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Students who have not moved out from the College Houses may return to campus between June 4 and June 13 to retrieve their belongings, or have their items packed and stored at no cost.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Some students, having been unable to retrieve belongings from their dorms for months, are frustrated by Penn Residential Services’ recently announced procedures for letting students retrieve, store, or ship their items. Others, however, are satisfied with the flexibility provided by the retrieval policy. 

Residential Services announced in a May 21 email that students who have not moved out from the College Houses can return to campus between June 4 and June 13 to retrieve their belongings or have their items packed and stored by the University at no cost. Graduating students or exchange students unable to return to campus can have up to five boxes shipped at no cost, while returning students must cover the entire cost for their items to be shipped. 

Residential Services asked students to fill out a form indicating their preferred choice by May 27.

In a March 12 email sent to all on-campus residents, Residential Services urged students not to return to campus to retrieve their items if they had left for spring break. There were no options to retrieve important items, including laptops, course materials, and personal effects, but students with emergency situations could email and ask for an item to be shipped, according to the email.

Fewer than a dozen items that were deemed essential, including specialized medical equipment and documents needed for immigration or visa status, were retrieved and shipped to students during the spring semester.

Rising College sophomore Chase Seklar said Residential Services denied his request on April 7 to mail his prescription and retrieve his textbooks from his room in Hill College House, which caused him to struggle in his classes this semester. 

Seklar said he thought Residential Services' survey deadline of May 27, which gives students less than a week to decide if and how to retrieve their items, is an unreasonable amount of time to decide whether they would return to campus to move out. 

Rising College sophomore Keaton Mackey said Residential Services also denied her multiple requests in March and April to retrieve and ship her social security card, dental retainer, and textbooks.

“I really don’t know anyone who got their stuff, no matter how urgent. I reached out to [Residential Services] a few different times, and they kept saying it wasn’t urgent,” she said.

Mackey echoed Seklar's concern and said the email did not give students enough notice before the allowed period in June to return to campus. She currently lives with her family in California and will have her items stored until she moves into her off-campus apartment in July.

“I live on the opposite side of the country. It's really not possible for me to fly out to Philadelphia on such short notice because of cost and because it's just dangerous to fly," Mackey said. 

Rising Wharton sophomore Christine Kim, a summer Opinion columnist for the DP, said she believes Residential Services should pay to ship returning students’ items. Institutions such as Duke University and Northwestern University, for example, will allow returning students to ship up to four boxes and unlimited boxes, respectively, for free. 

“It was very disappointing to see that we have to pay for shipping, because it seems very stingy. It was [Residential Services’] planning and inconvenience that led us to this current situation,” Kim said. 

Other students, however, said they found the options flexible and reasonable given the circumstances of the pandemic.

“I wish [Residential Services] shipped everyone’s items for free, but obviously that would be a huge financial burden," rising College sophomore Poojita Chinmay said. "I don’t really expect that of them."

Rising College junior Diya Singh said she was grateful Penn will cover the cost of storage for her belongings. Singh is currently at her home in New Delhi, and will not be able to return to campus to retrieve her items because of the distance from India.

Rising College sophomore Rebecca Hennessy said she appreciated the flexibility of Residential Services' policy. She said she plans to video-call movers as they pack her room, ⁠and will have her belongings stored by the University until next year.