The University of Oregon’s fall COVID-19 plans has left some graduate students in Eugene with uncertainty about their living situations. A group of students is protesting the university’s decision to not renew leases.

Ph.D. anthropology student Hannah Wellman told KLCC it feels like the university is sweeping them under the rug. She along with other residents of the 72-unit Graduate Village complex received an email last Friday stating the university will repurpose units for quarantine or isolation.

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Citing the guidance of health authorities and the state, the email from Michael Griffel, the director of University Housing, said the overall capacity for Graduate Village would be reduced.

Students were given the option of extending their lease by a month until July 31 and were given priority to move into different housing on campus.

Hunter Pearson (left) and Hannah Wellman (right) both live at Graduate Village and are protesting the UO decision not to renew leases for students for the 2021-2022 term.

Hunter Pearson (left) and Hannah Wellman (right) both live at Graduate Village and are protesting the UO decision not to renew leases for students for the 2021-2022 term.

Melorie Begay

“It’s week eight of the term and this is really late notice,” Wellman said. Wellman has lived at the complex for the past six years. She said typically now would be the time students would be allowed to renew their leases.

“I’ve lived in this housing almost my whole Ph.D., so a lot of first year’s thought that they were going to be in here for a while,” she said.

The university did not say how many students would be affected, just that some wouldn’t be able to renew their lease.

“It’s affordable,” Wellman said of Graduate Village, “it’s close to campus, for some students it’s an accessibility issue, so they did give us an extension of a month ... but even having through the end of July, the housing market in Eugene generally I think a lot of people would agree is, it’s tough to get a good place, and so everybody is in panic mode now.”

Wellman wasn’t planning on renewing her lease but is advocating for others, especially international students. She said international students face added barriers to housing because of their status as non-immigrants.

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Hunter Pearson, a first-year accounting Ph.D. student lives in the Moss building in the Graduate Village. The Moss building was not identified as being used for quarantine or isolation, but Pearson received a similar email stating that he wouldn’t be able to renew his lease either.

“Friday was supposed to be the first day we could renew, and that was the first day we heard anything about this,” he said. “It’s difficult having to find housing that will still make campus accessible for us especially so late after a lot of undergrads and other people have already found good housing for next term.”

Pearson said he paid three months’ worth of rent in order to secure his current lease, but he figured it was a good investment since he planned on renewing for the duration of his studies.

According to the UO’s website, rates for studios start at $708 a month and $788 for one-bedroom apartments. Rent also includes utilities, making the Graduate Village not only a convenient location for students but an affordable one in a city facing a housing crisis.

“Currently, the quarantine unit is part of an undergrad dorm, so it makes more sense to keep that as the isolation dorm instead of forcing people out of their current housing, especially grad students,” Pearson said. He adds he’s tried searching online since Friday for other housing but so far he hasn’t found anything.

The university released a statement stating one building will be dedicated to isolating and quarantining for the fall term. And the university would help students find other housing options. Though Wellman and Pearson say there’s no guarantee grad students will find housing.

The full statement from the University of Oregon:

“To prepare for fall term, University Housing will be dedicating one of the two Graduate Village buildings for on-campus students who need to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19.

We anticipate all but a handful of the current graduate and law students will be able to renew their contracts and continue to live in Graduate Village. The UO is committed to helping find other university housing options such as family housing and university apartments for any of the students who may need to move.

We notified current Graduate Village residents of the change on May 22. Residents have one year contract agreements that end on June 30, but will have the opportunity to extend their contracts to July 31 if additional time is needed during the transition. Graduate and law students with a year or less to graduation will be given priority for spaces available.

The Graduate Village building was selected as the isolation/quarantine building because it is on campus and close to services.”

Copyright 2021 KLCC

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