Students Told to Leave College of Staten Island Dormitory, Vice President Cites Need for Temporary Hospitals

Student-residents at the College of Staten Island’s Dolphin Cove dormitory were told Monday evening to leave their dorm rooms by 6 p.m. Tuesday night, though the move-out deadline was later changed to Thursday. The dormitory may be used by the State of New York as a temporary makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients.

During Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Friday coronavirus press briefing, the governor said that buildings at various local colleges were being considered for use as temporary hospitals, including buildings at Hunter College, Queens College, the College of Staten Island and City College. The Javits Center, which was also on the governor’s original list, is already in the process of being converted into a 1,000-bed temporary hospital.

“We need more beds,” said Cuomo in the same briefing. As of Monday night, there were 13,119 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City and 21,689 in the state.

Late Monday night, hours after Resident Assistants told residents to move out, the College of Staten Island Vice President for Student Affairs and Alumni Engagement Jennifer Borrero sent an email to students. “There are several reasons that CUNY is taking these measures now,” she wrote. “Drastically reducing the number of CUNY residence facilities and students will ease the supervision of social distancing.” 

She continued: “Additionally — and most importantly — Governor Cuomo has asked private and public universities across New York State to be ready for the possibility that dormitories might need to be converted” into makeshift hospitals. The language used in the email seems to suggest that residence halls at other CUNY campuses could also close.

CSI student and Dolphin Cove resident Jasmine Shaikh was among the students told to leave. “What am I supposed to do with all my things?” she said. “I am currently unwell and I have a support animal with me. Moving will not be easy for me.”

“I think it’s outrageous,” said CUNY University Student Senate Chairperson Timothy Hunter about the dismissal of CSI students from Dolphin Cove. “It just further shows the governor’s lack of care for CUNY students. We could be potentially exposing these students to anything. We need to ensure their safety while they transition to alternative housing which should be provided by CUNY.” 

CUNY will relocate Dolphin Cove students who are housing-insecure, especially international students and students who do not have homes in or around New York City, to a single residence facility. 

To stay at Dolphin Cove costs around $7,000 per student per semester, according to the dormitory’s website. Mr. Hunter believes students should receive full reimbursement of room and board, and that the state should provide funding for inconveniences resulting from the relocation of students.

Neither the governor’s office, nor the Chancellor of CUNY’s communications office, nor Hunter College Director of Student Life Miesha Smith answered when asked which buildings in particular were under consideration for use as hospitals, though since CUNY buildings belong to the state, college administrators may not have much say in whether they are used as temporary hospitals.

Some students speculate that Hunter’s Brookdale residence hall might be converted into a hospital. Residents of the 25th Street building have received several emails and other communications from Residence Life and elsewhere asking whether or not they plan to continue living there. Residence Life said the information about students’ living situations was “crucial to our building operations.” RAs at Brookdale told The Envoy they don’t know of any plans to close Brookdale.

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