College restricts student storage space

The Office of Residence Life announced in an email at the end of the spring 2016  semester that it would be eliminating on-campus student storage, according to Gretchen Kerr, associate director of residence life.

Storage, according to Director of Residence Life Jen Foxman, will still be provided to certain groups on campus, including international students, Experiential Learning participants and Bonner Scholars.

Foxman said the decision was based on challenges faced by the continued use of garages in Allegheny Commons, which have housed student storage for the last several years.

“It has been evolving over the years with student needs,” Foxman said.

Foxman said the garages at the Commons are not ideal for storing student belongings. She said there is limited space, and they are not watertight or temperature controlled.

“It wasn’t meeting people’s needs,” Foxman said.

The way the garages were set up also made it difficult for students to access their belongings if they were the first ones back on campus after summer break, since student belongings were so tightly packed into the space, Foxman said.

If we have a student in need, we are not going to turn our back on them.

— Gretchen Kerr

In the email which was sent out in the spring announcing that storage would no longer be available, Kerr listed the storage options in the area students could utilize. Prices for the smallest unit spaces in the area ranged from $55 a month for a 4 foot by 4 foot “crate” to $32 a month for a 3 foot by 4 foot “storage locker.”   

Kerr said when Residence Life sent out the email in the spring, it received no negative feedback from students, many of whom she said have already begun to lean more toward private storage options. She said the office is sensitive to the fact that some students may not be in a position financially to purchase storage space.

“We are willing to work with students wherever they are,” Kerr said. “If we have a student in need, we are not going to turn our back on them.”

The decision, according to Foxman, was made after years of gradual adjustments to storage policies and student feedback.

“We have tried different things and then paused and gotten feedback,” Foxman said.

Foxman said that while some students will now have to pay for their storage space, she feels they are getting a better product.

“I think there is going to be less damage and more security,” Foxman said.

In addition, Foxman said there are plenty of places where students can find affordable self-storage in the surrounding area.

“There is a range of options,” Foxman said. “We are not looking at a couple of hundred bucks a month for storage in this area.”

Foxman said at most other colleges and universities, students are required to find their own storage, or can pay for space through the college. Kerr said some schools use the selling of student storage space as a fundraiser for their student government.

“There is no best practice in the ‘industry,’ if you will,” Kerr said.

The other issue Foxman and Kerr said made on-campus storage an issue was transporting items from residence halls to the Commons. Foxman said many students struggled to get rides up to the storage garages with all their stuff.

Foxman said Lucy’s Storage, located on Bessemer Street in Meadville, hopes to be able to alleviate that issue. She said after speaking with the owner of the new storage facility, the owner would attempt to offer to bring the storage container to campus and then pick it up once it is filled.

Danna Shorey, who serves as the general manager of Lucy’s, said they are currently working with the college so they will be able to drop off and pick up student containers on campus.

“We have got to get ourselves some type of contract agreement with the college,” Shorey said.

Shorey said student interest will help them to get there.

Foxman said now the usage of the storage garages at the Commons will be up to the discretion of Physical Plant. She said the other garages, which are not used for student storage, house Physical Plant equipment.

While it would be up to Physical Plant to make the final decision on how the space is utilized, Foxman said Residence Life is open to hearing student suggestions.