All student belongings in Gray Court and Lora Robins Court will be packed by a moving company and temporarily stored starting April 27 to prepare for potential summer housing needs, according to an email from University of Richmond administration members.
Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, and Patrick Benner, director of residence life and housing, notified residents of Gray and LoRo that all remaining belongings in their rooms would be packed and stored in an email sent April 16.
“We have been working hard to develop a plan to prepare Gray Court and Lora Robins Court for potential summer housing or other needs,” Bisese and Benner wrote. “As such, we must pack and store all student belongings that are remaining within each room. We will be working closely with Quality Moving Services, a company that the University has previously had very good experience. They are reliable and licensed professionals that have worked closely with the University community on many past projects.”
In the email, Bisese and Benner instructed students to fill out a form by April 24 to identify belongings in their rooms. Instructions on the form asked students to provide descriptions of personal belongings and locations in the rooms where they could be found.
Most belongings will be stored in secure, climate-controlled locations on campus until students can return to campus, but bulk items, such as personal refrigerators and non-university furniture, will be stored in a location off-campus until students return for the fall semester, according to the email.
Benner nor Bisese responded to The Collegian's request for comment.
Junior AJ Polcari, Richmond College Student Government Association president, said he and Westhampton College Government Association president Noella Park questioned Bisese and other UR administrators about the packing and storing of belongings in the presidential transition meeting on April 17. After verbally voicing student concerns to the University of Richmond Presidents’ Council, which serves as a communication liaison among the school student governments, in the meeting, they were encouraged to write a proposal, Polcari said.
“Our biggest thing is to do a two-prong approach talking about how we can prevent anything malicious from happening with this situation but also preparing us with a contingency plan,” Polcari said.
Polcari said Bisese and other UR administrators had answered some of their questions in the meeting. Students will not be punished if contraband, such as drugs and alcohol, or housing violations, such as candles, are found in their residences unless they are a threat to public safety, Polcari said.
“We had been assured by the university that there will be no conduct prosecutions or criminal prosecutions for any contraband,” Polcari said. “Anything that you know, again, was a threat to public safety, such as, you know, a drug ring or anything like that, you know, that would be of course discussed, but everything else is — you’re basically fine.”
The Alice Haynes Room is a potential location for storage, Polcari said.
“They told us that they’re going to have boxes placed in places like Alice Haynes or climate-controlled areas for folks to come get them once the governor lifts ... the stay at home order,” he said.
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Polcari said no one in the meeting had specified whether UR would assume liability for items but said that he had been told Quality Moving Services was insured and bonded, meaning customers could file claims against the company for wrongdoing.
According to the Residence Life housing policies, “The University does not provide insurance or assume liability for personal belongings in the room, residence halls, apartments or in any other housing arrangement provided by the University. Student understands that they must provide their own insurance, and is encouraged to check with an insurance representative and/or their parent’s or guardian's policy to ensure contents coverage is extended to University assigned housing.”
Polcari said they had been told in the meeting that Gray and LoRo had been selected because they had the largest capacity of all the residence halls and were usually used for summer housing.
Moving forward, Polcari said he and Park were pushing for UR and Quality Moving Services to inventory all items, and that UR was working with them to ensure this. Polcari and Park are also pushing for UR to ship clothing to students if students are still not allowed to return to campus after June, he said.
Cam Smith, a sophomore who lived in Gray, said she had felt overwhelmed when she had begun filling out the form.
“It’s so much to try to think of, like, I don’t know how much detail they need me to go into without, like, me having to literally type out every single thing I own,” Smith said.
Smith said she felt uncomfortable with strangers handling her personal items.
“I don’t want, like, some stranger packing up my underwear, like, that just makes me really uncomfortable,” Smith said. “I’d be uncomfortable even with ... someone who wasn’t a very close friend.”
In reference to the storage of bulk items until the fall semester, Smith said she had concerns about retrieving her belongings.
“Assuming everything is going to plan and, you know, we go back in the fall, I’m supposed to be going back to campus early, so I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get my stuff a week early,” she said.
Alexis Cobbs, a first-year who lived in LoRo, said she and her roommate responded to Bisese and Benner's email on April 16 with questions and concerns.
“The form they sent us is very, very vague,” Cobbs said. “We don’t know how much information we need to share, and because we left in a hurry, we don’t know where everything is exactly in our room, what manner our things are going to be packed and labeled. Where are they going to go? Where is this storage facility that they’re going to put things? [My roommate and I] wanted to know more about this company they tell us that they trust but we don’t know anything about.”
Cobbs said she had also asked if her family members who live in Richmond could oversee the packing process.
In an April 17 email response to Cobbs and her roommate obtained by The Collegian, assistant to the vice president for student development Julia Kelly wrote that no one was permitted to return to campus to retrieve belongings at this time. She provided additional information about the moving company and a link to a form to have essential items in rooms shipped to off-campus locations.
Cobbs said she did not necessarily disagree with UR's decision.
“I appreciate that the university is trying to uphold health standards and doesn’t want anybody to get sick,” Cobbs said. “That has been their priority and that is good. I just wish that they would take a little bit more care in respecting the privacy of their students.”
Sophia Bruce, a senior who lived in a University Forest Apartment this year, said she recognized the difficulty of problem solving during this unprecedented time.
“I think it’s definitely frustrating that they’re not really getting a lot of student opinion on this, but at the same time, there would be so many different opinions and obviously the students just want their items back, so what the students want might not necessarily align with what is best for the community,” Bruce said. “That said, I wish that there had been a little more notice on everything that they’re doing, just like a little bit more warning and explanation on how they’re doing things.”
Bruce questioned the urgency of packing and storing items.
"Virginia is under lockdown until June 10th, so it doesn’t really make sense that they’re preparing for possible summer experiences or education at school because we don’t even know if those things are going to happen,” Bruce said.
Virginia’s stay at home order orders people to stay at their residences with a few exceptions, such as going to work or grocery shopping. People are also allowed to leave their residences for the purpose of “traveling to and from an educational institution,” according to the order.
The order was put in place March 30 and will remain in effect until June 10 unless it is amended or rescinded by another executive order.
Contact managing editor Emma Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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