College Works to Return Lost Items to Students

Fall+semester+students+can+visit+the+Williams+Field+House+to+search+for+their+belongings+among+unmarked+boxes.++Many+items+have+yet+to+find+their+homes+following+student%27s+abrupt+departure+from+campus+last+March+due+to+the+spread+of+COVID-19.

Mallika Pandey

Fall semester students can visit the Williams Field House to search for their belongings among unmarked boxes. Many items have yet to find their homes following student’s abrupt departure from campus last March due to the spread of COVID-19.

Some students who left boxes of personal items in their rooms during the rushed move-out last spring returned to campus to find that many of their belongings were missing, misplaced, or damaged. During the next two to three weeks, staff members hope to reunite students with their items, but some students are frustrated with the wait. 

According to Assistant Dean of Business and Operations Jessica Bayer-Crissman, staff members across campus are working to rectify this issue. The process includes looking through unlabeled boxes stored in the Heisman Club Field House to find items with identifiers, such as books with students’ names on them or belongings that match student-provided descriptions. 

Students are urged to fill out the Google Form if they are missing belongings or have discovered belongings in their rooms that are not theirs. If there is a pressing matter, students should directly contact the Office of the Dean of Students. Students with missing items can also sign up for a time slot to visit the Heisman Club Field House to look at unlabeled boxes.

The College advises students to purchase replacements for missing items that they cannot wait half a month to obtain, such as toiletries or bedding. They will also reimburse students for these purchases and any broken property. Students can also apply for emergency assistance if their missing items are essential and need to be replaced.

Graduated or unenrolled students are not able to pick up their items at this time. The College plans to connect these individuals with their belongings after they accommodate currently enrolled students. 

“Given the constraints created by the pandemic and the incredible extra time staff have put into managing the belongings that were left behind, I hope students and graduates will continue to extend understanding and grace,” said Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo. “If there is something needed urgently, we will prioritize that request as much as possible.”

Raimondo attributes student’s missing items to the short-notice for campus closure in March. 

“It started with students getting the notification in March that they had to leave campus very abruptly,” Raimondo said. “The students, in my observation, did the very best they could to do what we asked, which was pack things into boxes and label them. But because things happened so quickly, some people didn’t have time to pack everything or label it correctly.”

Following student departure, all rooms had to be emptied and cleaned. Staff were tasked with packing loose items, organizing belongings, and moving them to the students’ fall place of residence. 

“We missed meals and time with our families because we wanted to keep our word of having students’ items in their rooms when they arrived,” Bayer-Crissman wrote in an email to the Review. “We were so committed to that task, and while I understand it was not perfect, we are in a pandemic and learning a lot along the way.”

To reunite students with their belongings, College second-year Sarah Liberatore founded and co-administrates the Facebook group Oberlin 2020 Lost and Found with College third-year Tempest Baum. Created shortly after the Resident Assistant move-in date in mid-August, the group already has 433 members.

“I made a Facebook group where people can just post if they’ve found objects that don’t belong to them in their room … or if they’re missing items or boxes so that people can post and hopefully get reconnected with their belongings,” Liberatore said. 

She was inspired to create this page after arriving early — with her fellow RAs — to find that some of her and her roommate’s belongings had been swapped and there was an extra item in her room. Since the page was created, people have been able to contact one another directly to redistribute missing items. 

Some students are starting to lose faith that the administration will be able to reconnect them to their lost items. Conservatory fourth-year Drew Smith had items that were lost, damaged, or destroyed. It took a week for Smith to receive a response from the Office of the Dean of Students about their lost items. 

“Emailing was almost completely ineffective,” Smith said. “It was basically through random chance that some of my most valuable items — my posters and art collection — were found. In the amount of time, I received no communication from the [Office of the Dean of Students]. I simply had to go ahead and replace my trash can, hangers, and shower caddy because living without these items was simply becoming too difficult.”

While Liberatore and Smith’s collective confidence in the Office of the Dean of Students’ Google Form-based process is low, Raimondo remains optimistic. 

“Right now my highest priority is people’s health,” Raimondo said. “So we decided that if the priority was people over stuff, we would focus on a safe move in and resolve questions about students’ belongings later.”