By L. Kincaid Holmes

Students must have their belongings fully packed and out of their rooms by May 10, but not before registering to do so, announced Maya Dietz, dean of students, in an email sent to students last Friday, April 17.

Dietz laid out the three options students have to retrieve their belongings.

Those able to travel to campus must sign up for a time slot on a Doodle poll. The poll can be found in the email thread. Each time slot allows a student three hours to pack.

Students who cannot or do not want to come onto campus can have someone who is already on campus or has access to it to pack up their room. Volunteers with the Office of Student Life are also available to help pack.

If students don’t sign up for a time slot to pack or opt to have volunteers pack for them, volunteers will pack rooms and move students’ belongings to their trunk spaces.

With students scattered across the world while attending classes remotely, many have voiced concern about retrieving their belongings.  

Amid the pre-Spring Break uncertainty about whether classes would resume or not, some students packed everything beforehand, and others did not. Bree Calkins, a sophomore from Seattle, packed everything.

“When I left, I packed up my entire room and trunk space,” said Calkins. She planned to go through her things over the summer, but took the opportunity to do it earlier when Spring Break was extended.

“I left about 95% of my room still intact,” says Delaney Gatine, a sophomore. Dead-set that classes would resume on campus after the extended Spring Break, Gatine packed only for the two-week break.

“For someone who is out of state, this is incredibly hard,” said Gatine, who lives in California.

The window to pack up is April 20 to May 10, but exams don’t end until May 13. Packing while classes are still in session makes it difficult for students to travel back to campus, pack, and travel home while keeping up with homework and attending virtual class sessions.

“Even if I wanted to, I don’t know if I could come back,” said Gatine.

 “It’s asking a lot for students being out of state,” said Maddie Wann, a senior living in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

“It makes sense, and it’s cool that they are willing to pack us up rather than kick us out,” Wann continued, commenting on how other students around the nation were treated at the outset of the pandemic.

“I can do that,” said senior Glynnis Harley, regarding packing up her belongings as well as her roommate’s. Harley’s roommate is in Texas while Harley is in Chicago, so she immediately saw the need to pack their entire room herself.

Harley’s concerns for next semester linger, as do her concerns for getting her things from her locker room in Crafton Center, but she is relieved to know she can pack her room next weekend.

In the Bahamas, junior Aurora Muller was anxious about the fall, but is feeling fine now at home. While times are changing at home and are vastly different than in the United States, Muller is feeling secure with her belongings at Principia.

 “I packed everything and didn’t know what would happen” said Muller, since she was unsure if she would be returning after Spring Break.  

Her belongings have been stolen before and she did not trust them sitting in her room indefinitely, she said.

After Dietz’s email announcement, questions quickly came about financial support for students needing to travel back, and who the Student Life volunteers are.

Financial support for students to travel back to campus to pack up their belongings is undetermined, said Dietz.

“We haven’t talked about that yet,” she said, “but we are particularly alert to international students” who traveled home.

While volunteers for the third option have yet to be designated, it is offered because the Office of Student Life wants students to have a say, said Mark Hagenlocher, assistant dean of student life.

“We used [the word ‘volunteer’] on purpose, to incentivize students to find someone they trust to pack up,” said Dietz.

This plan is new and “is adjusting as we adjust here,” said Dietz, but it gives students “the opportunity to start planning.”

Giving students the opportunity to pack up their belongings is considered “an essential function,” said Hagenlocher.

“We aren’t avoiding [Illinois’ stay at home order],” he said. “Principia is working closely with the health department and Jersey County” to ensure things are being done correctly.

Rich Eisenauer, residential community educator of Sylvester House, is not worried about the process, although this is a weird time, everywhere, he said.

“I have had eight [students] sign up so far,” said Eisenauer.

In Sylvester House, “some [students] cleared everything out while others look like they’ve been robbed—all their important things are gone,” Eisenauer said.

“We’ll figure this out as we go along.”

• Featured photo at top by Belinda Fewings at Upsplash