Housing standards determine eligibility for on-campus learning

Requirements include no more than two people per bathroom

An update to Rensselaer’s COVID-19 FAQ page clarified the housing requirements that RPI announced will apply to students living in off-campus housing.

The requirements state that students cannot live in residences where more than two students share an individual living space. The Institute clarifies this definition as meaning “no more than two students share a bathroom.”

The Polytechnic could not find this requirement in either the Center for Disease Control or New York State coronavirus requirements or recommendations. The 884 on-campus bathrooms will be open this fall and will be disinfected by Environmental and Site Services on a daily basis.

Additional requirements include social distancing “practiced at all times,” with all people maintaining a minimum six-foot distance from any other individuals, “at all times, and in all settings.”

Students must wear masks “in public spaces,” and masks must be washed at the end of each day. The housing requirement specifies that “cleaning and disinfecting of personal and common spaces will be a continuous process,” and that students “should implement protocols similar to those implemented on campus.”

The FAQ describes the requirements as allowing the Institute “to help maintain safety and health on the campus and in living environments around campus amid a pandemic that is, unfortunately, broadening across the country.”

If a student is not able to comply with the housing requirements, “they must submit a request to attend courses remotely” by July 31st and “will not be granted access to campus.” Students can also request to be remote for the semester through the same form.

At the time of publishing, it’s unknown how RPI will identify students whose off-campus living conditions do not satisfy the housing requirements. The FAQ states that “all students must provide updated residential contact information, through the Student Information System,” including their address and U.S. cell phone number.

According to the FAQ, if a student fails to comply with the standards, the student will immediately be removed from campus and switched to remote learning, and could face “possible judicial consequences, including suspension or expulsion.”

When students asked in the Student Success Discord server about this policy, Dean of Student Success Louis Trzespacz responded with the following: “I completely understand that this is not what you wanted to hear. And that this put a burden on people and you tried to do your best to find a place and things changed. As a poor, first gen college student this would have sunk me. But we can help you try to plan. The first thing I would do, if you want to be remote, is to call your landlord and try to break the lease. They may be willing to do so.”

Under New York State law, a tenant who breaks a lease owes the rent for the entire lease term except in a few specific situations, like if the unit is deemed uninhabitable by NYS Health and Safety codes, or through the use of an early termination clause which normally includes a fee from the tenant.

Dean of Student Living and Learning John Lawler sent an email to students announcing that RPI is “exploring some additional off-campus housing options that meet our safety protocols and density standards,” and that they are considering a lease with College Suites, near Hudson Valley Community College in South Troy. The lease would be for two- or four-bedroom furnished apartments at a cost of $4,865 per student for one semester.

In an email to a student, the Office of Student and Learning clarified that College Suites would be treated as RPI housing, and “whatever decision we make for the rest of the housing system will be applied to this facility as well.” This implies the maximum time of the lease would be from late August to Thanksgiving break, at a cost of approximately $1,390 per month. The listed price (found on the College Suites website) for a 12-month lease is $855 per month for a four-bedroom apartment or $940 per month for a two-bedroom apartment.

If RPI initiates Phase 2 of their shutdown plan, students living in College Suites would have three days to leave, the same time as students living in dorms on campus.

To get from College Suites to RPI, students can drive or take a bus. The possible bus routes include taking either route 85 or 224 to 4th Street and Congress and have to walk up the Approach, or take either bus to 4th Street and Fulton and transferring to Bus 87 or 286 which stop next to the 15th Street footbridge. All RPI students can ride on any Capital District Transportation Authority bus for free. The CDTA has implemented daily cleaning and disinfecting of buses, and requires all passengers to wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance from other passengers to reduce the possible spread of coronavirus.