Students report damaged items during room packing process

by Lauren Adler | 7/10/20 2:45am

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by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

As Dartmouth’s Office of Residential Life continues the process of packing and shipping students’ belongings left on campus before the COVID-19 pandemic sent students home, some students have received damaged items while others, including recent graduates, have not received their items at all.

Katelyn Zeser ’22, who said she was among the first students to receive her belongings, noted that a representative from ORL told her that the College suspended the packing and shipping process for several days after students reported ruined textbooks, broken electronics and belongings shipped to wrong addresses hundreds of miles away.

“They said that they had stopped everything from going out until they could figure out what had happened, with boxes shipped to incorrect addresses and arriving in bad condition,” Zeser said.

Some members of the Class of 2020 have not yet received their belongings, as the packing process has been slowed down to ensure quality controls.

“It’s been a really frustrating time,” Jennifer He ’20 said. “I went back home with a carry-on [suitcase], and I’ve been living out of that ever since.”

He added that some ’20s are frustrated that some current students have received their belongings before graduates.

“As seniors, as recent graduates, they feel like it’s kind of weird that they didn’t get their stuff, because they’re not going to go back at all,” He said.

Some students who have received items have not been happy with their condition. Several students who have received items said that their boxes were sealed with a single strip of tape and arrived partially opened. Virgil Alfred ’22 added that some of his boxes were in such bad condition that he thinks they were retaped by UPS before being shipped.

“There was another color of tape that was placed on the edges of some of the boxes that were obviously damaged,” he said. “Even the one that came in the best condition, it had one piece of tape and there was a huge hole under it. You could see everything that was inside that box.”

Simon Agnew ’22, who requested only kitchen supplies and an LED light to be shipped home, said that he received 20 boxes, many of which were shipped to an old address hundreds of miles away. 

Representatives from Hanover True Value, the moving company hired by the College, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Zeser said that she had a conversation with associate dean of residential life Mike Wooten in which he told her that a moving crew responsible for packing a certain floor in the McLaughlin Cluster had been fired prior to the suspension of the packing process.

Finn Hulse ’23, who said his room was packed by that crew, said that his entire room was packed against his instructions and that his computer was packed and shipped several hundred miles on its side, shattering the sides of the computer and damaging its base.

Hulse said that he contacted the College about the damage and that he was put in touch with a representative from True Value to discuss reimbursement. 

“I’m sure that there was just miscommunication, which is the fault of everyone, including Dartmouth,” Hulse said. “You do have to be very clear so that information can get passed down the line correctly and not be a game of telephone. But what happened to me was truly a result of carelessness at the smallest level, at the level of that crew.”

Camilla Ozada ’22, who remained in Hanover for the spring term, said that she observed her roommate’s belongings being packed with “zero order or thought process,” and that packers even left some of her things in drawers.

“They didn’t separate, organize, none of that,” she said. “They were just like, ‘okay, top drawer’ and grabbed it all and put it in.”

In an interview conducted on June 11 at the beginning of the shipping process, Wooten said that students can “absolutely” reach out to his office if there is a problem with their belongings, either once they have been shipped or when students pick up stored items. 

“If people are to have concerns or they have any concerns about damage, we will work carefully with them to remedy the situation,” he said. 

According to question responses that Wooten provided to the Student Assembly, each shipping box is insured for up to $500 and students are encouraged to contact ORL to discuss reimbursement.

On June 30, students who indicated their interest in picking up their belongings on campus were notified that they could retrieve their items between July 8 and late August. The pickup process has begun with students living in Ripley, Woodward and Smith halls, and will continue next week with residents of Andres, Mid-Fayerweather, McCullough, New Hampshire, Richardson, Topliff and Wheeler residence halls. Students will receive separate emails by building to schedule a pickup date and time.

Hulse added that while he is frustrated with the moving crew that packed his things, he does not blame ORL for how they have handled his situation.

“The College’s response to my situation has been perfect,” he said. “My only complaint is the crew who cleared my floor.”