Credit: Lizzy Machielse

As students hurried to their holiday destinations, Penn staff members were hard at work getting the college houses ready for break.

Building Administrator Damesa Bennett was in charge of winter break housing and began planning with his colleagues at the start of October. The process included assigning tasks to staff and preparing for any challenges that may arise.

“We are balancing all these different priorities at the same time, while also keeping into consideration that students are finishing up finals or might not be able to go home,” Bennett said.

On closing day, graduate associates and residential advisors certify that rooms are vacant and that logistical procedures, such as heat adjustments and the closing of windows, are followed. Once winter break officially begins, access to the building is closed and becomes limited to specific staff and faculty who stay over winter break.

The process of making sure everyone knows about the winter break schedule begins after Thanksgiving break through various emails and postings. Facilities and Real Estate Services partners with the Assembly of International Students to offer services for those remaining. 

These individuals can either match with a student who is staying over winter break in an open building or they can be housed in vacant rooms. Over the past few years, 25-35 students have participated in this program each year. Even with this constant communication through emails and banners, some students are not aware that they have to leave.

“Every once in a while we do have a student who is like, ‘Huh, I have to go home?'" Bennett said. "That is always a shock. We try to get ahead of it as best we can.”

Even in these cases, these students are often able to scrape together housing. In addition to getting students out of the dormitories, there are various other checks on the housing system. This includes a health and safety inspection during the winter break.

Barbara Lea-Kruger, the director of communications and external relations for Business Services, mentioned that there are other activities that go on during break in the college houses. These are dubbed, "special projects" and include things such as lock installations and filter changes. 

Despite the various logistical challenges, Bennett said the mission for all housing services at Penn remains constant.

“Our ultimate goal is to always make sure our buildings are safe and secure and also that students who are moving into new spaces are moving into a space that is clean and accommodating.”

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