GW could have anticipated and prepared students for move out weeks ago

The University updated students on move-out plans last week, saying it will hire a professional moving company to pack and store student belongings until the start of the fall semester. Officials are also considering ways to ship students their belongings. These ideas are fine but still disappointing.

First, the University told students that they should not return to campus until two weeks after spring break. Thinking students could grab the rest of their belongings in a couple of weeks, many students left campus with enough clothing and items to last them only about a month.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 made travel increasingly dangerous, and the University decided to close residence halls and cancel in-person classes for the semester. When officials made the announcement on March 16, some students were luckily still on campus to pack up their belongings and move out of their residence halls. But at a school with many international students and people from around the United States, officials should have anticipated the worst-case scenario and told students to pack up belongings before spring break.

By the time the University announced students would be taking classes online and completely abandon campus, both American and Howard had already told their students to move out completely. Officials could have looked to GW’s neighboring schools for guidance on how to prepare students to leave campus, but they instead told students that move-out would happen “sometime after April 5.” It would have been a struggle to move out at any point in the spring, but the uncertainty heightened worries and pressured students to prepare for potential travel back to campus.

The bottom line is that officials saw this move-out on the horizon. Instead of paying a moving company to box up students’ belongings and increase stress on students, they should have looked to peers and followed suit. Telling students before they left for spring break that they would possibly need to move out would have saved the University money and liability and prevented students from added anxiety. Even telling students to consider returning to campus and immediately packing up if they could would have been helpful.

Like many universities, these emergency calls are learning experiences. No one can fully prepare for the rapidly changing news that has affected GW and the rest of the world, but the University can grow to better prepare students for emergencies in the future.

Hannah Thacker, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is the contributing opinions editor.

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