Storage, moving process lacked coordination with students, they say

Media Credit: Eric Lee | Staff Photographer

Some students said officials violated their privacy in packing their belongings after they left campus.

Sophomore Benjamin Freedman said he was not concerned that his belongings left in District House would be packed up and stored – until the moving company that scheduled a call with him missed the meeting time.

The company instead called between 7 and 10 a.m. the next morning, when Freedman was asleep and could not help movers discern which items to pack or throw away until later in the day, after his roommates had already completed the call. Freedman said that while officials are ensuring students are safe by staying away from campus, the moving companies need to better organize the moving process, especially for students who live in a different time zone.

“It wasn’t that concerning to me at first, but as more news kept coming out on how they would be packing up my stuff, it didn’t seem to be a very organized process,” he said.

Freedman is one of 10 students who said officials’ move to pack residence hall rooms has lacked coordination with students, and they wished the University made more information about the move available sooner. Officials said they are moving students’ belongings with a “sense of urgency” because they need to consolidate students remaining on campus into fewer residence halls.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said moving students’ belongings reduces the workload of staff members responsible for daily checks on individual residence halls.

“Several times a day, they walk every building to perform safety checks on both the buildings and the students, the latter from a safe distance of course,” Csellar said in an email. “Consolidating into fewer buildings is the most prudent decision for the health and safety for all of our remaining community members on campus.”

Csellar said students living in Thurston Hall will have their belongings moved out starting Thursday, given Thurston renovations are proceeding as scheduled. She said officials have clarified aspects of the moving process with students so far, like whether certain substances are packable, and will continue to do so as the process continues.

“We thank the students whose rooms we packed this past week for their patience and flexibility,” Csellar said. “We promise before we proceed with plans for any more buildings beyond this first phase that we will communicate additional information directly to the residents of the buildings.”

She said officials will work with students who are graduating or studying abroad on finding a timeline to retrieve their belongings or arranging for them to be shipped.

“We realize that there are some students who may not be returning to campus in the fall for fall study abroad, graduating or moving off-campus,” she said. “We are committed to working with these students after the pack and store phase is completed to determine a solution for reuniting them with their belongings.”

Officials announced Friday that residence halls will not be open for summer housing, and most summer classes will be held online or canceled. The announcement comes after D.C. officials said the number of COVID-19 patients would reach its peak between mid-June and July.

Leia Ficks, a sophomore who lived in Shenkman Hall, said she felt the announcement that a moving company would pack students’ belongings was “abrupt.” Ficks said she wished the University had called off the semester earlier, which could have granted students some time to return to campus to gather their belongings.

“In my opinion, given the number of universities around the country that called off school for the rest of the semester much sooner than GW had, I think other universities showed much greater planning and transparency in the sense that they allowed their students to return to campus,” Ficks said.

Christopher Malcomson, a sophomore who lived in International House, said officials should have cleared only a few residence halls, enough to house medical personnel responding to the outbreak, but leave most students’ belongings as is in halls.

“I think it’s ridiculous to be packing up every single person’s stuff and every single residence hall,” he said. “Leave it there until late May, or early June or even August. Just leave our stuff, and we can come back and get it.”

Patricia Diaz, a sophomore who lived in Mitchell Hall, said she feels uncomfortable having movers go through her personal things without her present. Diaz said she’s used Storage Squad to pack up items in the past, and the movers lost one of her boxes without offering adequate compensation.

“They just said, ‘Oh, we couldn’t find this, we’re sorry about this, here’s a voucher for $100,'” she said. “That doesn’t even cover the base cost of all the things that were in there.”

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