Where’s the stuff?

After COVID-19 closure, students wonder, “Where’d my stuff go?”

May 5: As of today, there has been no announcement about when students will be allowed to retrieve their belongings.

On March 12, students throughout the VSCS were told they had a little over 24 hours to move off campus until the tentative return date of April 6. In response to the ever-increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impromptu break was called to keep students safe.

On March 24, we were told that we would no longer be going back to school for the rest of the spring semester and that we had to sign up for time slots to collect the rest of our belongings. The goal was to have the residential halls cleared out by March 30.

The next day, students were told that by 5 p.m., move-outs would be suspended until the governor re-opened the state for non-essential travel.

Many students were unable to collect their stuff during that short window, but they were reassured that they would be able to get their stuff back as soon as possible.

This caused some whiplash for students and faculty. “It was just head-spinning,” says Jeff Bickford, the director of residential life at NVU- Johnson. “It was just unreal how fast everything shifted.”

The Vermont Emergency Management through the Department of Public Safety was looking for safe places all over the state in case COVID-19 got out of control, where people could go to shelter in place, or provide overflow space for medical care.

Then NVU- Johnson campus became a candidate for a temporary shelter for people in need in the community if the need came about. For the campus to prepare, students’ remaining belongings would have to be moved out of the halls. Students were emailed and told that the university would be hiring a moving company to gather up their belongings so they could be moved to a secure, undisclosed location until further notice.

Governor’s Hall was the only one that had to be cleared out. According to Bickford, the hall was selected because most of the students had been able to move out already, and they were hoping to minimize the amount of belongings needing to be packed up.

Concerns and curiosities were floating around about privacy and the possibility contraband in any of the rooms. This could provide a potential safety hazard to the move-out crew or call out students who were caught off guard.

Bickford said that the crew and faculty involved tried to maintain privacy as best they could. The moving company was hired to ensure distance for students and staff. They were not actively looking for anything that students were not allowed to have. If something was found lying about that was against the housing rules, they dealt with it in the usual way. “We followed the same protocol of essentially saying, ‘Hey, we found this in your room. It’s not supposed to be there,’” said Bickford. The protocols used are the same ones that RAs employ during room checks and scheduled vacations. According to Bickford, no major contraband issues came up.