by ABIGAIL WEBER
On March 23, UMW officials postponed the belongings retrieval originally scheduled for March 24-April 1 in response to Governor Ralph Northam’s recommendation against non-essential travel. Administration hopes to release the new signup form on April 6, but the process may be pushed back again if necessary.
“This is an unprecedented situation, and it requires unprecedented actions to protect public health and save lives,” said Northam in a press release accompanying Executive Order 53, which, alongside discouraging non-essential travel, banned most gatherings of more than ten people, closed K-12 schools through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and closed businesses deemed “non-essential.”
University President Troy Paino voiced a similar sentiment. “It would be difficult to overstate how unprecedented the last several days have been,” Paino wrote in a campus-wide email message on March 17 that cancelled in-person classes through the end of the semester. “Like many of our colleagues across the Commonwealth and around the country, our decision to temporarily suspend face-to-face classes…was done with the hope that such an interruption would be brief and that normal operations would return in a short period of time. It is now clear that this will not be the case.”
Because students believed the move-out would only be until April 3, many students are missing items they left at their dorms. Students voiced frustration at the shifting timetables for both the return to classes and, later, the belongings retrieval.
“I wish they hadn’t pushed back the retrieval dates because there are quite a few things I left that would have been helpful to have for working from home or nice to have in general,” said sophomore studio art major Rebecca Visger. “I left my larger collection of markers in my room, along with some other art supplies and my lightbox. Stuff that was too big or didn’t seem necessary to take for what initially was going to be three weeks.”
“I feel like they could have just extended the move out days and limited how many people moved out in one day instead of full blown [postponing] it all,” said freshman Gianna Brooks. “That way we could get our stuff out sooner and the university could clean all the dorms sooner to make sure it’s safe and sanitized.”
UMW will be taking additional steps to limit how many people move out in one day. Along with the existing signup method, which will keep the number of people on campus on any specific day to a minimum, Residence Life and Housing officials are considering assigning time slots for specific buildings and days to ensure everyone doesn’t end up arriving at the same time.
When students finally return to campus, they can expect to see signs in busy areas reminding them of the proper safety procedures they should be taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“[They will be] reminding our community about social distancing, hand washing, and not entering the residence halls if sick at all,” said the associate dean for Residence Life and Housing, David Fleming.
As far as personal protective equipment goes, colleges and universities like UMW are ranked lower in priority than hospitals and clinics when it comes to the distribution of masks, gloves and disinfectants. If students and those helping them move out require these materials, they should expect to bring their own. Residence Life and Housing is working with students with health challenges and other concerns as the belongings retrieval process evolves.
“Our Facilities team continues to work to acquire additional supplies, but currently they are limited,” said Fleming.
For some students, belongings retrieval isn’t just a chance to grab their things, but a chance to get closure for a confusing semester.
“It’s hard. It’s abrupt and it’s hard,” said sophomore English major Carleigh Rahn. “I don’t have much there that holds significance other than pictures and my coffee maker. I’m not missing much when it’s there and I’m not. I just really want to be able to say goodbye to my apartment.”