In the past few weeks of coronavirus chaos, Jordan Jolo, a student at Marist College, has become accustomed to change: His classes have moved online. A coveted internship at Bank of America abruptly ended. Commencement has not yet been canceled, but Jordan has come to accept that his parents and sister won’t be able to come from France to see him graduate. And whether he’ll be able to work in the U.S., whether he’ll be able to find a job at all — who knows?
At least he had a place to stay. Llike many institutions, Marist, a largely residential college, exempted international students and others who could not travel home or who had no home to go to from requirements that students move out of campus housing.
That is, until last Wednesday, when Jordan and 90 other students still on campus received an email telling them that they had to move out — within 48 hours. “I started to panic,” he said.
So did many of his fellow international students. Many lacked the funds to secure last-minute flights that could run into the thousands of dollars. Others faced quarantines if they returned home; for a few, their home countries had closed their borders. As a senior, Jordan feared that it would be nearly impossible to take part in optional practical training if he left. (The government has yet to issue guidance
on whether students will be able to apply to the post-graduate work program from outside the U.S.)
In the message to students, Deborah DiCaprio, the vice president for student affairs, said that on advice of health professionals, Marist had determined it was too risky to allow the students to remain on campus. Exceptions would be considered only in “exceptional” cirumstances.
But Jordan said his classmates’ appeals were denied. The college did little to help students find alternate accommodations, he said. Instead, Jordan and some fellow seniors began to organize on social media, trying to determine students’ needs. American classmates responded with offers of help, as did professors. Some volunteered on-campus apartments they had hurriedly moved out of; others had spare rooms. Those still in the area said they would help the students move.
Students also started a Change.org petition
calling on administrators to relent, signed by some 1,200 students, faculty members, and alumni. “Forcing students on to flights to go to home is not only dangerous to their health, but also very expensive and sometimes impossible. Please reconsider your decision,” wrote one person. “Do better, Marist,” said another.
On Thursday, Marist released a second message
, saying that there had been “misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations of the college’s policy.” The message, from Geoff Brackett, Marist’s executive vice president, said that the college would provide emergency assistance, such as help with plane fare, to students who needed it. If students had “exhausted” other options, they could petition to stay, although the “bar will be set high” for such requests, Brackett cautioned.
In an email Friday afternoon, a Marist spokeswoman said that 30 students had been granted housing exemptions. Each will stay in their own apartment, with a separate bathroom and kitchen to ensure proper social distancing.
Still, Jordan said he was frustrated by the college’s sudden move-out notice, which exacerbated the very real stress his fellow international students felt at being thousands of miles from home in the middle of a global pandemic. “Our parents were very worried,” he said, “and we had to lie to them that everything would be fine.”
“I’m sad. I never had thought that this would be the way my senior year would end.”
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