BOISE, Idaho — This article was originally published by Ximena Bustillo of the Idaho Statesman.
Boise State University warned its tenants living in campus apartments that they could face eviction if they do not follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing that coincide with Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home order.
In an email to students on Thursday, university officials urged students to follow guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19. The email came just moments after officials confirmed additional cases of coronavirus in on-campus student housing as well as in nearby off-campus apartments. Boise State has six known coronavirus cases, spokesman Greg Hahn told the Idaho Statesman in an email.
“If you fail to follow these protocols, you put your roommates at risk. That is why failing to follow these social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home order is a violation of our community standards for housing and can result in the revocation of your university owned-housing agreement,” the email read. “In short, you will have to find another place to stay.”
Hahn, the vice president of communication and marketing for Boise State, explained that this was done because preserving the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and community are among the highest priorities for the university.
“Even with all of this disruption, the basic tenets of the Student Code of Conduct apply. So as at all times, any student who willfully and intentionally ‘creates an unreasonable risk of harm’ to others can be in violation of the code,” Hahn said. “Sanctions for violating the Code of Conduct vary depending on the facts of each situation, but may include the loss of privileges such as campus housing.”
This notice came a week after all students living in dorms were supposed to be moved out. Those in university-sanctioned apartments were allowed to stay due to their lease agreements.
According to Ali Rabe, the executive director of Jesse Tree of Idaho — a nonprofit organization that combats homelessness — the legality of a policy like Boise State’s “definitely seems tenuous, unless there is something in the lease which would allow them to do that.” In this case, the Student Code of Conduct appears to provide Boise State with the grounds to evict.
At the University of Idaho in Moscow, about 200 students remain on campus — some in residence halls and some in apartments. Idaho announced three cases of coronavirus among the “Vandal Family” on Wednesday, according to an email from President Scott Green, but only one of those cases involved a student who had recently been on campus. The two other confirmed cases were a Boise-based student and a distance education graduate student who lives out of state.
Although Idaho is encouraging students to follow the stay-home order and social distancing guidelines, it does not have an eviction policy, said Jodi Walker, Idaho’s director of communications.
Idaho State University in Pocatello has 32 students in residence halls and 274 in campus apartments. Idaho State’s Meridian campus had the first confirmed coronavirus case in the Gem State, according to Central District Health.
“Idaho State University is not using threats of eviction to ensure safe social distancing guidelines are followed,” said Stuart Summers, associate vice president of communications at Idaho State. “We have not had any issues related to residents not following social distancing guidelines.”
In Caldwell, College of Idaho only has 10 students in campus-owned houses. According to Joe Hughes, director of marketing and communications, students are not to have guests and are under the same stay-at-home restrictions as all Idaho residents.
“Although housing privileges could be revoked if a resident had a pattern of disregarding physical distancing, we have had success with our students adjusting to these new expectations,” Hughes said. “One of our biggest concerns is making sure no guests from outside campus come to their residences.
“We had a few instances of that early on, but our residential assistants have had virtual meetings with the students to convey the seriousness of the issue and to ask for community buy-in, and we are seeing that.”
Hughes said that the college would not take lightly the task of revoking one of its student’s housing.
“We have also communicated to them that their decisions are not just impacting themselves, but also other students and the staff who need to come to campus to support them,” Hughes said.
For apartments that are not university owned, Rabe believes that an eviction policy for failure to follow coronavirus guidelines would be unlikely without a state or federal law to back it.
“I certainly hope that doesn’t happen,” Rabe said. “Because it would create a legal battleground. We need to keep people in their housing right now, not evict them.”