Plan to Return Student Property Left Behind Announced
Arrangements for undergraduate students include shipping or storing for pickup
- Students must complete the survey being emailed to them May 8, answering with their preference for pickup, shipping, or storage.
- For residential undergraduates in the continental United States, BU will pack and ship personal property at no cost to students.
- For returning domestic and international students who plan to continue living in campus housing, BU will offer to pack and store personal property at the University’s expense.
Boston University has announced its plan to help return to undergraduate residential students the personal possessions that were left in BU residences in March after students were asked not to return to campus from spring break and residences were closed because of the worsening COVID-19 crisis.
The current plan—which has evolved as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted changes in travel and other social distancing restrictions—calls for the University to ship personal property to the homes of residential students who live in the United States, or to store the students’ possessions until they return to campus. International students currently living abroad will be asked to provide an address within the United States to which their possessions will be shipped. The plan, which applies only to undergraduate students who were living in campus housing, also accommodates those students who elect to drive to campus and pick up their property once the Massachusetts stay-at-home advisory is lifted.
One of the biggest challenges officials have faced is the sheer volume of possessions to manage. BU has one of the largest undergraduate housing systems in the country, with 160 buildings and 7,062 rooms with 11,687 bed spaces. The average student had an average of 10 large boxes to be packed up.
“At the outset of the pandemic, we sought an affordable and efficient way to get students’ personal property back to them quickly,” says Peter Smokowski, BU vice president for auxiliary services. “But as the scope and implications of the pandemic became clearer, and workplace and travel restrictions intensified, that became very challenging. The questions for us, at that point, were how do we make sure that we are able to reunite over 10,000 student-residents with the tens of thousands of boxes it will take to ship or store their possessions, and do so in a way that is reasonable and safe, given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis?”
The answer to those questions, says Kenneth Elmore (Wheelock’87), associate provost and dean of students, was to create a plan that ensures that student possessions would be stored or shipped safely and securely, and would provide students with access to their possessions at a time and place that was realistic, given the circumstances under which they and the University are forced to operate.
“We recognize this is not a perfect solution, and we apologize for the amount of time it has taken to prepare these plans,” Smokowski says. “But under these very complicated circumstances, we feel it is the most realistic and responsible way to go.”
Smokowski says the University will employ a tiered approach:
- All residential students will be sent an email on May 8, with a link to a survey regarding their preference for pickup, shipping, or storage. The survey must be completed by students in order to confirm arrangements for ground shipping or summer storage.
- For residential students who live in the continental United States, the University will pack and ship personal property to a designated address at no cost to students, with exceptions made for extraordinary expenses.
- For international students, the University will pack and ship personal property to the US address of a family or friend, at no cost to the student, with exceptions made for extraordinary expenses. International students living outside the United States will be responsible for their property once it arrives at a designated proxy address within the United States.
- For returning domestic and international students who plan to continue living in campus housing, the University offers the option of having BU pack and store personal property this summer at the University’s expense, and make it available to students at locations near their fall residence halls assignments during the move-in period.
- For students who choose to return to campus to retrieve their property after the state advisory is lifted, the University has decided to offer a pickup option, aimed at accommodating the more than 5,000 BU students who live within 250 miles of campus, half of whom live within 100 miles of campus. Students who choose that option must do so in accordance with a move-out schedule designated by the University and based on public health guidelines.
Smokowski says those students who choose to return to campus to pick up their property before fall semester begins must wait until the state’s stay-at-home advisory is lifted, now scheduled for May 18. When the advisory is lifted, BU will offer students the opportunity to return to campus using a schedule of visits that limits the number of people in any one space at a given time.
Under these very complicated circumstances, we feel it is the most realistic and responsible way to go.
Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services, says her office worked closely with the residential team to develop a schedule that meets social distancing guidelines issued by public health authorities. All students have been assigned to specific “Terrier Groups,” with scheduled dates and times to access buildings and floors. Each group has several date and time options available from June 1 to 27, although this schedule is subject to change if the state extends its advisory beyond these dates. The Terrier Group move-out schedule and more specific information can be found here.
All students are being notified in advance of BU staff entering their rooms for packing, and they will be offered the use of a newly developed BU Moving/Packing app that enables remote identification of personal property and provides packing information. More information is available on the BU Housing Move-Out FAQ.
Facilities Management & Operations staff have already completed a sweep of every campus residence—a time-consuming and resource-intensive task. Staff have removed perishables and assessed the effort that will be required for the packing and storage of student property that remains in the rooms. With an average of 10 large boxes (up to 42 pounds each) needed to pack a single student bed space, that task ahead will require more than 200 staff safely working (with strict social distancing and safety protocols being observed) through most of the spring and summer.
Staff have also cleared four residences on the Fenway Campus and made them available to local first responders to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We ask for your continued patience and flexibility,” Smokowski says. “We may not have all of the answers, and we may not be able to meet every request, but we are working diligently to manage the recovery process in a responsible and timely manner.”