July 7, 2020
To our new WSU Pullman students and our Cougar Community,
We hear you.
I wanted to take a moment today to address concerns regarding the WSU Housing and Dining Contract Addendum we sent to future Cougs on July 1, 2020. In those emails, WSU Housing communicated our Fall 2020 housing situation on the WSU Pullman campus which reiterated messages we had delivered to students and their families at the June 24 “WSU Town Hall”, in the New Coug Experience email sent June 26, and during the July 2 “Upcoming Parent Information Forum”.
For us, it was important to be consistent and clear about our Fall 2020 expectations and our future Cougars’ responsibilities living in the Pullman community. We stated unequivocally that the choices they make and their decisions to adhere to the guidance of local, state and federal health authorities would impact our options and weigh heavily in our decisions about university operations.
As a WSU Community, we live by our values of Cougs helping Cougs, and our actions since COVID-19 unexpectedly arrived demonstrate that. Our community must come first.
Here is what you need to know:
We have provided detailed information about our decisions below. We rely on each and every Coug – including YOU - to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- WSU Housing and Dining plans to remain open throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, including during and after breaks.
- If a public health order requires the University to vacate residence halls due to COVID-19, the University will implement a refund or credit policy commensurate with the order(s). We have revised the 2020-2021 Housing Addendum to reflect this change. If you have already signed the 2020-2021 Addendum, you do not need to resubmit. We will send a revised version for your records.
- We have expanded the First Year Live-In Requirement (FLIR) exemption criteria for financial and extraordinary hardship.
- The revised fall 2020 schedule of classes will be available on August 1.
- You have until August 3 to cancel your housing contract without cancellation fees.
As always, Go Cougs!
Mary Jo Gonzales, WSU Vice President of Student Affairs
What happened in spring 2020?
WSU Housing and Dining never closed. Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order was issued on March 23, 2020. While many of our students living in residence halls opted return home to continue their learning remotely after spring break, nearly 1,000 students chose to remain in our residence halls. For some of those students who stayed with us, WSU Housing was and is the only home they know. As a land grant university, it is why our residence halls remain open year-round, through fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks.
We cared for the many students who remained on the WSU Pullman campus and all of our Cougs, regardless of where they lived. Our residence halls, dining operations, Cougar Health Services, and student leadership, wellness, and academic support programs remained operational remotely, with some limited services offered in person, to help students navigate successfully through the end of the semester.
When the WSU System made the difficult decision to move to distance learning on March 13, 2020, we contemplated the options and I authorized WSU Housing and Dining to issue $11.18 million dollars in one-time credits and cash refunds which were distributed to students by the end of the spring semester.
We care for Cougs, including those who work for us. In spring 2020, WSU Housing and Dining continued to employ those who serve as cooks, dishwashers, custodians, painters and so many other essential positions. We continued to employ students who needed financial support to help their fellow Cougs living in university-owned residences as well.
Why is Housing and Dining different?
WSU Housing and Dining are fully self-sustaining operations. They do not receive any tuition dollars or other financial support from the university. All costs associated with housing and dining operations, including debt service to pay for new or renovated facilities, come from rates and fees charged to students for living and dining with us.
In all of our communication, we have stated that fall 2020 would look different for current and future students. It looks different for us, too.
In a normal year, WSU Housing and Dining houses and feeds up to 6,000 students in university-owned residence halls. Due to occupancy guidelines outlined in the Governor’s guidance for institutions of higher education, we will accommodate fewer than 4,000 first year students this year.
In order to meet the occupancy limits, physical distance, foot traffic flow, protective barriers, and other health and safety requirements outlined by the State of Washington, all of our residential and dining facilities must remain open and operational. One entire residence hall will remain vacant to quarantine and isolate students, if needed, who are living in residence halls.
Simply put, 2,000 fewer students living in our residence halls amounts to approximately 25% less revenue ($20 million dollars) to cover our fixed costs, specifically staff expenses, operational costs and debt service. This includes employing over 1,100 students within WSU Housing and Dining. With reduced occupancy, we are balancing our budget by holding a significant number of vacant positions and delaying major maintenance projects to continue paying all our staff and student employees.
We won’t make promises we can’t keep. We made extraordinary exceptions to provide refunds and credits when classes moved to distance learning last spring while our residence halls remained open. Unless a public health order directs us to vacate the residence halls, we will not be able to grant refunds or credits for the 2020-2021 academic year.
We want to reiterate the options available to you and offer a revised addendum which may ease your concerns.
What about the First Year Live-in Requirement (FLIR)?
The WSU residential experience is a growth opportunity for new Cougs. Connecting with peers who have similar majors, interests, and aspirations creates connections, relationships, and our Cougar Community which lasts a lifetime. We have heard from many of you that being a part of this residential experience, even if it is different than what you may have planned or expected, is what you are seeking after experiencing a disappointing closure to your high school careers.
The First Year Live-in Requirement has been in place at WSU Pullman for more than 15 years. Students who are under the age of 20 and have not completed a full year of college following high school graduation, are required to live on campus for two full semesters. The terms of our housing contract are largely consistent with previous years.
WSU made emergency amendments to FLIR to significantly broaden opportunities for exemption and provide first year students the option to stay home or find other living arrangements based on their needs at this time. If you are still planning to attend WSU Pullman, but believe you cannot live in a residence hall, please apply for an exemption from FLIR.
We also heard concerns about making a housing commitment prior to understanding which specific courses and/or sections would be offered in-person, which courses and/or sections would be offered hybrid, and which courses and/or sections would be offered remotely. WSU Pullman has confirmed that fall courses and/or sections will be identified by August 1.
To facilitate an informed decision, WSU Housing and Dining will allow contract cancellations, without penalty, until August 3, 2020. After August 3, cancellation fees outlined in the contract will apply.
WSU and WSU Housing and Dining intends to keep housing and dining operational, similar to our approach in spring 2020 when instruction transitioned to distance learning. Students may stay with us for as long as they need.
What will impact our ability to keep our campus open, including our residential and dining facilities, are the decisions made by our Cougar Community.
Our decisions. Our responsibilities.
The decisions we make – wearing a mask, waiting in line six feet apart, washing our hands, saying no when asked to do something we know is not right, staying home when you are sick – will in large part determine if we are able to remain open. It truly is a New Coug Experience.
Across the country, including in the State of Washington, there are examples of students attending events after they tested positive for COVID-19 and gathering at large parties as if there were not an active pandemic.
Living in a residential community carries a higher responsibility. If you cannot follow the rules, if you do not do what is asked or expected of you, the WSU Pullman residential campus is not the place for you this fall. There are non-residential options at WSU you can explore, such as enrolling at WSU Everett, WSU Global Campus, WSU Tri-Cities, or WSU Vancouver. Students enrolled in health sciences programs may also explore options at WSU Spokane.
Wherever you are enrolled at WSU, you are a Coug.