Two days before Mercer student Elizabeth Daniels was set to depart from South Korea, she received an email urging students to reach out to the administration if they had traveled to a country “listed as a CDC Warning Level 3 Travel Health Notice for COVID-19.”
After Daniels came forward, Dean of Students Douglas Pearson asked her to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to Mercer’s campus.
“I told them I don’t have a good home to return to,” Daniels said in a message to The Cluster.
Daniels said that the administration would not allow her back into her Loft until the 14-day quarantine was over. So, she missed her initial flight back to the United States on March 8, and since then, has been staying with friends in South Korea until she’s allowed back on campus.
“The situation in America is getting worse, and at least here I have stable housing and won’t have to go back to my bad home situation if they decide to kick us out of the Lofts,” Daniels said.
Daniels is one of four students asked to self-quarantine for a two-week period. In an email to The Cluster, Dean Pearson said that “none of the students who I contacted were not already back in the States when I spoke with them (to the best of my knowledge).”
Daniels said she could have better communicated how dire her housing status was.
“Perhaps I should have clarified better, I admit that,” Daniels said. “But I feel like it was very obvious. But again, I should have clarified.”
In a Student Government Association meeting March 9, Pearson said that students who miss class because of COVID-19 will have their absences excused, and that their professors will work with them to make up missed classwork. However, after reaching out to her professors, Daniels said their responses have been slow or non-existent.
“I only heard from one professor so far. And that was just today,” Daniels said on March 12. “I suspect it was because (I) was reaching out to so many student leaders in an effort to hear something. I have not heard from any of my other professors, my advisor or the dean of my school, all of which I was told would be notified of my required absence from school.”
Daniels is also in a different time zone than her professors, which could make already-difficult coursework even harder.
“Although the students were (and are) excused from classes, each one has been instructed to contact their faculty to make up work during this time,” Dean Pearson said in an email to The Cluster. “If this student has reached out and not heard from their faculty, I recommend they call or email them, or contact the associate dean in their academic area for assistance.”
Daniels said that a faculty member offered to house her after her initial correspondence with Mercer’s administration, but she wasn’t told that until after she missed her flight.
“My professor – actually not even my professor, she is just accounting faculty – she offered to let me stay with her apparently,” Daniels said. “She told me yesterday. She says she was bcc’d in an email (in) the beginning where she and who knows who else saw that I had nowhere to go… Like, okay, yes, I have someone to stay with in Korea, but it’s not my country or my home. America is. And I feel (like) because of that, no one is trying to help me, just because I’m not literally on the streets.”
Daniels said that while her ban from campus is largely administration-led, the Lofts’ management has yet to contact her regarding steps forward.
“The Lofts have not reached out to me at all, which worries me. (I’m) under incredible financial strain due to other issues and now having to support myself outside of the campus. I believe I could come back to all of my belongings being outside or… something,” Daniels said.
When asked if students barred from campus would have to pay rent for the months they may be absent, the Lofts at Mercer Landing said in an email that “as of now, we are waiting on a directive from our corporate office as to that answer.”
Daniels studied abroad in South Korea during the spring semester of 2019. She’s currently staying there under a 90-day tourist visa.
“I feel like I should be able to return to my Loft and self-quarantine. Yes, students live there, but it’s not in Mercer’s domain. That alone would take away so much stress. I wouldn’t have to crowd surf in a foreign country,” Daniels said. “I can go back to my apartment I am paying almost $1,000 a month for.”