Students Required to Pack Belongings Between Semesters

Students living in College housing will need to pack up all of their belongings before they leave for Thanksgiving break, regardless of whether they are returning to campus in January. While this announcement sparked some concern from students that the spring semester would be conducted remotely, public health officials say that the rest of the academic year is on track to proceed in-person as planned. 

In an Oct. 23 email announcement to students, Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo laid out packing expectations for students living in dorm rooms or Village Housing.

“All students in College housing are strongly encouraged to take their belongings with them,” Raimondo’s email read. “Any items left behind in your assigned housing must be packed into shipping boxes in the event public health conditions prevent a return to campus, and we need to send the contents back to you.”

Raimondo’s email explained that items left behind must be well-sealed and labeled with an address, adding that items left unpacked could be discarded. Raimondo told the Review that the College will provide boxes for students. 

For some students, being told to pack their belongings and unpack them again six weeks later feels like a big ask, and brings back bad memories of last March’s sudden exodus.

“I think it makes sense on a lot of levels, but it’s also just really rough to have to pack up our entire lives again, with the possibility of not returning to them, because we’ve already done that in the last eight months,” College fourth-year Olivia Guerriero said. “Especially being a senior with the possibility that we have to say goodbye to people without knowing if we’re going to be back for another three months.”

Some students are also worried that they will not have enough time to pack. Students will be required to leave campus at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25 after attending their regular Monday and Tuesday classes. 

“I’m a bit stressed about the prospect of having to pack up so quickly — I have a class that ends at 4:30 on Tuesday, and I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to pack before then,” said double degree third-year Kenji Anderson. “I feel apprehensive about leaving my stuff in boxes in my room, as I know some students’ items were lost at the beginning of the year. So I’m trying to find a storage unit to keep my stuff in, and my parents will also drive some of my stuff back home — I feel bad and frustrated for students who do not have this as an option and perhaps run the risk of losing their stuff.”

Raimondo explained that the academic calendar for the three-semester year was built to meet accreditation requirements and guarantee faculty had enough class hours with students.

“We made sure students were aware of the calendar before returning this fall,” Raimondo wrote. “I assume there will be a range of strategies that students use to pack, and that most will have completed packing everything but items they are still using before classes end on Tuesday.”

The College says that asking students to pack up is not indicative of plans for the campus to go remote.

“We fully expect to return in January and have a successful on-campus semester,” Raimondo wrote in an email to the Review. “However, it’s important to be prepared for scenarios that, however unlikely, would impact our campus. An example of something that might change that would be a stay home order from the state of Ohio. Based on the experience of belongings left on campus in the spring, we are trying to identify a strategy to ensure efficient and effective management of student belongings.”

While the College has seen limited spread of COVID-19 thus far, President Ambar has asked students to maintain their adherence to the College’s ObieSafe protocols and to remain cautiously optimistic about the future. 

“We must remain open to the types of pivots and changes in direction that we were open to at the beginning of the semester because the future is unpredictable,” President Carmen Twillie Ambar wrote in an Oct. 25 email to students, parents, faculty, and staff. “This is particularly true as we head into this new season of cold weather, which finds many states — Ohio included — experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases. The balance we’ve enjoyed on our campus is fragile, and we must remain vigilant in protecting it. In the coming weeks, we will release a series of emails and videos related to end-of-semester move-outs and January move-ins, along with some expectations for the time in between.”

Dave Covell, the health commissioner for Lorain County Public Health, said he believes that the College is on track to return in January, even with the colder weather, in an interview with the Review.

“I am a little concerned around Thanksgiving and Christmas; kids may be going back to wherever they live,” Covell said. “There’s some concern there, but the only way that we would suggest that the College doesn’t reopen is if we all of a sudden started seeing it spread at the College, and right now we just haven’t seen it. As students follow the rules and teachers follow the rules, it’s actually worked out great. It just hasn’t spread.”

The requirement that students box up their belongings will be enforced through the same end-of-semester room inspections that happen every fall semester.

“We assume that students will comply with this requirement like they comply with other residential policies,” Raimondo wrote. “As with all residential policies, failure to comply may have consequences. If students did not return for the spring semester, the College cannot guarantee that it could store and/or ship unpacked items, so we are asking students to take proactive steps to protect their valuables.”

In the coming weeks, the College will provide additional information on how students can pick up the College-provided boxes, and how they should pack items that don’t fit in boxes, like mini-fridges and bikes.