Belmont students living on campus this semester and those with food plans can expect a refund — a reversal of position — after campus shut down for a month.
Refunds will be provided to students whose housing and meal plans were affected by the COVID-19 crisis, according to an email from university President Dr. Bob Fisher sent out Monday afternoon.
The refunds, which will be proportional to the amount of lost time, do not yet have specific numbers attached. Belmont is standing behind its revised spring schedule, however it may change as the crisis develops.
“Much still remains unclear,” said Fisher in the email. “We are choosing to not act rashly, and ask that everyone please remain as flexible as possible with travel and other planning as we monitor developments for a while longer.”
Residential undergraduate students will be offered the option of a prorated cash refund or a credit to be applied to future semesters, while graduating seniors will receive the cash refund.
Fisher said no further specifics will be provided “until it is clear when campus will reopen to students,” saying that the university hopes to maintain its current plan of resuming in-person classes April 6.
“Such an outcome will help limit further disruption to our students as they work to finish the spring term,” the email explained. “Especially for our seniors as they continue the march to graduation.”
This is a reversal from Belmont’s initial stance, which was to deny refunds for housing and meals denied as a result of the coronavirus.
“Decisions made in the midst of a storm are not always, in hindsight, the right or perfect decisions,” said Fisher in the email.
Concerns about Belmont’s initial decision were raised over social media by thousands of students, with one change.org petition amassing nearly 3,000 signatures.
Parker Kerns, the freshman motion pictures major who started that petition, said he was inspired to speak out after hearing his friends discuss the pressure they felt suddenly having to move.
“I started listening to all of them explain how hard all of this was going to be on them: moving back home, not having a job, quarantined, and I realized just how much this was going to hurt Belmont’s student body,” Kerns said.
“I understood the costs of paying teachers and for sanitizing, but that should not hurt the students more than it helps them.”
The petition’s thousands of signatures blew his expectations out of the water, he said, adding that he was “extremely happy” with the university’s change of position.
Kerns said his family has already experienced financial hardship as a result of COVID-19’s spread, and thanked every student who signed the petition.
“We were all able to make a change,” he said.
Fisher ended the email reminding the Belmont community to stay safe, directing students to http://www.belmont.edu/health-services/coronavirus/ if they had any non-urgent concerns or questions.
“The safety and wellbeing of our students is the driver of all our decisions,” Fisher said.