Illustration by Jam Moreno.

Weeks of Chaos: How ResEd Navigated A Difficult Transition

With the last-minute cancellation of January Term, an overstretched Residential Education staff struggled to overcome challenges of housing more students than were expected. Several students share their experience navigating this challenge.

Feb 13, 2022

For Pedro Velasquez Duque, Class of 2023, the winter transition was difficult enough already. Having almost completed a 30-hour journey from Colombia to Abu Dhabi, Duque faced problems with the last leg of his flight from Istanbul to Abu Dhabi. Amongst the chaos, Duque found solace in knowing that a comfortable room that was waiting for him on the other side in Abu Dhabi. Or so he thought.
“To cheer myself up, I went into the [housing] portal … when I went in there, I saw that there were five people assigned to my room,” Duque stated in an interview with The Gazelle. “I was like, wait a minute, even if we got more people assigned, there is no way there are five [all NYU Abu Dhabi suites have two or four students]… so I started reading the room numbers, and there was another person assigned to my bed.”
Duque immediately wrote an email to Residential Education, asking for clarity on the situation. By the time he reached campus, he was told that the room had been assigned to someone else and that Residential Education did not know that he was arriving, despite Duque having been approved to return by the Office of Global Education.
Duque was one of several students adversely affected by the chaotic housing transition, worsened by the cancellation of January Term due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The last-minute cancellation entailed that several students who were supposed to be away for J-Term were forced to return to campus. At the same time, several students were returning from their study-away semester in New York, creating a housing crisis that the university struggled to mitigate. The J-Term decision was announced on Dec. 18, days before the entire university was closed for winter break. Students started arriving near the culmination of the break, on Jan. 3.
Thus, an overworked and overstretched Residential Education staff, many of whom voluntarily worked weekends, only had 3–4 days to overcome the logistical challenges of housing more students than were expected. As a result, several students returned to different room assignments and untidy rooms. In one case, personal items were even disposed of. The most pernicious impact of the transition fell on students with Moses Center accommodations, as covered in The Gazelle’s last issue.
When Davit Jintcharadze, Class of 2022, returned to his room in the middle of the night, he was greeted by an unexpectedly messy room. “The bathroom and the room were absolutely trash[ed]. There was literal trash lying everywhere. It was not a room where I could spend the night so I literally had to leave my suitcase and go to the beach and … chill on the beach before they managed to clean it, which was like 12 hours later …. It took me three or four calls to get it cleaned.” Jintcharadze shared in an interview with The Gazelle.
Jintcharadze emphasized the impact that the unclean room had on his mental health. “It was very … discomforting because I don’t have OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder] but I have anxiety [about] unclean things and I can’t physically sit in an environment that is not neat at least, if not ideally clean.”
Sophia Chavele, Class of 2022, had a similar experience. “I arrived in my room during the set moving period… so I move in and see trash everywhere as well leftover items, trash bags, items in the kitchen, in the freezer, all over the place…” she shared. When she emailed Residential Education about the situation, she was told that the room had already been cleaned and that if she wanted it to be cleaned once again, she would have to pay.
Chavele went through several stages of university bureaucracy, contacting Resident Assistants — students hired to improve the residential experience — and Residential College Directors. “The most helpful [people] in the situation in the room were the RAs. They were the only ones fighting for the room to be cleaned,” suggested Chavele.
After several days, she was finally contacted by Residential Education Interim Director Dylan Maurer, who acknowledged that the unclean state of the room was not Chavele’s fault. She was told that the previous resident had not properly checked out, causing the confusion.
Rina Hiraiwa, Class of 2022, found herself in a similar position, returning to a room that was unexpectedly unclean. In particular, she expressed concern about the position that SERCO contracted colleagues were placed in. “They had to clean 20/30 rooms in like the span of a few hours… and I think that’s a huge problem because they were working on a Saturday after 6 pm until god knows what time, maybe 1am or 2am … it wasn’t [their] fault because they weren’t told about this… They shouldn’t have to work so late just because of an error on some management’s fault. I remember the workers came in and they looked exhausted.” she said.
On the other hand, Ella Goeckner-Wald was shocked when she returned to her room after Winter Break, and found that 200–300 AED worth of her personal items had been disposed of. Residents continuing in their rooms typically leave their belongings behind, with the expectation that they will be untouched on their return.
All five students that The Gazelle spoke to were deeply critical of the university’s communication throughout the transition, both among departments and to students. Duque pointed out that Residential Education was not even aware of his arrival. “It is not hard to tell each other when students are arriving,” he said.
Jintcharadze was broadly critical of the university. “It is very interesting how in this university you can blame everything on miscommunication and there is no sense of responsibility.”
Duque discussed that this issue was not constrained to Residential Education, pointing out that a last-minute change in arrival windows was only communicated formally to parents. “I really don’t like the university’s communication over the last couple of months. I think it is horrible,” added Duque.
The challenges of the transition were compounded by understaffing in ResEd. The department has multiple spots unfilled, including that of the Director — Dylan Maurer is currently assuming the position on an interim basis. Hiraiwa suggested that Residential Education was not responsible for the problems experienced by students. “They [ResEd] were helpful, but it wasn’t very quick but I wouldn’t blame Resed on that because they didn’t even know this was happening.”
The department has been keen to emphasize that the problems affected a very small minority of students. Chavele shared, “[They] kind of dismissed the issue saying it’s only 15 of you who faced this issue but still 15 students moving into rooms that had literal trash in them during covid times is not an ideal situation, [but] a pretty big issue.”
Chavele mentioned that before Covid-19, residents would have had to pay an improper checkout fee if their room was not clean enough when newer residents moved in. In an attempt to be accommodating of the uncertainty related to traveling during the pandemic and the need to limit unnecessary contact, the improper checkout fee was canceled and RAs also no longer check the cleanliness of a room after a resident has checked out.
However, according to Chavele, there are alternative methods already implemented in the Global Network University to ensure previous residents check out properly, even during Covid-19 times. She shared that: “In New York, we had to send a video of the room after we checked out so the RA could check that the room was properly cleaned by the resident.”
If the ResEd team considered these alternative options instead of removing the system altogether, then the problem of unclean rooms would have been mitigated, if not taken care of completely.
While the sudden cancellation of J-Term led to this chaotic housing transition, students mentioned that the lack of clear and consistent communication following policy changes is a sustained problem which affects our community.
Abhyudaya Tyagi is Editor-in-Chief. Githmi Rabel is Senior Opinion Editor. Email them at
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