By Sam Seymour | Illustration by Xixi Qin

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., everyday life as we knew it changed dramatically. Aspects of life that people take for granted were altered indefinitely, and the date for when everything becomes normal again seems out of sight. For college students across the nation, the pandemic created many issues, such as online classes, questions about tuition, and the rushed process of leaving campus. However, arguably the most stress-inducing problem is the status of people’s belongings — many students still have items in their dorm rooms, as they had little to no time to move them out, and left campus without knowing when they would be allowed to return.

Colleges all over the country are trying their best to help students out while keeping them safe, which is no small feat. Helping students with the move-out process is just one difficult task they face, as there seems to be no solution that is completely perfect. Due to the stay-at-home mandates in place in many different states across the country, many students cannot travel back to campus if they live out of state. Hiring a moving company to either ship or store items is another option, yet one that can be too expensive for some families.

Colleges and universities have handled this dilemma in different ways. Colorado College released their move-out plan a full month and a half after the decision to send students home for Block 7. In their initial plan, released on April 29, they gave students three options for how to handle the move-out process. The first option was for students to hire a moving company to go into their rooms and pack up their things for them; the second option applied only to the group of students still on campus; and the third option was for students to come back to campus and retrieve their items themselves. Students looking to use this third option would have had to complete the move out by June 15.

This move-out plan was not well received by many CC students. The day the plan was released, a group of students created a petition that argued against the June 15 deadline due to its perceived infeasibility. The petition opens with a statement that says, “We, the undersigned Colorado College students, believe that we should not be required to return and collect our belongings from campus with the limited deadline of June 15th and ask that it be extended.”

The petition outlines their concerns for the move-out plan and attempts to provide its own solution, saying, “We do not understand why this move-out process must be so rushed because it is unclear when we will be returning to school. All summer blocks have already been moved to distance learning, so there will not be the usual amount of people moving onto campus in the coming months. Given this decision, we see no reason why it is not possible for move out dates to be changed to later in the summer. Extending the move-out deadline until the end of July or the beginning of August would still leave time for rooms to be cleaned before the fall semester is set to begin.”

The biggest concerns that supporters of the petition have is for international students who have gone home and cannot even return to the U.S. to collect their belongings, along with students who do not have the financial means necessary to either make a round trip to Colorado or to hire a moving company.

In their announcement, CC stated that they would provide financial assistance to individuals on a case-by-case basis. However, the students behind the petition were not happy with that, stating in the petition: “Though financial aid is available, the fact that it will be evaluated on an individual basis means that lower income students will once again have to work harder than those with financial privilege to be offered the same opportunities. This could also harm students who may not qualify for financial assistance but still need it, as economic situations are constantly changing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The petition garnered 417 signatures, and soon after, the school released an updated version of the move-out plan. CC decided to move back the deadline for students to retrieve their items by three weeks, making the final date July 6 instead of June 15. Although it is not as late as the early-August deadline supporters of the petition pushed for, it still gives more wiggle room for students who will have difficulty finding a way back to campus over the summer.

In their May 1 updated move-out policy email, the school said that while they want to be as accommodating as possible, they need a lot of time to clean the dorms and to prepare them in time for the start of the school year in August, unless it is moved to distance learning.

“Because of upcoming deadlines, we ask for your understanding as we work to prepare the residence halls for the arrival of students for fall classes. This is an extensive process in a normal year, but it is even more time-consuming because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our teams will deep-clean, and in some cases modify, our student residences to ensure that we are doing all we can to minimize risk and create safe spaces for our students,” the email said.

While some have criticized CC’s handling of the COVID-19 situation regarding move-out, it is important to put into perspective how difficult it is for college administrations to handle a crisis of this magnitude. It is also necessary to compare how other schools nationwide have handled students coming back to get their items. The University of South Carolina required students to come back within a three-day period to retrieve all of their belongings, while Washington University in St. Louis didn’t even allow students to come back, instead shipping a box of essential items to all of its students. Other universities in the U.S., such as Harvard University, have come under scrutiny for their handling of the situation and not doing more to help international students. Arguably worst of all, Liberty University in Virginia required its students to return to school after spring break, which resulted in over a dozen cases of coronavirus just days after classes resumed.

Over 316 million people nationwide are estimated to be under indefinite stay-at-home orders. This includes many students who go to an out-of-state college and therefore are now in a bad position. CC has students from 49 states and Washington, D.C., and 9% of its students are international, making the move-out process difficult and hazardous. All of these students, especially international students, face an uphill climb when dealing with the effects of the pandemic. CC’s move-out policy may not be perfect — but with so many variables, perhaps that’s to be expected.

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