CORRECTION: Elon in LA for the fall semester was canceled on May 18 not March 18. Elon News Network regrets this error.
Elon junior Hallie Jaffe received an email in mid-March with “disappointing” news. She said she was overwhelmed.
“I was a mess that entire week. It was horrible. Like everything that I had planned for, everything that I had hoped for, was just taken away in an instant,” Jaffe said.
Jaffe was planning on participating in Elon in LA in the 2020 fall semester. It was canceled on May 18 in an email sent to students by Director of Elon in LA Jason McMerty.
Jaffe’s next step was to find fall housing at Elon. She said she didn’t receive any assistance from Elon residence life.
“My dad even tried to email them and [he] got no response,” Jaffe said.
Director of Residence Life MarQuita Barker sent an email on May 17, to all the students who were no longer going abroad.
In the email, there was a link to a survey with one question: “Do you have housing already figured out for the fall or are you still looking?”
Barker said of the 300 students who received the email, half filled out the survey, and 25 students said they were still looking for housing. Those 25 students were given a list of properties off-campus that still have vacancies.
Jaffe never received this list on May 17. Her program was canceled on the 18.
“I wish they could have said, ‘we know we guaranteed you housing, but we can no longer do that, given the circumstances with other cancellations going on. But here's a list of places you can check for possible housing opportunities,’” Jaffe said.
Instead, Jaffe and her mom called every place they could think of.
“I kept looking, hunting out on-campus housing, but there's nothing,” Jaffe said.
Luckily, a friend in Jaffe’s sorority, Junior Caroline Seelman, texted in a group chat to look for a roommate at the Acorn Inn.
Acorn Inn hotel rooms have been transformed to be more permanent resident-friendly. A video of the longterm leasing suites on the inn's website, more storage can be seen so students have space to store their belongings. Other amenities include a living room with a TV, a private bathroom, a microwave and minifridge and one dedicated parking space.
Member Manager of the Acorn Inn Micheal Brown said the idea to change hotel rooms to long term leases was two-fold.
“When COVID came calling a lot of people's plans changed … so it allows them an opportunity they didn't have for housing,” Brown said.
This plan also allows the Acorn Inn to make up for lost business.
“For us it offers stability in the marketplace because the overnight business pretty much came to a screeching halt,” Brown said.
This fall, students living at Acorn Inn will not have the luxuries of typical hotel living. In Jaffe’s lease, there are restrictions on things that Jaffe said would be allowed in on-campus housing. For example, tenants can’t have more than two guests, they must sign up for laundry times and nothing — including pictures — can be attached to the walls.
Brown said the Acorn Inn will increase their cleaning in common spaces to keep guests and long term leases safe.
In contrast, Barker said residence life is adding eight new expectations to housing and rooming agreements specifically for the purpose of keeping everyone safe during the pandemic.
These expectations include no overnight guests — this includes other Elon students as well as visitors from outside the campus community — no room changes unless it is a matter of safety, education on hygiene and requiring face coverings in common rooms.
Barker said she recognizes these rules will be hard to enforce.
“We are relying on people to hold their roommates accountable and to let us know that that's not happening,” Barker said.
Barker said all eight expectations are on the residence life website and will be sent to students in the coming weeks. Also, every student living on campus will have to sign an updated housing and rooming agreement when they come to campus.
Cost is another difference between living at the Acorn Inn and living in on-campus housing. Rent at the Acorn Inn is $825 per month, per person, according Jaffe's lease agreement. According to the Acorn Inn's website, prices start at $750 for long-term leasing.
Jaffe said her family can afford the significantly more expensive fee of the Acorn Inn. She sees the monthly rate as a way to help the community.
“I know the Acorn [Inn] has also been hurting and I'm glad to be able to give back to them in a sense as well and give them that business that they need to survive,” Jaffe said.
Even though she can afford it, it is not what she expected. Jaffe says she feels robbed of an experience.
“I went from living in Hollywood to living in a hotel in Elon, North Carolina,” Jaffe said.