As students move out of residence halls some face uncertain and stressed living situations back home. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Managing Editor for Multimedia

Donielle Powell, a first-year in pre-nursing, is the youngest of three siblings and the last to leave home for college — which to her parents was a relief, she said.

As part of a working-class family, her departure meant one less mouth to feed, she said.

Now, with the university requiring students to move out of residence halls by March 22 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some students are facing challenges that impact their livelihoods.

“Most of us are working or low class, and so asking us to move out, we don’t have extra money for gas, we don’t have money for plane tickets, our families don’t have the resources to provide us after we left the house,” Powell said.

In a university email sent out on Friday, students were told to schedule their move-out window between Saturday and March 22, and asked to complete their scheduled move out time within two hours and limit the number of people assisting them, in order to comply with social distancing at Gov. Mike Dewine’s statewide request. As of Saturday, there were 26 confirmed cases in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Students who cannot move home can fill out an exemption form, which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, Dave Isaacs, a university spokesperson, said.

As a student worker, Powell is now without a job due to campus closures. Student worker compensation is still undetermined at this time, Isaacs said in an email.

“OSU is my home, I spent a lot of money to be there, to be secure. So now I come back home, I have no job and I have no money to support myself,” Powell said.

Her mother, the main provider of her household in Akron, works for a city school in an unsalaried position and will be unpaid for at least three weeks in response to COVID-19 – leaving her family with no income, she said. 

“It’s really overwhelming trying to scramble to find a way to survive the next month,” Powell said.

Shawna Florio, a fourth-year in public affairs who has to move out of her residence hall — one of three under Alumni Scholarship Housing — said she is trying to figure out how she’s going to manage commuting from her home in Cambridge, Ohio, located more than an hour and a half away, to her internship in Columbus, at least three days a week. 

“Originally, I was going to be able to save all of the money I was making and then put that towards post-college rent,” Florio said. “Now, it seems like most of that money is going to end up having to go towards gas to get to and from Columbus to work.”

She also worries about how she’ll be able to get her work done without a strong wireless connection living in Appalachia.

“Internet is kind of spotty, our Wifi doesn’t always work and there’s not very many spaces that have Wifi that’s free,” Florio said. “We’re getting quarantined, so it’s like is the library even going to be open now for me to use their Wifi?”

Florio said she’ll likely have to be in Columbus to do her online classes using osuwireless, the university’s WiFi network, and will have to take about two hours out of work to be able to do that.

Another student, a third-year in English, who asked not to be named due to safety concerns, said she would be returning home to an environment not conducive to her mental wellness and filled with verbal abuse.

“Particularly, my father can have lots of outbursts and withhold money or other resources as a result of me doing something that he deemed he doesn’t want me to do,” she said.

She said she feels threatened about coming back home, and it will be like “trying to survive day to day.”

“A peace of mind, my happiness and a lot of things that bring me joy have been canceled. A lot of that revolves around being on campus and being around my peers and being able to have options and choices,” she said.

Powell and the third-year in English are both a part of OSU Student Solidarity, a new group organized by Estlin Hiller, a first-year in public affairs, created to address these issues by pointing students toward resources and putting pressure on administration through an email campaign and petition to provide students with refunds on housing and meal plans, in order to ease the financial burdens students have at this time, Hiller said.

Hiller said the university should be committed to students’ financial stability and mental health.

“This is everything, for some students, this is quite literally life or death,” Hiller said. “Us as students, we have to take the initiative, we have to fight for our livelihoods because otherwise there isn’t a motivation for the university to do that.”

Click here to view our continuing coverage of COVID-19.