Students express concern about move out

All students are required to move out of their residence halls by Saturday, Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. All student belongings must be removed from the dormitory; no belongings are permitted to be left in the student’s room. 

Like many students, California resident Crystal Hernandez, ’23, questioned the reasoning behind requiring students to move their belongings. 

“All of our things stayed in our dorms over break last year — the only thing we had to worry about was removing perishable items,” Hernandez said. “To be quite honest, I am not entirely sure why we have to move our stuff, but my best guess is that hopefully, they will be sanitizing the rooms so that everything is clean for us when we get back.”

According to Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students April Thompson, the requirement was made to ensure that students had access to their belongings if they wanted them over the break, after last spring’s belongings concerns and the evolving situation with COVID-19.

“After last spring, we learned the hard way that the atmosphere and expectations of the county and the state for (COVID-19) change rapidly,” Thompson said. “We expected students to be able to go home for Spring Break and have an extra week and then come back and get their belongings, but what we found was that students were not able to do that. We were not able to allow students to get their belongings because Crawford County remained red for months and for the students to be separated from their belongings was an incredible hardship for the students and their families.”

Students are to take all of their belongings home with them to avoid this situation occurring again, Thompson clarified. 

“We out of just precaution do not want that to happen again in any way,” Thompson said. “The environment, now, is so uncertain and we are seeing a rise in cases in the county. We feared that students would not be able to come back in the spring and we would again have student belongings on campus and no way for the students to get them. So we have asked students to take their belongings home because whether it be personal circumstances, county circumstances or college circumstances, they change, and we did not want to be in that situation again.”

The college had a challenging time working with different moving companies while sorting belongings and addressing concerns from both students, especially roommates, and their families, Thompson said.

“When three or four people lived in an apartment, we had trouble sorting out which belongings were whose,” Thompson said. “Items got damaged and there were some very important and sentimental items that the college really does not want to be responsible for because they are precious items for individuals. With all of that considered and after talking to other colleges and universities, we asked that students please take their belongings home before break and pack light.”

Thompson elaborated on how these procedures differ from past years.

“We have always allowed students to keep their belongings in their rooms (over breaks),” Thompson said. “We certainly wanted to do that again, but after last spring, we saw that it was difficult for students to not have access to their most precious belongings for months and months. We just do not want that to happen again for anybody.”

According to Thompson, students who fail to remove their belongings from their rooms are subject to fines that vary depending on the amount of belongings left behind.

Some students raised concerns about the lack of time provided for students to pack their belongings. 

“I understand that provision because we want to be as safe as possible and we are seeing rising cases in this area so I understand the decision,” Emma Godel, ’21, said. “However, if they are going to go through with this, then they should have given at least one day where all students had zero classes. To be fair, the college did inform all students about this requirement if they choose to elect to live on campus, but we are all at the mercy of our class schedules this year.”

Godel said that this year’s move in was a great schedule and it limited the amount of people interacting at once on campus. Many students have classes until Friday so they will most likely leave on Saturday, which means that there will be a large number of outside individuals on campus all at once, Godel added. 

“I do think the school means well, but they are assuming that a lot of their students are from Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Buffalo where they all can go home in a day and come back easily,” Godel said. 

Godel lives in Maine and will travel via car as opposed to via plane due to COVID-19 concerns. 

“Normally on breaks, I fly home,” Godel said. “Obviously, the pandemic has been an exception and I have not been on a plane since March … I am driving home with a family member and there is only so much room for boxes. I have no problem driving home, but I think that it would be great if the school would plan to add just a few more days for the students to move out without planned classes for students just to focus on packing. This is a very abnormal situation and I think that they could handled that a little bit better.”

Other students expressed concern about finding and funding storage facilities in Meadville.

International Club President Dakchyata Thapa, ’22, has spent the semester arranging plans for her members to have access to storage facilities. 

“Most of our energy has gone into facilitating international students’ storage options for break and figuring out how travel will work,” Thapa said. “I know that the college is trying to do a lot for the students on campus, but I think that there should be a little more effort toward international students and even students who live far away. … I think if the college were to offer more assistance instead of just notifying us two to three months in advance that would have been nice.”

Thapa is also an international student. She is from Nepal and she is concerned about providing storage for herself and her fellow club members.

In an attempt to finance storage facilities for their members, the club intends to request funds for storage during their club budget hearing, International Club Treasurer Savannah Hunt, ’21, announced. 

While storage will not be provided to students, the college encourages students to apply for the Gator Success Grants to assist with the costs associated with storage.

“Please, fill out the (Gator Success Grant) form (to help with costs),” Thompson said. “We have already received requests from students who have hardships with housing and meals over this break as well as students needing assistance with storage. Students should certainly fill out the form if they need assistance.” 

Thompson advised students to rent a storage unit together if they do not need all of the space that the unit provides. 

Several students have raised concerns about the lack of support for international and long distance students. 

“I am very concerned about getting my stuff packed up and moved,” Tiaralei Cade, ’23, said. “Most of us do not have cars so I do not know how I will even get my stuff to a storage place. I have no idea where the storage facilities are located in Meadville — I know that they exist.”

Cade is an international student from England and she intends to return home over the break, but she cannot bring her belongings with her. 

International student Hanna Nguyen, ’23, will not be returning to Vietnam over break instead, she will be staying in Washington until the spring semester. She plans to leave all of her belongings in Meadville because it is not feasible to take them across the country.

“I have to find a storage room for my stuff,” Nguyen said. “The International Club has asked the college for help, but we have not heard anything yet. The International Education Office asked us to fill out a form about whether or not we needed help moving our stuff, but they would not offer storage.”

Similarly, Hernandez is concerned about finding storage options in Meadville for the break.

“My biggest concern is finding a storage unit,” Hernandez said. “Trying to get all of my things from here to California would not just be very expensive but very difficult because it would just be me moving all of my things … I am unaware of any resources being provided for students to fund storage or if they would even consider offering storage space. I think it is mostly us trying to find storage spaces to place our things.”

Volunteers, mainly Resident Advisors, will assist students with moving their belongings to the local storage facilities, Thompson announced. The college is providing students with the option to use the vans to move their belongings to storage facilities with a volunteer driver. Thompson encouraged interested students to contact Residence Life for more information.

“We will be able to use, at the college’s expense, the college motor pool to transport students and their belongings to local facilities,” Thompson said. “Residence Life will help students get into contact with Gator-approved drivers who will take them to the storage facility of their choice. The college is not picking the storage facility for the students; it is entirely the students’ choice on what facility they would like to use.”

A list of local storage facilities can be found on the Residence Life website. The college does not foresee any storage facility shortages, but Thompson said that if this occurs, there are more storage facilities outside of Meadville that students can use.