You Ask, We Investigate: University of Arkansas resident assistants raise concerns about on-campus living conditions

You Ask, We Answer

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In this week’s ‘You Ask, We Investigate’ report, KNWA’s Katelynn Zoellner found out how the University of Arkansas is protecting resident assistants and students living in its residence halls this fall.

Resident assistants at the university reached out to Katelynn and said they are worried about their safety as campus reopens.

It feels like housing is trying to encourage safe practices, but the university is not.

RA at the University of Arkansas

The University is not telling us about cases. We have several rooms and dorms on campus that are quarantine spaces. We are unsure if these spaces are occupied or not.

RA at the University of Arkansas

It’s like everyone can go everywhere and do anything. Social distancing and masks are impossible to enforce.

RA at the University of Arkansas

Takama Statton-Brooks, Director for Residence Education at the University of Arkansas, said the university is working to protect everyone living in its residence halls.

“Our resident assistants really are frontline staff,” she said. “As you know, this is pretty fluid in the sense that this is new for all of us. We are making the best decisions we can along the way. Where we do not have clarity, we are trying to make sure that we do have that.”

The university identified 260 rooms across the housing system to isolate or quarantine students as needed. Also, detailed procedures have been outlined for any student moved into quarantine and isolation, including for support staff designated to assist students as needed.

“For the most part we picked places with private rooms and private bathrooms,” Takama-Brooks said. “That’s to ensure we have the best protection for not only the students, but for students who may not be ill but are in a position where they have to quarantine.”

Holcombe Hall will not house students in its normal capacity this year. To provide students with the best on-campus experience, the university is planning to keep Holcombe vacant and available, if needed, for any potential COVID-19 related accommodation needs.

“Holcombe was chosen as a space for isolation, so someone who has been positive for COVID-19 would go there,” Takama-Brooks said. “Now, those students don’t need to have a private bathroom, because they are all positive.”

The university is using its COVID-19 Dashboard to provide transparency about the positive cases on campus.

“I think everyone wants communication a little differently,” Takama-Brooks said. “The university is doing its best to update FAQs, update the coronavirus website and we are doing the same thing on the housing side.”

As far as enforcing social distancing and wearing masks goes, Takama-Brooks said the university does not see the RA’s job as the official enforcer of that. It is up to the students to abide by campus guidelines. However, she said the university does want RAs to encourage and remind students to follow all guidelines in place.

If there is something in your community that you want to know more about, we want to investigate it. You can send your questions to Katelynn at KZoellner@KNWA.com.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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