UC Santa Cruz has postponed the move-in of over 600 new students for on-campus housing. Incoming arrivals were notified of this decision in an email on Jan. 12, four days before they were scheduled to move in on Jan. 16. 

Scott Hernandez-Jason, UCSC director of news and media relations, said the decision to postpone move-ins was made on Jan. 12 and communicated to affected students later that day. 

“Just looking at the situation and the stress that our region and our campus is under when it comes to COVID, the best course forward was to go ahead and postpone the move-in, recognizing that it would be a big disappointment to a lot of students,” Hernandez-Jason said. “It was a hard decision to make. But it was something that was really at the best interest of the health and well-being of our campus community and our local community.”

Melissa Gee is a second-year living with her family in Antioch, CA. One of the students scheduled to move in Jan. 16, she was making final arrangements when she got the email.

“I was working on packing at that time and it was just disbelief. It was so close to what moving day would have been that I could not believe that they were doing that,” Gee said. “It feels like they came out of nowhere. Especially when the campus took so many precautions and had a system in place to deal with COVID. It sounded like they had everything planned out.”

After 14 positive COVID cases in the on-campus population over the 2020 fall quarter, 22 on-campus students tested positive by the end of the first week they returned to campus. 

As of Jan. 12, 25 on-campus students have tested positive in winter quarter. Additionally, 93 positive cases have been recorded among the UCSC community, which includes on- and off-campus students and university employees, since the start of the quarter. In line with a nationwide and statewide increase in positive tests, UCSC community COVID cases recorded over the past two weeks have accounted for 46 percent of positive cases since the on-campus COVID lab’s inception in July 2020.

Santa Cruz County continues to be in a stay-at-home order as ICU capacity decreases throughout the area. During the week of Jan. 8, the county only had one ICU bed available

Students whose move-ins were postponed were told they should receive a follow-up email no earlier than Feb. 15. Until then, the university will continue to assess their housing prospects as new information and data comes in. A new date for move-in has not been confirmed by the university, although they hope to welcome new students “hopefully by late winter or early spring,” according to the Jan. 12 email.

James Doherty is a third-year transfer student who was also scheduled to move in this weekend. Receiving the email, he was critical of the university’s handling of the situation and the bind that it left people in.

“I have absolutely no faith in the administration of this school anymore. It is abundantly clear that no effort is being put into planning for COVID spikes,” Doherty said in an email. “People have been planning around the initial move-in date for months, time off was requested, people quit their jobs, large purchases were made, and now we won’t hear a single thing until mid-February?”

Hernandez-Jason remains firm with describing the housing announcement as a “postponement,” rather than a complete cancellation of winter housing.   

“None of us have a crystal ball in terms of knowing where we’re going to be in February or in March,” Hernandez-Jason said. “But, we were really deliberate in calling this a postponement. Because we do want to keep that positive mindset that if students do want to move into campus housing, even if it’s not as early as they had planned, that it remains an option.”

Students’ housing applications for winter 2021 will remain active and a new housing assignment will be extended to them once move-in is rescheduled. The university is encouraging students who are in extraordinary circumstances to reach out to the housing office so the university can offer alternative support

Operational changes about housing and dining facilities which were reopened to support the growth of the student population have yet to be announced.

For the over 900 students already living on campus, continuing from fall quarter, this announcement should not affect their status as on-campus residents. Hernandez-Jason said there has been no talk about sending current residents home. 

Although Hernandez-Jason acknowledges the announcement will come as a disappointment to the students scheduled to move-in, he notes that it is a disappointment the university shares. 

“It was a difficult decision that we came to and one we didn’t take lightly. We all are here for students and we share their excitement when they are moving into campus and beginning or continuing their college journey,” said Hernandez-Jason. “I know it was a disappointment among those campus leaders and those who are working in housing that we had to do this but given the state of the pandemic, we want to make sure that we’re supporting the health and well-being of our campus community.”