Should I Stay or Should I Go: Students Struggle with Thanksgiving Dorm Closures

By Nicole Kirkner
For Unwind magazine

With finals creeping around the corner, Thanksgiving break is usually a short — but desperately appreciated — reprieve filled with heaps of food and time spent with loved ones at home. But for some University of Maryland students, the burden of returning home has left them no choice but to stay in College Park.

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Some students find themselves stuck in College Park over Thanksgiving break. Photo by Matt Regan

As travel costs continue to increase during the holidays, many out-of-state students choose to attend “friendsgiving” at places nearby to avoid the inconvenience of traveling long distances for just five days, especially when winter break is a few weeks later.

“Money is the main reason to stay since plane tickets are ridiculous on holidays,” said junior Ben Dobson, an aerospace engineering major from Georgia. “I couldn’t stay in the dorms my first two years so I bounced around to whoever of my friends had a couch.”

Although it would have been a “nice option” to have been able to stay in his dorm, Dobson said he understands because “[employees] have families and Thanksgiving meals they need to go to.”

All residence halls on North Campus close at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, and do not reopen until 10 a.m. Sunday. Elkton is the only hall on North Campus that remains open to students. Students who live in Elkton have to request to stay in their rooms, while other north campus students must apply to stay in a “converted lounge,” spaces which are given on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to the Department of Resident Life’s website.

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Easton Hall closes for Thanksgiving break. Photo by Rebecca Torchia

Students with lounge accommodations share the living space with five others during the break, and each are provided with a bed and a dresser.

Almost one quarter of undergraduate students are from states other than Maryland and 5,498 are international students, according to the university’s website.

Not only is it difficult for many students to travel, but some, like junior electrical engineering major Evan Hying, don’t think the university does enough to “accommodate students who want to stay.”

“I was planning on staying last year, but I was discouraged because I couldn’t stay in my dorm,” he said. “The only flight back [from Illinois] I could find was on Saturday, and since my dorm didn’t reopen until Sunday, I had to pay $150 to stay in a hotel by myself for the night, which was not ideal.”

Students who stay during the break do not have access to the closed dining halls or the Health Center, which is closed Thursday through Saturday.

Elsewhere on campus, not all residence halls close during the break. Students living on South Campus in the North and South Hill communities as well as the Leonardtown apartments, are able to stay in their rooms without informing the university at no extra charge, and students in absolute need are relocated to South Campus lounges, said Mike Glowacki, assistant to the director of the Department of Resident Life.

South Campus halls remain open because their location is “closer to restaurants and other businesses that students might need over break…[are] more conducive to students being here,” Glowacki said.

However, closing residence halls reduces the expenses overall for students, who pay for the operating costs.

“I get that some students would prefer to stay in their own rooms, but all students would bear that additional expense to accommodate them,” Glowacki said. “This strikes us as a reasonable balance between student convenience and fiscal responsibility.”

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