Last March, as the University shut down due to coronavirus (COVID-19), many students left campus housing with most of their belongings still in their dorms. With intent to temporarily house healthcare workers responding to the pandemic, the University announced that it hired outside “professional movers” to pack student belongings in select dorms.
The move-out process began in May and students were given the option to either schedule an appointment to retrieve their belongings from their dorms or to have movers pack up their rooms. Students returning to Baltimore are asked to schedule an appointment to retrieve their belongings from a storage facility at the Bayview Campus in East Baltimore
In interviews with The News-Letter, students reported that the University failed to responsibly pack, store and return their belongings.
Junior Alice Xie told The News-Letter that four hours before her scheduled pick-up appointment, the University informed her that they were unable to locate her belongings.
“They told me in the morning that they had been looking for my things but could not find them. They told me they have been looking for my things for about a week,” she said. “All of my cooking tools, cleaning and bathroom supplies and clothes are in there.”
Outside movers also packed junior Elizabeth Deuschle’s belongings, which were stored inside her dorm room instead of at the Bayview campus. She explained that she was shocked when she entered her room and found it in a state of total disarray.
“When I entered, the place was a mess, empty Red Bull cans and dirt everywhere,” Deuschle wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The dorm wasn’t like how we left it.”
Similarly, junior Lillian Oliver’s belongings were housed in her dorm over the summer and she returned to find unpacked items and discarded food littering her room. In an email to The News-Letter, Oliver added that after going through her belongings, she realized that her Nintendo 3DS game console was missing and its case had been left open and was in the trash.
“Once I got to my new apartment, it became evident the 3DS and games were stolen, my hangers were broken, food items were covering my belongings, and cleaning chemicals were upside down leaking together — a general disregard for my items,” she wrote. “Obviously I feel my privacy was intruded upon.”
She has not heard back from the housing office regarding the alleged theft and since filed a police report.
Junior Charlotte Lipstein also reported missing belongings, stating that after retrieving her items, she was unable to find her underwear.
“After I brought by boxes home and unpacked, I realized that mostly all my underwear I had in the room was missing besides a few pairs in the dirty laundry. The container it was kept in was missing too,” she wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Likewise, Deuschle stated that it was clear that the movers had gone through her personal belongings.
“What made me really upset is how it was obvious movers went through my things. A Valentine's box my boyfriend made me was destroyed and the notes he wrote me scattered in different boxes and my luggage and backpack had been shifted through,” she wrote. “It made me creeped out and I washed my stuff when I moved into my apartment.”
In an email to The News-Letter, Director of Housing Operations Sarah Mansfield stated that the University maintained oversight of the packing and storing process.
“During the packing and moving process, university staff were present to monitor the process,” she wrote. “Additionally, staff were present at the storage facility while items were delivered and placed in storage.”
Karen Lancaster, the assistant vice president of external relations for the Office of Communications, confirmed that Hopkins staff was present for each room that was packed and stored. She added that the housing office and Campus Safety and Security are working to find any missing items.
Several students expressed frustration that scheduling an appointment was difficult, and the warehouse’s location — which is about 30 minutes away from Homewood campus — made it difficult for students without a car to retrieve their belongings.
Sophomore Evelyn Shiang stated that she felt the lack of early and clear communication from the housing office created scheduling difficulties.
“It’s crazy how they’re notifying us of storage retrieval times on an arbitrary schedule, not to mention how chaotic it is to try to plan a retrieval when you don’t know when the next time bookings will open up, or when you’re a student who lives far away,” she wrote.
To retrieve her belongings from Bayview, Alice Xie had to coordinate with a research mentor to reserve a Zipcar. However, her appointment was canceled, leaving her to wonder why the University chose a storage facility so far from campus.
“I ended up having to cancel with my mentor. I wasted my mentor’s time and his money. I felt really terrible about it,” she said.
Despite an earlier email stating that each student is responsible for picking up their belongings, Mansfield stated that the University is accommodating all student needs by offering to transport items back to Homewood campus.
“We are working individually with students depending on their needs. An example of how we have supported students who do not have cars is that we have brought items back to a central location on campus so students can pick up their items from Homewood,“ she wrote.
However, none of the students the The News-Letter spoke to were aware of this option.
Oliver urged the University to take a more proactive approach to address student concerns about their belongings.
“I understand COVID is unprecedented, miscommunications are possible, and there may be some issues with improper packing — however, I feel Hopkins should recognize this issue as it was far beyond the extent that I could have imagined,“ she wrote. “I hope that my experience is not reflective of the Hopkins movers, but I have my doubts.”