Cross Village housing will remain open for the rest of the semester, but students who move out will not receive partial refunds.
An email from OU Housing and Food Services on March 20 recommended students move out of on-campus residences if possible, with the exception of Kraettli and Traditions, after all OU Norman classes moved online due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus. The email said students would receive partial refunds if they decided to move out.
Cross Village, a luxury housing complex built in 2018, is owned by Provident Oklahoma Education Resources Group and was not included in the university’s email announcing partial housing refunds, leaving unclear whether students might be able to receive them.
Mandy Whitten, director of operations for Capstone On-Campus Management, which is the on-site property manager partnered with Provident Oklahoma, told The Daily that residents would be able to remain living in Cross and that cleaning procedures are being increased, but that they would not receive partial housing refunds.
“Regardless of what happens, we want (the residents) to feel comfortable and be able to stay here,” Whitten said.
The university’s exclusion of Cross Village residents from its offer of partial refunds comes after a months-long dispute between the university and Provident Oklahoma, which owns Cross Village. In a lawsuit filed in December, Provident alleged the university made “false promises and misrepresentations” to induce Provident to fund and construct the project on OU’s Norman campus.
"The university ignores Cross Village and does not recognize it as their housing,” Steve Hicks, president of Provident Oklahoma Education Resources Group, told The Daily on March 26.
Hicks said OU should be responsible for any refunds given to students who choose to move out of Cross Village.
"The university has encouraged students to vacate Cross Village, all the housing on campus, but where they're providing refunds or rebates to their housing, they're not offering to do the same thing to the students that they assigned to Cross Village,” Hicks said. “Shame on them. And in our case, we are not in a position to offer refunds or rebates."
OU spokesperson Kesha Keith told the Daily in an email on March 26 that while the university advised students to not return to campus based on federal and state guidelines, Cross is owned and operated by Provident Oklahoma Education Resources.
“Provident is responsible for administering student leases, establishing rental rates, and determining when and if students are allowed to cancel or otherwise terminate their agreements,” Keith said in the email. “The university does, however, collect rent through the Bursar’s office, which is then transmitted directly to Provident. Residents of Cross have been directed to Provident so that Provident can provide direct responses to its residents.”
Hicks said Cross management has to make decisions based on the overall health of their residents, but Provident also has a responsibility to bondholders.
“First and foremost, we have to be concerned with the best interests of the health and welfare of the students,” Hicks said. “But at the same time, we have to be responsible in our actions with regards to the bondholders that loan over $200 million in order for (OU) to get this project that they wanted for about the past decade, based upon the process that they went through in master planning for the project.”
Ashley Mueller, a Cross resident, said she felt some confusion because she signed her Cross contract through the OU Housing and Food portal, but could not receive a partial refund like students living in OU-owned housing options.
Mueller said she received the same email from OU Housing and Food describing partial refunds that would be offered to most students in OU housing. She later found out Cross Village residents would not be included.
“We've been working really hard to try and clear up the messaging,” Whitten said. “I know our students are confused. What we really want them to know is they are absolutely welcome to stay.”