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University of Taipei clears out dorms during capital's ongoing COVID crisis

Some students resist after move out order with only 1-2 days of notice, CECC warns move poses transmission risk

UT students being sent home by bus (UT Student Association photo)

UT students being sent home by bus (UT Student Association photo)

PINGTUNG (Taiwan News) — University of Taipei (UT) cleared out the last of its international students from the dormitories on its main campus Monday (May 24), despite students’ objections over concerns of COVID-19.

Following an administrative meeting last Thursday (May 20), the university announced that all Taiwanese students living on campus had to leave before 12 p.m. the next day, while all international students were given until 8 a.m. on May 22 (Saturday) to move to the school's Tianmu campus.

The Ministry of Education had previously stated that universities should not shut down their dormitories and should avoid having students move about outside their rooms. In spite of this, UT still shut off the gas and locked students’ cards on Monday afternoon (May 24) after sending the last five international students residing on the campus to Tianmu.

The only student remaining in the dorms Monday was the president-elect of UT’s Student Association, who stayed behind to protest the school’s actions.

“This is unreasonable and too rushed,” a student said in an interview. When first notified that they needed to move out, many students opposed the decision, complaining that 24 hours was not enough time to pack and that there was a risk of losing their personal belongings in the chaos. Students were also worried about leaving during the Level 3 COVID alert, believing they would be safer from the virus if they stayed put for the time being.

Student Association President Yu Yi-Shuan (游宜瑄) told Taiwan News that in response to students’ opposition, the school had threatened to cut off power and water and warned that refusing to move out may undermine their chances of getting on-campus housing next semester.

The school, which is located near the COVID hotspot of Wanhua District, insisted on sending buses to carry the students away from the dorms on May 20. Although the remaining students in the international dormitory refused to move, two were tricked into signing an affidavit stating they agreed to move out on Friday (May 21), according to Yu.

The last five foreign students decided to compromise on May 24 and were moved to Tianmu at about 2 p.m.

“The Student Association strongly disagrees with the school’s decision,” said Yu. She condemned the school for making a unilateral decision as well as for ignoring students’ opinions and not including student representatives in their meeting.

Yu further pointed out that the announcement had only become known after circulating privately through students’ group chats rather than being posted officially by the university on its website.

The Students Association has reached out to city council members as well as the Ministry of Education. Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) stated that the school could not act, said Yu, but UT told students that as an autonomous university, its decision cannot be affected by the government.

When asked at a press conference Friday whether students should be moved out of their dorms at this moment, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) also emphasized that they should not be, as this increases the chances of spreading COVID-19.

UT has dormitories at its Boai and Tianmu campuses, and its international dormitory is located in Taipei’s Zhongshan District.

Updated : 2021-06-25 09:57 GMT+08:00