Please note: This is a developing story and this article will be updated as more information arises.

McMaster is requiring students to move out of residence by this Saturday at 4 p.m., as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads and calls for social distancing increase across the province.

In a release sent out the morning of March 17, McMaster announced immediate changes to support social distancing within residences. Until the move-out deadline, guests will not be permitted in residences, and common rooms and game rooms will be closed.

In order to appropriately check-out, students must complete a mandatory online residence status update form through the McMaster Housing Portal. The form asks students to select a move-out time between Tuesday, March 17 and Saturday March 21 at 4 p.m.  

Before this release, the university suspended all in-person classes and exams on Friday, March 13. Many classes are being moved online, and professors are required to contact students by Wednesday to let them know how their courses will proceed for the remainder of the term. 

McMaster’s 12 on-campus residences house almost 3,600 students. It remains to be seen how the university will support students in their transition from residence.

A room in residence costs between $5,800 and $9,000 for a year. The residence contract requires students to move out of residence the day after their last exam, which can be anywhere from April 13 to April 29. 

In the March 17 release, McMaster committed to providing “financial consideration for your shortened stay in residence” to students who check out of residence on or before the designated move-out deadline. It is not yet clear what financial consideration entails. According to the frequently asked questions column on the Residence COVID-19 Updates page, the University does not currently have any information regarding refunds for meal, residence, and parking fees. Food plan budgets will, however, carry over into next year. Information is expected to be updated soon. 

The university may make exceptions for students who are unable to return home due to travel restrictions, however, students need to submit an application through the McMaster Housing Portal in order to be eligible to remain in residence. According to the release, the only students eligible to remain in residence are international students and out-of-province students who need extra time to move out.

The statement did not make note of students who face additional barriers, which may prevent them from being able to complete the remainder of their academic terms, should they be forced to move out from residence. 

Students may be unable to return to their family homes due to unsafe living situations or unsupportive families. Additionally, students may not have access to wifi and other resources necessary to complete their course work. As the provincial government requires all public libraries in Ontario close under a declaration of emergency, it remains to be seen how the university will support students without access to the resources necessary to engage in online courses.

Update: March 20, 2020: While international students and out-of-province students are pre-approved to stay in residence, students with extenuating circumstances, such as those in unsafe living situations, can apply to extend their stay.

“Students who have extenuating circumstances may request special consideration from the Residence Admissions office to extend their stay.  These are approved on a case-by-case basis,” wrote Holly Gibson, manager of marketing and communications for housing and conference services, in an emailed statement.

Gibson also confirmed that all food services except for Centro are now closed.

It is yet to be determined whether students who stay in residence will remain in their current rooms.

“Once we determine the number of students who will need to stay on campus, we will make plans with a focus on student safety, social distancing and in alignment with Public Health recommendations,” stated Gibson.

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