Local universities ‘strongly encourage’ students return to permanent homes, offer housing reimbursements

James Woodson/DigitalVision/Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — While both Dixie State University and Southern Utah University have moved to online instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students remain on campus in student housing or are currently residing in other private rentals.

However, a campus email sent to all SUU students Tuesday morning stated that while they will not close student housing, they are encouraging students to return to their permanent residences if possible, especially out-of-state students.

The letter sent to all students states the following:

We recognize that some students may need to stay in Cedar City for work reasons, safety reasons or because this is your permanent residence. However, in advance of potential travel restrictions being placed on us by the State of Utah, and for overall health reasons, we strongly encourage all students (who are able) to return to their permanent residence.

In response to the potential travel restrictions posed in the letter, Vice President of Student Affairs Jared Tippets wrote in an email to St. George News that they are unaware of any travel restrictions for Utah residents or for the state of Utah.

“However, we have seen how some surrounding states have placed some travel restrictions on their residents and don’t want our out-of-state students to be impacted if or when Utah makes similar decisions,” he said.

When asked whether the timing of this email had to do with a student on campus testing positive for COVID-19, Tippets said they are “unaware of any students, faculty, or staff who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Housing on Southern Utah University campus, Cedar City, Utah, undated | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University Marketing Communications, St. George News

Like most Americans, the university is carefully monitoring the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 situation, he said. They are following closely the state’s guidance, information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the local health department, as well as information coming out of Washington, D.C.

“We are simply concerned about the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff and are trying to make decisions that put everyone in the safest position possible,” he said.

Southern Utah students living on campus this spring semester are able to check out of their residence hall and will receive a prorated refund for the remainder of the semester.

“Students living off-campus have been instructed to contact their landlords for possible refunds,” Tippets said.

In a virtual community forum held March 24, SUU President Scott Wyatt addressed potential concerns about international students, urging community members not to place blame on students.

“These students didn’t cause this problem, and they didn’t bring the virus here,” Wyatt said. “They’re a long, long, long ways from their mothers and from their fathers. This is sometimes a challenge for them during these times. … To the extent you can, find a way to be extra nice and supportive of those students.”

Dixie State University spokeswoman Jyl Hall told St. George News that Dixie does not plan on closing student housing but is encouraging students to stay inside and not congregate.

“A lot of our students are from southern California, and there’s actually fewer cases here than their home town, so they feel safer here,” Hall said, “so as a service to them, we are keeping our student housing open.”

She added that since they have a limited number of rooms on campus, they are able to safely keep campus housing open.

“However, if students feel safer going home, we are encouraging that,” she said.

Dixie State will also offer prorated reimbursements to students who choose to move out before April 7.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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