Last semester, Morgan State President David Wilson received an influx of requests from students seeking residence on campus and with only 300 slots to give, he was forced to turn students away. But this semester, the university is scrambling to fill vacancies after more than doubling its slots.
Only 500 students have agreed to live on campus—300 of which have returned from the previous semester. With roughly 400 students living in off-campus housing, it’s left 100 vacant slots to fill, according to Kevin Banks, Vice President of Student Affairs.
“We planned to expand up to 1,000 students, but unfortunately the virus is still raging and I think it’s really impacting families and students’ decisions,” Banks said.
The university has turned Harper Tubman, Baldwin Hall, Cummings Hall and Rawlings Hall into single rooms while Blount Towers and O’Connell Hall remain vacant. Morgan View, Marble Hall Gardens and HH Midtown are available for off-campus housing while Thurgood Marshall remains a quarantine facility.
The university was also interested in expanding its on-campus faculty personnel to roughly 120 professors teaching face-to-face instruction. That number has since been reduced to 43 faculty members.
Students are still tested for the coronavirus twice a week. But the university is exploring the idea of expanding its testing site locations around campus to make the process less strenuous on students, according to Health Center Director Ruth Agwuna.
The Morgan community can also expect a shift from the PCR test, which produces results in two days, to the antigen test that produces results within 20 minutes.
“We can quickly isolate those people who may test positive and spare people in the community,” Agwuna said. “The expansion of vaccine distribution to colleges and universities as part of Maryland’s Phase 1B vaccination plan has opened the discussion of whether Morgan State will become a vaccination site.”
On Jan. 22, Morgan’s administration met with State of Maryland officials and members of the National Guard to discuss the possibilities of a drive-thru and walk-in vaccination site on campus. Although the process is in its beginning stage, vaccination rollout is expected by the end of February in the Murphy Fine Arts parking lot and Lake Clifton Eastern High School, according to Banks.
But students are already wary. Civil engineering major Princess Vasquez, a freshman and returning on-campus resident, plans to move back to her New Jersey home if the vaccination becomes a requirement to remain on campus.
“I don’t think I’ll be comfortable taking it,” Vasquez said.
Agwuna said the School of Nursing and the athletic department have been assisting with immunization efforts but because students usually register for housing right before the application closes, it’s difficult to predict how many students they can expect to get vaccinated.
“If we become a vaccination site, we’d like to provide opportunities for our faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated right here at Morgan State University,” Banks said.
This story is a part of “Black Health Matters,” a year-long reporting program through The Poynter Institute’s College Media Project. The project’s objective: to tell health-related stories through the lens of Black college students, while examining possible solutions.