Last March, the University abruptly shut down in-person activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving students two days to vacate their dorms. Students were later allowed to return to campus to pick up their belongings. Hopkins hired professional movers to pack the dorms of those who did not return.
Several students who retrieved their belongings last semester reported that the University mishandled and misplaced their items. Hopkins had launched a reimbursement process in late fall where students were asked to compile a list of damaged and lost items.
Junior Alice Xie went through the reimbursement process after the University was unable to locate her possessions in the fall. The process entailed submitting the names, prices and pictures of lost items, as well as pictures of damaged items.
Xie expressed her frustrations with certain aspects of the process in an email to The News-Letter.
“It was handled much better than what I’ve gone through before, but it doesn’t take into account sentimental or non-replaceable things, and they also don’t pay students back for things students bought while waiting for their belongings to be found,” she wrote. “It took me about a month to compile a complete list, and I was able to get most of my things back. I can’t imagine what the process would be like for those who had even more things lost.”
In an email to The News-Letter, Housing Director Sarah Mansfield stated that the University has taken past criticisms of the process into account.
“We have enhanced the staff working at the warehouse, coordinated transportation to and from the warehouse and managed the delivery of student belongings once they have been sorted,” she wrote.
Belongings of students that were packed by the third-party movers were stored in a remote warehouse near the East Baltimore campus. Students had to make an appointment to retrieve their items.
Junior Rachel Nie picked up her belongings from the warehouse on Jan. 15 and was upset by how her belongings were packed and stored.
“Immediately, when I got to my apartment and started going through my stuff, I realized there were a ton of things missing,” Nie said. “The way my items were packaged, you can very clearly tell that things were taken deliberately.”
According to Mansfield, the University has a team of staff working on reimbursing students who reported their items as missing or damaged.
Nie plans to file a reimbursement claim for the missing and damaged items. She also wants more answers from the University on how the packaging process was conducted.
“I’m a little upset that Hopkins hasn’t had more clarity,” she said. “I feel like everyone I’ve heard that had their stuff packed either had things missing, broken or mismanaged. Besides the reimbursement process, I would also love to hear more transparency about what happened, and are they taking more steps to try and hold people accountable.”
Junior Izzy Geada also had her possessions stored. Although she found the pick-up process easy, she reported that her items were packaged poorly.
“As I unpacked everything, I noticed several things missing or damaged,” she said. “The lid to my record player was cracked due to the way the boxes were stacked. My hiking boots and headphones were nowhere to be found, totaling over $500.”
Geada stated that her reimbursement procedure was quick. She was fully reimbursed.
In the fall, students had to arrange transportation to the warehouse and transport their belongings themselves. Housing Operations began providing transportation for students in dorms to the warehouse beginning Jan. 24 and for off-campus students starting on Jan. 11. Hopkins also delivered retrieved belongings back to campus.
Sophomore Jacky Chen, who is living in University housing this semester, left his packed belongings in his dorm room before leaving campus last March. None of his belongings were improperly packed or missing. However, he argued that the University-provided transportation services started too late for students in dorms.
“There were international students like me who moved in earlier and we didn't have anything. We didn't have blankets or duvets. I froze in my dorm for a day or two,” he said. “The Housing office didn’t offer transportation until the 24th. I had to Uber myself there early and Uber myself back.”
Sophomore Class President Anthony Singleton, who serves as the chair of the Student Government Association’s Student Services Committee, believes that Hopkins is taking responsibility to restore people’s belongings.
“It’s a shame the situation had to happen in the first place,” Singleton said. “I’m glad the University did take a step forward and say, ‘We want to make people whole.’”
Singleton also discussed the student response to the reimbursement process.
“As far as last semester, things were mostly positive,” he said. “As more people come back to campus and pick up their stuff, I anticipate we’ll get more feedback, and I look forward to that.”
Chris H. Park contributed reporting to this article.