New Mexico college students adapt to campus housing changes


Shane Buchanan

NMSU students who are not able to move elsewhere have the option of staying in their on-campus housing.

Within about a week New Mexico State University students went from walking down the I-Mall and grabbing a cup of coffee to self-quarantining and social isolating because of COVID-19. Similar situations have befallen most New Mexicans who are suddenly found working and finishing school from home.

As of March 30, the state has announced 237 positive cases of Coronavirus and the New Mexico Department of Health issued another public health order that further encourages people to stay home. NMSU has not completely closed down the university, but many restrictions have been enacted to keep people from interacting and possibly further spreading the virus. This includes restricted access to the university and altered times for access to campus meals.

Student housing, food services and the Aggie Health and Wellness Center have remained open to offer services to students. But how long will this last? Ophelia Watkins, interim executive director of Housing and Residential Life, released an email March 21 explaining an update to campus housing.

“Residents who did not leave their campus housing assignment for spring break are welcome to continue to stay. Guests and visitors are not allowed in on-campus residence halls and apartments until further notice,” the email read.

Students living in campus housing who did leave for the extended spring break are encouraged to only return to retrieve their belongings if they have remained within New Mexico or the El Paso area. As a precautionary step, students must sign up for a time to return to their residence. The email also explains that if campus housing is the only housing option a student has, they can submit a form and be considered to remain on-campus.

On March 19, the University of New Mexico announced that many student residence halls on campus would be closing, requiring students to find a place to go by March 24. “We recognize that for some students the residence halls will remain the safest or most stable place to stay, and we will provide housing for those few students. For students who need to remain on campus, they must complete a ‘Limited Operations Housing Exception Request’ by Friday, March 20, 2020 at 1:00PM for review and approval,” the update read.

Jaqueline Mayfield, a student at UNM, lives in Lobo Village, which is a private partner housing options for students. It is not on campus grounds and is remaining in operation. Mayfield said while residents in the village aren’t being told to leave, they have been told it would be preferable for them to live somewhere else. Mayfield said she made the decision to return to her family in Las Cruces before a “shelter-in-place” order was announced at the state level.

“Everyone’s on edge. Everyone’s kind of freaking out,” Mayfield said. “A lot of the students that live at Lobo Village can no longer afford their rent, so a lot of people are moving out and trying to cancel their leases but Lobo Village won’t let them. So there’s a lot of anger and stress.”

According to their website, Lobo Village offers 12-month leases which they “intend to honor” during this time. They explain that “student residents continue to have the option as to when they choose to physically occupy their apartments between now and the end of the current lease terms.” Late fees will be temporarily waived and as well as evictions due to financial difficulties.

Brennan Wright, also a student at UNM, said one of his main concerns is the financial aspect of closing certain campus services and other non-university businesses. He said he works at a Weck’s in Albuquerque as well as a work-study job at the UNM Fine Arts and Design Library, both of which have closed due to the outbreak. While the library will continue paying him through the closure, Weck’s will not, he said.

“Not as big deal for me because I then have a family and a support system,” Wright said. “For some people, they’re probably going to have to like really figure out their financial situations because that’s what they do for a living.”

It was announced on March 20 that the first case of COVID-19 in Doña Ana County was found. Today there are now 17 positive cases in the county. NMSU administrators have not released any information about the possibility of closing the campus completely or further reducing the number of students in on-campus housing as of yet.

Michael Steuck, an independent studies major at NMSU and a member of the University Chamber Singers, discussed the postponement of an international trip to Italy the choir was planning to take during spring break.

“I think that we’re all pretty confident that as the weather warms up, everything should be fine,” Steuck said in an interview on March 12. Since then, Steuck said he made the decision to move back home to Rio Rancho to be with family.

“I’m definitely upset about classes being cancelled for the rest of the semester since this was my final semester and I was hoping to enjoy my last few months at NMSU doing what I love with the friends that I’ve made,” Steuck said in a message. “I’m hoping that NMSU won’t make the same decision that other schools have made to kick out people living on campus — a lot of schools have given their students mere days to find a place to live and I do not agree with that.”

For more information about NMSU’s actions pertaining to COVID-19, call 575-646-7373 or go to their website at For information at the state level, call 1-855-600-3453.

Facebook Comments