COVID-19 Forces Students Out of Concordia Residences

Students Scrambling to Find Housing After Unexpected Announcement by University

The Grey Nuns dining hall was rearranged, tables were moved apart from each other and pews were turned over to discourage eating in groups. Courtesy Dennise Ann Del Mundo

Students living at Concordia residences were given notice on March 18 that they must move out by March 22.

With the exception of cases where students have nowhere else to go, all remaining students must vacate the university residence.

The eviction notice and other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have turned the downtown Grey Nuns residence into a ghost town, according to Dennise Ann Del Mundo. The students who haven’t already gone home—many of whom can’t go home—are desperate for a place to live.

The staff have begun building boxes for students to pack. Courtesy Christine Esteron
“I was surprised by how extreme [the shift] was,” said Del Mundo, an international student studying marketing at Concordia. “The biggest bomb was them telling us we had to move out now.”

Del Mundo says the communication from Concordia quickly took a turn for the worst. In an email sent on March 13, Lauren Farley, Director of Residence Life, told students, “We are doing everything we can to limit the impact on our students, and we are here to support you.”

The email continued to say essential services will continue despite the school’s closure between March 16 and 30.

“Residences remain open,” it said. Del Mundo was reassured.

However, on March 18, students were given four days to vacate living spaces. The email stated: “[F]or the safety of those students living in residence for whom social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, all students are required to move out of residence by end of the day, Sunday, March 22, 2020.”

“Everyone is in panic mode.”
Christine Esteron

“It was out of nowhere,’‘ said Del Mundo. The change in tone and policy left her asking herself where she could go. Del Mundo, who is from Qatar, said going home was not an option. She had to scramble to find a place to live.

“Everyone is in panic mode,” said Christine Esteron, a first year student in child studies living at Grey Nuns.

The first thing she did was look on Facebook for an apartment. Esteron’s plan was to move in with friends in April, but is now going to live in a studio apartment made available to her by Et Vous Hospitality.

Both Esteron and Del Mundo have turned to Et Vous Hospitality for housing during the COVID-19 crisis. Et Vous—run by siblings Leyla and Erol Suatac—operate vacation rentals for tourists.

There aren’t as many tourists around since travel is restricted, said Erol.

“I had people calling me in tears,” said Leyla. The Suatacs find it “tragic” that students are being forced out of their living spaces. “We’re here to help students,” said Erol.

Christopher Kalafatidis, General Coordinator of the Concordia Student Union, had a meeting with Graham Carr, Concordia University President, this morning to address the situation.

“Four days is an unacceptable amount of time. […] Students should not be getting kicked out. Period,” said Kalafatidis. He added that the CSU is meeting to figure out how it can help displaced students.

In a March 19 statement, Carr said, “I want to assure [students living in residence], and the community at large, that Concordia will support any student who has nowhere to go to the best of our abilities by providing them with accommodation, meals and other services until conditions improve.”

While students are panicked to find a place to live, the Grey Nuns residence is in a state shock.

Fruit and deserts are being served wrapped in plastic, utensils are being handed out individually by the staff.. Courtesy Dennise Ann Del Mundo
The dining hall at Grey Nuns remains open despite strict rules on when students can eat. An email from Residence Life last Friday said, “Aramark has taken necessary precautions to enhance food safety, therefore, services will be slightly different than usual.” Students from each floor are being herded to the dining hall given 30 minutes to eat, then promptly shuffled out and told to return to their rooms.

The residence has incorporated an all-day quiet policy in the dorms. A social distancing policy has limited the number of students to four per room, and all common room areas are off limits.

An email from Residence Life on Monday stated, “Be smart about your socializing, get creative and stay safe.”

“The decision made today […] was not taken lightly and we understand the stress it is causing. Social distancing measures that everyone right now is aiming for are hard to maintain in residences and this decision was taken with the well-being of students in mind,” said Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci.

A previous version of this article originally misspelled Leyla Suatac’s first name as “Layla.” The Link regrets this error.