When residence halls close for spring break, FSU residents often make the long drive home, hit the beach, or spend the free week on an alternative break to fill the time between classes. It’s a long-awaited period of rest for many students at Florida State, but for some, this is a week of uncertainty.
While many are able to easily make the trip home, for dozens of students, leaving Tallahassee for break is a non-option. Whether it’s family problems, financials, or employment that keeps them from going home, many students living on campus struggle during this time.
The university does offer a waiver at the cost of $185 to house students in Rogers Hall for the duration of the break, but not many students know about the waiver in time to utilize it, and for students with financial issues, it’s not as helpful. It is also given on a first come first serve basis, with the possibility of running out of space for students who sign up too late.
The residence hall closing poses a unique challenge for many students who work off campus in Tallahassee at places that don’t often close, or reschedule workers when Florida State closes campus for the week. This leaves many students in a situation where they have to sacrifice employment if they’re not given the time off or find somewhere to stay for the entirety of the break to continue working.
“Where I work, we don’t have a spring break schedule. We just work our normal shifts for the semester,” said Alyson Urbaniak, a freshman clinical professions major at FSU. “I wasn’t expecting this to be an issue until I found out my dorm would be closed for spring break.”
“I was super stressed out because I was going to have to work all these shifts up here without a place to live for the week,” said Urbaniak. “Since I was basically forced to go home, I had to pay people thirty dollars each to cover my shifts, so I wouldn’t be placed on probation, or be fired for not showing up to work.”
For some students, they rely on their room to work, such as the case of freshman Christopher Bernhardt who lives in Cawthon Hall’s Music Living Learning Community. “I work freelance. I write music for people and that’s how I make money. Being out of the dorm made it almost impossible for me to bring my work with me, as the only place I could practice and write music was in the College of Music and my dorm – as that’s where my workspace is.”
Lots of students living in Tallahassee take advantage of the presence of the state legislature whether it be as a student, an intern, or an employee. Emily Leto, an FSU freshman, is employed as a reading clerk for the Florida House of Representatives and needed to work over spring break as well.
“I needed a place to stay and I looked at staying on campus, but that didn’t turn out to be a good option. They weren’t sending out an email for us to be able to start the process of staying on campus until about a week before [break], which was going to be way too late,” Leto said in reference to the housing waiver that allows students to stay in Rogers Hall. “Luckily, my family was able to come and we stayed in an Airbnb for the week.”
Many students with employment off campus found themselves not just dissatisfied with dorms closing, but with the limited time and resources they had to prepare for it.
For students who did have the time to spare for spring break, dozens chose to embark on an immersive experience for the week.
Chloe Dyal, an FSU freshman who lives in Wildwood Hall, was one of many students who spent their week off on an alternative break. The trip returned on Saturday, March 23rd at noon, but halls did not re-open until noon on Sunday, the 24th, and students are not permitted to enter the residence halls early.
“I emailed the person in charge of my building and she said the only option was to sign up for a room in Rogers and pay $185 to have the room for the week even though you’re only going to use it for one day,” said Dyal. “I decided not to do the waiver because of the money.”
Chloe was lucky enough to find a friend with an apartment to stay with for Saturday night.
The debate about residence hall closings sparked the week before the break in a Facebook thread on FSU’s Class of 2022 page. Students commented about friends who would be living in their cars for the week, how they couldn’t afford to fly out to get back home, or in some cases, how they weren’t allowed to come home due to family issues.
“I actually feel like closing campus leads to a perpetuated stereotype that FSU is a party only school. It seems like the college is asking us to just find a place to party and stay there,” said Christopher Bernhardt who made the original Facebook post where he spoke about students who weren’t allowed to go home, or couldn’t afford to.
“I knew many people who lived out of state, who didn’t have connections to people that had apartments where it wasn’t feasible for them to go home or feasible to afford a hotel, it was a costly week for them no matter what they chose. Some people had no options,” he told Spire Magazine. “I actually ended up road tripping over the break, staying with people I knew from all over the Southeast, but many people didn’t have a car.”
Even if slightly lower standards of living in a residence hall may be expected, being evicted for the duration of spring break cemented Bernhardt’s feeling that the cost of housing was way too high for what his experience was.
However, not all students had a problem with the spring break policy at all. In Bernhardt’s Facebook post, many people argued that closing residence halls over spring break is necessary in order to give resident assistants and staff members who work in residence halls a break. Some said that going home for a week shouldn’t be a big deal.
Many students in the thread also brought up that residence hall closings are mentioned in the housing contract that all on-campus residents signed and agreed to. However, it seems this provision in the contract didn’t mention spring break, which added to student confusion about whether or not their hall would be closing for the week.
The language of the contract reads:
“Residence hall closings will follow the last scheduled examination for each semester. Room rent does not cover occupancy during any vacation period or between semesters. University Housing reserves the right to provide housing during break periods in specific buildings on a limited, centralized basis and for an additional charge.”
While residence hall closings are clearly listed on the academic calendar for spring break, students were confused by the contract language stating that hall closings “will follow the last scheduled examination for each semester,” which implies winter break and summer. Those who hadn’t thought to peruse the academic calendar were under the impression hall closings didn’t apply to spring break, in part due to this contract language. This contributed to one of the primary grievances expressed by students – that they didn’t have enough time or information to properly prepare for spring break hall closings. The full housing contract can be viewed here.
Many students also expressed frustration not just with the policy itself, but with the cost of housing, given that their halls close down for a week of the semester.
“I just feel like I’m treated like I’m paying maybe a $400 rent, but I’m paying twice that,” said Christopher Bernhardt. “Our oven had no working burners and it took a whole dorm petition to get a new one. There are pinholes in my wall, areas where the paint is chipping, areas by the tiles where dust has caked up over the year. My shower is yellow and there are dark stains all over.” He continued on to add that FSU’s hall closing policy is unique. “FAMU keeps dorms open over breaks. So does USF and UCF, as well as UF.”
Bernhardt isn’t wrong. UF, UCF, USF, and FAMU all keep residence halls open for the duration of spring break.
Christopher Bernhardt expresses a dissatisfaction that many students share with him, a feeling that he gets less than he pays for already, on top of residence halls closing. Even if slightly lower standards of living in a residence hall may be expected, being evicted for the duration of spring break cemented Bernhardt’s feeling that the cost of housing was way too high for what his experience was.
Overall, FSU students returned safely following spring break, but plenty of residents had a hard time getting through the week and are hoping for more clarity or resources from on-campus housing in the future. Other students are taking what many see as the more logical route – signing an apartment lease.