JMU Students Leave Campus, and Wonder What's Next

Mar 30, 2020

JMU senior Chris Handwerk tosses unwanted items from his dorm into a dumpster before he leaves campus for good.
Credit Calvin Pynn

Most Virginia universities and colleges have abruptly closed their campuses and moved classes online for the rest of the semester due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This past week, students at James Madison University had to pack up early and leave their dorms behind. WMRA’s Calvin Pynn reports.

James Madison University’s West campus was still and empty as seniors Chris Handwerk and Sabrina Ruiz threw out nonessentials as they bid an early farewell to their dorms for the semester.

[Sound of Chris tossing dorm items in the dumpster]

Both are resident advisors in JMU and had the option to stay on campus, but Handwerk said that would mean limited access to food. 

CHRIS HANDWERK: The big incentive is that the dining halls are closing, so why would you want to stay? There’s not much of a kitchen in the dorms, so you can’t cook a whole lot.

JMU announced on March 18th that the university would close for the rest of the semester, mandating that all students living on campus had to leave their dorms by Sunday, March 29th. All on campus events through May 15th were called off, and the Spring commencement was postponed indefinitely.

For Ruiz, there was a lost sense of closure having to leave JMU early in her final semester.

SABRINA RUIZ: For me, the hardest part was coming back from Spring break and coming back knowing that school was cancelled and put online. All my friends that I’ve made here from freshman year, I never got to see, and I never got to say bye to them, or anything.

All classes met online for the first-time last week. For Harrison Reily, a junior Chemistry major who had to move back to his home in Richmond, it was a rocky start.

HARRISON REILY: As soon as classes started it was a nice kick in the gut I think, because everything didn’t translate so well to online. 

He said that could present some challenges for his major and other more hands-on programs, such as art, if classes continue online into next semester.

REILY: Some of them, are much better suited to be within the classroom. So I’ll have to keep that in mind when I’m picking my courses for next semester.

With less than half the semester to go, JMU has offered refunds for all housing and unused dining plans for students who left campus.