Time to Pack Up… Again

The time is fast approaching for students to start packing. 

A few weeks ago, an email from the Dean of Students office alerted students that anyone living in College housing needs to pack all of their belongings into labeled boxes before leaving campus for Thanksgiving break. For returning students, this made for some real déjà vu: Didn’t we just do this?

What’s more is that there is no clear time built in for students to do all this packing. In-person classes this month will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 24; students are required to be out of their college-owned housing by 9 a.m. on Nov. 25. Before students leave, they’ll have to box up their spaces — that’s clothes out of the drawers, photographs and decorations off the walls, and beds stripped of their linens. For students living in Village Housing or Firelands Apartments, that extends to supplies in the bathrooms and goods in the kitchens — packing up a whole house after classes, essentially overnight, or in a few meager hours between classes and jobs and all of the very real responsibilities of this semester. Talk about burnout.

Look, we don’t want to be too critical. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: College administrators and faculty were incredibly thorough and thoughtful in crafting a plan that would allow students to return to campus. We’re grateful for that. The three-semester plan is detailed in scheduling and de-densifying campus; we have in-person classes, limited spread, and frequent email updates. The plan was thoughtful and thorough. So then why was the communication around this whole “pack up everything you own” thing so haphazard? 

This week we were sent an email reminding us that we could pick up moving boxes on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday during specific, designated hours. The only problem? This email was sent after 6 of the 14 available hours had already passed. We get that this is a small logistical quip, but students are essentially being asked to be so organized that their things are packed up several days before they depart. This is a tall order, especially when everyone is stretched thin and struggling with organization this year — even the College. 

We know that it’s too late to actually change the academic calendar. But we hope that faculty consider lightening workloads before Thanksgiving and that the problems in the academic calendar can be scrutinized and addressed moving forward. 

This plan brings back memories of last spring. Students who were on campus last semester vividly remember the sudden exodus from campus and the hurried process of attending final classes, saying goodbyes, packing up entire rooms, and leaving in a matter of days. By returning to campus we knew that, if public health circumstances got bad enough, we could have to go through it all over again. But we’ve been told by College administrators and public health officials alike that it is extremely unlikely that circumstances will be bad enough that we won’t be able to return in January. In a semester that already lacks sufficient breaks for students and faculty, this is a lot to ask. Having students attend classes without rest is one thing — asking them to box up their whole lives while they do so is another. In the midst of planning and stressing over pandemic travel, the election, and pre-Thanksgiving work, this is yet another major weight on students. 

Very few of us harbored illusions that things would be totally back to normal this spring; we knew cases could rise. We understand the administration’s fears that uncontrollable circumstances might prevent students from returning to campus to pack their belongings. That’s why we’re so frustrated that these policies could have been communicated from the outset, and time could have been built into our schedules to accommodate this necessary packing. Instead, we’re right back where we were last spring: frantic, with some free boxes.