A week after students were told they could stay in their dorms, N.C. State officials have changed course and ordered students to move out of dorm rooms by Sep. 6.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Randy Woodson said the decision to move students out came after clusters of COVID-19 cases were reported in dorms.
"We've had to make this difficult decision because this has been a very difficult week for N.C. State," Woodson said. "The spread of the virus has been unrelenting."
Woodson said the situation became untenable after it was clear that social distancing would be impossible to maintain with more than 6,000 students living on campus.
"Our students want to be here," Woodson said. "Our parents want our students to be here. But they expect us to create an environment where they can be safe. And that’s our number one priority."
Some students can apply for exceptions to stay on campus, including those who don't have other housing available or would only be able to live with someone who has a high risk for COVID-19 complications. But the rest of students will have to sign up for a time slot to move out within 11 days of the announcement.
Woodson said this will lead to revenue losses from housing and on-campus dining.
"Certainly we will have furloughs within those areas, because they are people-intensive," Woodson said. "And we don't have the revenue to support them."
It also leaves N.C. State students like Brooke Cox, a freshman, scrambling. She says her roommate moved out last week when the university announced students could choose that option.
"But the girls next door to me, they're still here and so we've just been all trying to figure out what we're going to do," Cox said. "A lot of us, we were planning on staying on campus, we didn't want to go home because that's not really the college experience that we signed up for — sitting in our bedrooms in our hometowns doing online classes."
Cox says she knows students who are from out of state who have a long journey back, and others with jobs in Raleigh who are deciding whether to find another living situation or go home, where they might not be able to find work.
As a senior in high school in the spring, Cox had to study at home when her school moved to remote learning because of the pandemic.
"Here I've been able to go to the library and stuff. I have a good routine here," Cox said. "So it's just going to be, having to readjust, having to get into a new routine, in the middle of classes."
Cox said she and friends had joked about how long the semester in person would last.
"I didn't think that we would last the whole semester, I figured we would get sent home," she said. "But this is definitely way faster than I think anyone expected."