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Students struggle to retrieve items left in dorms

<p>Residence halls implement new COVID-19 color coding system to track the spread of the virus. </p>

Residence halls implement new COVID-19 color coding system to track the spread of the virus.

With face-to-face instruction suspended for the rest of the semester due to concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus, the majority of Miami University students are no longer living in their residence halls. 

When the first announcement of online instruction came on March 10, students were told that in-person instruction was temporarily halted. Many left campus but expected classes would resume as early as April 12. 

Three days after the first temporary move online, the university modified that decision and announced classes would remain online for the rest of the semester.

Students who moved out of their dorms before the second announcement believed they would be returning to campus this semester, leaving many belongings behind. 

Following the amended announcement, students had who already left campus were told not to return to campus to retrieve their items until first contacting their dorm’s Resident Director (RD). With the stay-at-home order for Ohioans extended to May 1, students will not be permitted to return to campus to get their belongings at this time, Director of Residence Life Vicka Bell-Robinson said.

McKenzie Howsmon, a first-year math and integrated math education double major, lived in Havighurst Hall.

Howsmon said the information she got from her RD and assistant RD was confusing. After seeking clarity several times, Howsmon decided to make the four-hour drive from Cleveland back to campus to get her things. 

When Howsmon arrived, she noticed a missed call and voicemail from her RD telling her not to return.

“I really didn't want to have my stuff there all summer,” Howsmon said. “[It was] just so much back and forth. It was so confusing.”

Howsmon’s RD allowed her to move out of her dorm room because she was already back on campus, but other students weren’t as lucky.

Caroline Silverman, a first-year psychology major, left Morris Hall one day before the second announcement.

When classes moved online, Silverman drove back to her home in Cleveland with a friend, which limited how much she was able to bring. 

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Besides some clothing, shoes and makeup, the rest of Silverman’s belongings are still in her dorm room – including medication she takes daily.

“I had a little bit left [at home], but I had to call [my pharmacy] and explain … I can't get back into my dorm,” Silverman said. “I emailed my RD, and I was like, ‘Can I come back? When can I come back?’ And she's just not very helpful.”

First-year marketing major Sophia Watson also left campus without her medication. Watson drove seven hours home to Buffalo, New York, before she found out she might not be allowed to return to retrieve her things.

Watson contacted her RD about potentially returning to campus to collect her medicine and the rest of her belongings. Her request was denied, and she was told the only thing her RD could do concerning the medication was provide a note if Watson’s refill request was rejected.

“That's very, very stress-inducing for me because I take a pretty good amount of medications, and they are expensive,” Watson said. “Being told I can't have it, and they can't mail it to me, it's hard.”

Bell-Robinson estimates there are 1,500 students who still have belongings left in their dorms.

Although these students did not completely move out when they left, as long as they physically left campus by March 27, they are still eligible for the housing refund currently being processed by the university. 

“At the beginning, it was all about refund,” Bell-Robinson said. “People cared less about their stuff and just wanted to make sure that whatever they did didn't impact their refund.”

In an attempt to meet the needs students have for the items they left behind, the university is offering the option of working with a third party vendor, Campus Solutions. 

“Students can actually independently contract with Campus Solutions to pack up their room and ship their stuff,” Bell-Robinson said. “It's completely optional. We're facilitating the connection.”

Students can expect to receive an email from the Office of Residence Life sometime next week concerning next steps to item collection.

“All of our decisions are driven by the fact that we care about the health, safety, and well-being of our students,” Bell-Robinson said. “We are eager to reunite people with their stuff.”