the rate they have this past week. At the time of this move, isolation facilities located at the Highlands and Bryce Lawn Apartments sat at about a 20% capacity, according to a System-wide dashboard.

When Halpins’ parents discovered the move was to create new COVID-19 isolation spaces for sick students, they immediately wanted her to return home to Massachusetts. 

“I can’t afford to go here if they’re gonna send us home,” Halpin said. “It’s super unfortunate, but I had to drop out of college for it. This has been an absolute disaster.”

Halpin said that she is not alone in leaving the University due to the confusion that COVID-19 has caused, saying other students immediately dropped out after receiving the email. 

“The fact that you have to move out healthy students to accommodate sick ones should be enough of an indicator that you need to send people home,” Halpin said. 

Students living in Burke West received the news in an email from Housing and Residential Communities. 

“After careful consideration, we have decided to consolidate Burke West residents into other housing facilities on campus, due to the high vacancy rate within the building. This decision was not made lightly, but it will provide the best use of space for the campus as a whole. This move is not optional, but please know that we will do everything we can to make this transition as smooth as possible.”

Monica Watts, associate vice president for communications, said consolidation is standard practice as availability is reviewed at the beginning of each semester to make the most efficient and effective use of space.

Students living in Burke West were notified of their new living assignment on Tuesday and are required to be completely moved out of Burke West by Wednesday evening. Moving carts were provided Monday, and UA staff will assist in transporting students’ belongings to their new locations. 

Relocated students will continue to pay the Burke West rate, even if their new living assignment typically charges a higher rate. Students will also receive $250 in Bama Cash. 

Students were also told that there was no guarantee that they could keep their current roommates. 

“This was a very hard decision for our staff, and we apologize for the inconvenience that it will cause,” Housing and Residential Communities said in the email. “We appreciate your assistance in coordinating the move to your new placement.”

Tee Quillin, a parent of a UA student, took to Twitter to express his outrage.

“I’m talking to my daughter now,” Quillin wrote in a tweet. “The entire dorm is packing up their stuff tonight. They are all in chaos and horribly upset. Lots of tears and anxiety. @UofAlabama you MUST make this right for these young ladies. They do not deserve this.”

“This is breaking my heart for these young ladies,” Quillin wrote in another tweet. “They’d better be excused from classes tomorrow WHILE THEY UPROOT THEIR LIVES.”

Quillin said that as a parent, he is angry and hurt for his daughter and all of the students being forced to move. As an alumnus, Quillin said he was embarrassed at how the University has responded to the virus and that he thought that the University would be “better than this.”

“Someone really dropped the ball on the planning of this and it’s these students who are paying the hardest price,” Quillin said. “They are freshmen and college is hard enough as it is. These ladies are going to have to parade their clothes, possessions, and themselves across campus to a completely unknown dorm after just having gotten settled in. It’s humiliating and degrading. If it was necessary, at the very least refund their dorm fees, or a portion, and allow them more time to make the transition. The way this was handled by the University is absolutely heartless. They should be ashamed.”

Photo editor Hannah Saad contributed to the reporting of this story.