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      • 25 Mar 2020
      • Salient
      • By Salient Staff <figure class=" sqs-block-image-figure intrinsic " > Credit to Victoria University of Wellington The halls are closing. Education House, 222 Willis, University Halls, and Stafford House are remaining open as emergency housing along with Weir House. The Halls of Residence will remain closed throughout the lockdown and those who have been unable to return home will be moved into an emergency housing facility as soon as possible. This has caused widespread disruption to students who have not been able to return home ahead of the lockdown. “The announcement was a total surprise, especially as they had told us the hall would remain open no matter what.” commented one Weir House resident “I had planned to go out anyway, but now I have to clear my whole room” Azaria from Capital Hall told Salient “they essentially told us that we needed to find a way home within 48 hours without further notice, they've given us really mixed information and have sort of forced us out.” “I was planning to stay in the hall and they pretty much told me that if I could find a way home, I should.” The university’s decision to close the halls follows regulations set by the government and are aimed and reducing the infection rates among students. “As soon as I announced on Saturday that there was no longer any obligation to attend campus for any reason, the halls started emptying out right then” Commented VUW Vice-Chancellor, Grant Guilford. “We’ve had quite a few days to get people home so we’re in a slightly better position than some of the other universities.” While Guilford’s comments commended the Uni’s evacuation efforts, the same sentiment was not echoed by some residents. “[It’s] Caused a huge stir with Education House (comes under the umbrella of “Willis St Halls” with Cumberland) because they all have their own studio suites with bathrooms and kitchens, whereas Weir House are shared facilities” Comment Weir resident India. Not only this, but halls that are not currently being adapted for emergency housing are also still feeling the strain of this decision. “[Te Puni Village] was the same, just useless.” commented one resident. “We were told to go home with 48 hours notice. I’d already left by that point, but the communication and info from TPV has been shit.” The resident told Salient that they were expected to pack their rooms "like we were moving out", raising the question of how long VUW expected halls to be closed. The VUW website states that “All first-year students and Whānau House residents will be relocated to Weir House. This will ensure we can provide everyone a high level of care while ensuring health is protected through good public health practices.” On a Zoom meeting with Salient, the Vice-Chancellor insisted that there would be stringent self-isolation conditions within the remaining halls, which were to be administered by full-time staff, as well as some RAs. Guilford clarified that “there is a group of RAs that wanted to stay and wanted to be involved, so we’re likely to use some RAs in Weir, [...] but the bulk of the staff who will be deployed to these halls in this situation will be our permanent staff” The University was expecting only 250 to 300 students to remain within halls, however, they have informed Salient that this number is closer to 450-500. “We have three teams [at the halls] who we know are comfortable working through the shut down”, commented Guilford. “That allows us to spread the students out a bit more [...] at a couple of hundred it would have been okay at Weir but trying to pack 400 people in there would have been pretty hard.” The Vice-Chancellor continued to say that the focus for keeping these halls open was “Consolidating people into groups that can be properly looked after and properly fed.” If you are a student who has been moved to 222 Willis, Education House, Weir or another emergency housing facility we would love to hear from you. Please contact either or and tell us how the Uni’s decision has impacted you.
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