ATHENS, Ga. - Several students are backing out of plans to enroll at the University of Georgia because of a policy requiring incoming freshmen to live on campus their first year. They’re concerned about coronavirus cases that continue to rise at the school and across the state.
The school requires first-year students under 21 to live in a dorm, many of which only have community bathrooms and shared bedrooms.
Clemencia El Antouri was excited to hunker down at her mom’s alma mater.
"UGA is known for being one of the top schools in Georgia, and I wanted to be an Arabic major and it’s one of two schools in Georgia that had this major," she told FOX 5's Alex Whittler.
She and her mother paid to secure her spot in a freshman dorm as soon as she was admitted in March, just before the pandemic shut down the country.
"I signed this contract not thinking the COVID virus would be so much worse," she said.
El Antouri said campus life was a welcomed part of the college experience until coronavirus cases maintained an upward trend just a couple weeks before the fall semester.
"It wasn’t worth it financially." El Antouri said. "It wasn’t worth the health risk. They were still saying you must live in a dorm even if all your classes are online, you must live in a dorm, all these unnecessary fees for things we can’t even use anymore [because they're closed due to coronavirus cautions]."
No longer enrolled at UGA, El Antouri plans to take virtual classes at a community college from home before applying to transfer to Emory University.
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UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor confirms the school’s freshman policy. In a statement he wrote:
“First-year students, unless they have an approved exemption, are required to live on campus.
"First-year students may request an exemption to the requirement, and this summer we have continued to review exemption requests. Additionally, we respond to students individually to discuss options, which could include requesting a room change, canceling their contract, or other solutions."
El Antouri said the exemption application specifically asks what the student’s “special circumstances” are and because she doesn’t have any, other than being concerned for her health, she’d only consider becoming a Bulldog again if UGA waived its freshman mandate altogether.
School representatives emphasized increased cleaning efforts for on-campus living and explained that not all classes are online.
Students told FOX 5 there are protests planned this week in opposition to the freshmen dorm mandate.