Drexel students hurried to leave their dorms Friday, a day after the university suddenly speeded up its move-out process and prepared to close the campus in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Less than 24 hours earlier, the West Philadelphia university had suddenly revised plans for the remainder of the semester, changing the move-out deadline to Friday after Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close. Many of Drexel’s 15,000 undergraduate students had already returned home, as the university had urged them to do last week when it announced it would be conducting exams online. But then, statewide restrictions intensified.

“Drexel has sent messages to all residential students about the university’s move-out process, which started this week and was set to continue this weekend through Wednesday, March 25,” a university spokesperson said Friday in a statement. “However, due to the governor’s order [for all non-“life-sustaining” businesses to shut down], the university must move quickly to have students move out of Drexel housing as soon as possible.”

The university will abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations during the move-out process, according to the statement, and also hold belongings for people who are unable to return to campus to retrieve them.

“It sucks. I’d like to be here another term,” said Lauren Walinski, 19, of New Hope. “I wish they told us before 10 p.m. that we should move out.”

For some, the move-out process led to even more confusion.

Karl Williams, 21, of Doylestown, Pa., is a resident assistant at Towers Hall moving out with the help of his sister Layna Williams, 20, center right, and his mom Linda Williams, not pictured, at Drexel University. “Everyone is trying as hard as possible to get moving,” Williams said. “For me as a senior, it kind of is what it is. I’m trying to stay positive."
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Karl Williams, 21, of Doylestown, Pa., is a resident assistant at Towers Hall moving out with the help of his sister Layna Williams, 20, center right, and his mom Linda Williams, not pictured, at Drexel University. “Everyone is trying as hard as possible to get moving,” Williams said. “For me as a senior, it kind of is what it is. I’m trying to stay positive."

Last week, Violet Rose Collins had returned home to Downingtown to take online exams. At 9:53 p.m. Thursday, she said, she was told that she needed to get out of her dorm the next day.

Her mother, Deb McVeigh Collins, was frustrated. She said she recognizes the situation is “so fluid,” given changing guidelines from health officials and the state in response to the pandemic. But she said she wished the university had not put parents and students in this position, pressured to rush to campus and possibly be in contact with others despite social distancing recommendations.

The mother and daughter arrived on campus Friday morning with a mission. Violet Rose was to run to her dorm and grab essential items. Deb would stay back.

“I told my daughter, ‘I’m not going to get out of the car,’” she said. “I’m over 50, and I don’t feel safe.”

As for her 21-year-old daughter, who is president of the Drexel Queer Student Union, she said she’s worried about others, not only those sickened by the coronavirus but also fellow students who may have to return home to a family that isn’t supportive like hers.

“It’s so frustrating,” she said. “I worry even more about the freshmen I know that have less-than-ideal situations at home, and they’ll be stuck with their families until the fall.… I’m praying for them.”

Families move their kids out of the dorms at Drexel University before the end of the day on Friday, March 20, 2020. According to Drexel University, all campus facilities will be closed to the public beginning Friday.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Families move their kids out of the dorms at Drexel University before the end of the day on Friday, March 20, 2020. According to Drexel University, all campus facilities will be closed to the public beginning Friday.

The university said dorms would stay open “for the limited number of students who applied for an exemption for spring housing and were granted that request,” as well as for those who made plans to return home this weekend or early next week.

As of Friday, that included Collins, who is waiting for more information about what the next term holds. After she arrived on campus to pick up her things, she was told she should stay in her dorm. She was accepted for a co-op work assignment next term but wasn’t given details beyond that.

So on Friday afternoon, her mother drove 45 minutes back to Downingtown from Drexel to get her daughter’s laptop and other belongings.

Staff photographer Tyger Williams contributed to this article.