University Village residents struggle with consequences of COVID-19

University Village
Allen Zeng/File
Despite the safety measures in place at University Village, a family student housing community in Albany that is managed by UC Berkeley, there are alleged issues with compliance and enforcement, according to an anonymous resident.

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As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some University Village residents have dealt with concerns about paying rent and preventing the spread of the disease.

To help residents of University Village, a family student housing community in Albany that is managed by UC Berkeley, organizations have offered resources to those facing financial hardships, and safety protocols have been enacted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Despite these safety measures, however, there are alleged issues with compliance and enforcement, according to an anonymous University Village resident, who wishes to remain nameless for fear of retaliation.

Safety precautions implemented within the Village include physical distancing, face covering protocols and efforts to remove items from shared spaces within the residency to prevent transmission, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. In the fall, campus will also be able to report any student who violates safety protocols to the Center for Student Conduct.

“While we hope that it is rare, refusing to comply with requirements such as physical distancing and face coverings may result in consequences that could include being prohibited from being on campus or an area on campus,” Gilmore said in an email.

The anonymous resident said others have violated the safety measures that the residents were emailed about, including courtyard closures and a policy mandating that only one person can be in a laundry room at one time.

Additionally, the anonymous resident alleged that the Village Community Advisors, or CA, told residents during the beginning of the pandemic to “address the complaints themselves or call UCPD.”

Gilmore said enforcement of the local public order lies with the county public health department and law enforcement.

However, the anonymous resident alleged that UCPD said it will not enforce the policies because violations do not constitute criminal activity. UCPD could not be reached for comment as of press time.

“Once when I called UCPD, and they asked why I didn’t first call the CA, I explained what I was told,” the anonymous resident said in an email. “They said ‘That’s interesting,’ as if no one had communicated this policy to UCPD.”

Although there are concerns about pandemic-related policy enforcement, some groups have made efforts to assist University Village residents.

The Graduate Assembly’s main focus regarding University Village has been concentrated on advocating for those who are facing financial difficulties and are unable to pay rent as a result of the pandemic.

Some of these efforts, however, have been unsuccessful, including a request to campus administration to impose a rent freeze, according to Luis Tenorio, president of the Graduate Assembly.

Bear Pantry, which provides essentials to student families in University Village, expanded its services as a result of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, it served 25 people per week, and it now serves more than 375 families per week, according to Michael Sanchez, director of University Village Recreation. The organization also offers baby products, including diapers and food.

University Health Services will continue offering onsite COVID-19 testing until Aug. 25 for all adult residents of University Village, according to Gilmore. Village staff members will deliver essentials to those who test positive and are unable to get these items delivered themselves.

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.