As the residence halls empty out and many students return to their permanent homes until next semester, reliance on the University of Michigan’s Quarantine and Isolation Housing has been decreasing. But throughout the semester, students have raised concerns about a lack of oversight in Q&I housing, where decisions about rules and safety seemed to be left to students’ discretion.
LSA freshman Adin Joyce, who was quarantined in Northwood Apartments at the end of September, would go on walks around North Campus with a friend who was also in quarantine. He said he knew others who would return to Central Campus while in quarantine.
“When I was not in quarantine, people who were in quarantine would come by and chill on campus,” Joyce said. “They had tested negative and were certain they didn’t have it.”
Q&I housing occupancy spiked earlier this semester before local and state orders introduced additional social distancing measures. The increase in occupancy followed widespread criticism of the University’s COVID-19 safety precautions, which were at the heart of the Graduate Employees’ Organization and resident advisers’ strikes earlier this year.
Students in Q&I housing are assigned to a case manager and receive daily phone calls checking in on them.
Official guidelines from the University state that students are allowed to leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise while in Q&I housing as long as they wear masks and practice social distancing. Students are not allowed to socialize with others, congregate in groups or host visitors, according to the guidelines.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Sarah Daniels, associate dean of students said these expectations are made clear during the student initiation process.
“The expectation is clearly articulated to students when they move in,” Daniels said.
Despite these guidelines, students were still found to have skirted the rules. At a Central Student Government meeting, President Mark Schlissel confirmed to members that there had been two instances of students holding parties in Q&I housing with other students.
Elaine Hanke is a staff member at the Quarantine and Isolation Coordination Center, a program University President Mark Schlissel announced on Oct. 2 to assist students living in Q&I housing. Hanke said the Q&I call center reports any concerns or violations of these expectations to the Division of Public Safety and Security.
According to Hanke, there have not been many reports of rule violations.
“I can recall a handful of occasions, like literally on one hand, since we’ve been assisting with Q&I housing starting in September,” Hanke said. “I think word has gotten out more than (the) actual volume of that type of activity, if that makes sense. At least of activity that we’re made aware of.”
But some students have reported socializing during their stay at Q&I housing. Many also said while they had received an email outlining expectations, they weren’t sure if they applied to members of their own house and rarely saw them enforced.
LSA junior Sam Burnstein was quarantined in Northwood the second week of classes after testing positive for COVID-19. While in quarantine, Burnstein said he would hang out with people from his house who were also in Northwood both outside and in each other’s rooms.
“It was very unclear what we were explicitly allowed and not allowed to do,” Burnstein said. “A couple of us had concerns about being in each other’s rooms, but we were all somewhat okay with it, considering we’re all from the same house and we all got COVID from the same person.”
LSA freshmen Josh Kang and Ryan Kim both reported spending time with friends outdoors during their stay in Q&I housing. Kang said he hung out with friends who had gotten exposed at the same gathering as him. Kim spent time with a friend after both received negative tests for COVID-19 but before the end of their mandatory 10-day isolation.
“I really needed people to interact with because I hate being isolated and just being by myself, so once we both tested negative we tried to hang out a few times but we didn’t try to hang out too much, because obviously, it was kind of going against the rules,” Kim said.
Daniels said such behavior is prohibited in Q&I housing.
“They certainly cannot socialize in other people’s apartments, even those who are in quarantine and isolation,” Daniels said. “We would not want anyone congregating in hallways or anything like that, so they should not be congregating with others, even if they’re in quarantine and isolation together.”
Hanke said the Q&I staff aims to separate students as much as possible to avoid this type of behavior.
“Generally, we don’t even assign roommates in the same apartment because we want to make sure that the message is out there that people need to be social distancing and there really is no need for any congregating,” Hanke said. “We see a lot of situations where roommates come up together and one may test positive and one may not, so that’s another reason why we want to make sure everyone is practicing these public health guidelines.”
Kang, who was quarantined in early November after being exposed to someone who tested positive, said he interacted only with DPSS when they transported him to Northwood and when they transported him to get tested.
“I see DPSS officers every now and then, but otherwise, there aren’t any other enforcements,” Kang said.
Burnstein said though he occasionally saw DPSS officers during his quarantine, he didn’t see any officers stationed there regularly each day.
“It did not feel like (DPSS officers) were there in a dorm presence,” Burnstein said. “It seemed like they would only come when someone beckoned them.”
Hanke said DPSS makes in-person rotations multiple times per day and is a regular presence in Q&I housing.
“There is increased officer presence in that area, just because they are actually the ones letting students into the apartments when they check in,” Hanke said. “There might be a little bit more presence than a normal residential building that is not dedicated to Q&I housing.”
Daniels said the University has been conducting an exit survey since October to get feedback from students as they leave Q&I housing. According to Daniels, of the approximately 260 responses thus far, most have been positive.
Hanke said the University hopes to continue to improve Q&I housing based on feedback provided in the surveys.
“Students have actually been really positive and felt really good about their experience on average in Q&I,” Hanke said. “We know as long as COVID is a thing, the University will provide quarantine and isolation housing, so we’re always wanting to get feedback so we can make the experience even better during an especially stressful time.”
Daily Staff Reporters Angelina Little and Iulia Dobrin can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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