The University of Wyoming will allow 138 double-occupancy dorm rooms this fall, under a plan approved by the board of trustees in a special meeting Tuesday morning.
This is a change from the reopening plan the trustees approved June 10, under which all of the dorm rooms on campus would have been single-occupancy.
Having two students in an appropriately-sized dorm room likely will not compromise the safety of the school’s reopening plan, Larry Kaiser, a medical adviser to UW who used to run Temple University’s health system, had told the board at its June 10 meeting.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control allow double-occupancy rooms at colleges and universities, said Kimberly Chestnut, UW’s vice president for student affairs. Many students wanted to live with roommates and had asked the university to allow double-occupancy rooms since the reopening plan was first announced last month, she said.
Having a roommate could be better for the mental health of students as they cope with the pandemic and the isolation of social distancing, said David Fall, one of the trustees.
“I don’t look at it like we’re running out of room,” Fall said. “We’re doing it because it’s best for students.”
Before adding the double-occupancy rooms this week, the university was unable to provide housing for 50 students who had signed housing contracts, Chestnut said. They had signed up for rooms before the university announced in its reopening plan that all dorms would be converted to single-occupancy rooms.
Under this revised plan, the university will have the capacity to house all the students who signed up to live in the dorms, and there might be additional availability for other students who have expressed interest.
Students who have previously expressed interest living with a roommate will be called first with offers to live in the doubles, Chestnut said. UW said Monday in a press release that more than 400 students had requested to live in dorms with a specific roommate before the pandemic.
Some of the trustees expressed concerns about the safety of double rooms and the possible liability faced by the university if there is an outbreak on campus. Trustee Mel Baldwin asked whether students would be required to sign a special waiver to live in a double.
Students will likely need to sign a document acknowledging the risk of transmission between roommates, but the final details have not been worked out, said Tara Evans, the university’s general counsel. Since double-occupancy rooms are allowed under public health guidelines, the university’s general liability insurance would still apply, Evans said.