By Michael Weber
On Friday, February 23, Dean of the College Martha Denney sent an e-mail to the student body announcing that the College will, with some exceptions, no longer offer on-campus storage. The Office of Residential Life will facilitate a switch to an off-campus storage system that will pick up and drop off student belongings from residences, but will eliminate free storage options except for some students who meet LIFTFAR guidelines and fulfill other requirements.
Dean Denney’s e-mail, co-signed by Dean of Student Life Michael Martinez, Director of Residential Life Nate Diehl, and Director of Facilities Don Campbell, asked students to remove their belongings currently in storage “in a timely way,” emphasizing required removal from Barclay basement, Gummere basement, and HCA 30 basement by April 1, where the only designated on-campus storage will remain.
According to Denney’s e-mail, “Students who meet LIFTFAR guidelines, live more than a two-hour drive from campus, and apply by April 15th will receive priority consideration” for remaining free on-campus storage. The e-mail also advised, “If you envision any other difficulties specific to your situation in terms of disposing of or otherwise taking responsibility for your items, please let the Office of Residential Life know so that they can discuss options with you.”
Though the e-mail indicated that more details are forthcoming, students have begun raising questions about the policy change, specifically surrounding its cost, which was excluded from the initial announcement, and the reasons that prompted the decision.
“How can the school use all storage space for ‘constructive and sustainable purposes’?” asked ShuMin He ’19 over e-mail. “Also, it is unclear to me why students who live within two hours do not get to apply for LIFTFAR assistance. There is [an] underlying assumption that students who live within two hours have the support to get their things home or be able to pay $100 [at least] for UPS storage over the summer. It is exhausting that low income students always have to apply for things, turning them into subjects that ask for help after their resource is taken away.”
Katya Konradova ‘19 also felt confused after reading the e-mail. As an international student from the Czech Republic, she was left questioning how much money she would have to save to travel home.
“The e-mail mentioned that you can store your stuff at this off campus facility for an affordable price, but I’m not even sure what that means,” she said. “I still get [financial] aid, but I don’t get aid for travel home. So if I want to go home, I’ve got to pay for that from my own pocket. A lot of money I have to save to even go home, and giving that money away just for storing my stuff somewhere just seems like additional burden.”
Though the original announcement didn’t specify off-campus storage prices, Dean Michael Martinez indicated by e-mail that storing three boxes of belongings (sized 24”x18”x18”) during the summer will cost $100 if students utilize a 10% early bird discount on top of a 10% discount for all Haverford students. The College will partner with Ultimate College Storage, a service created by several Philadelphia-area UPS Store owners. According to the company’s website, each additional box costs $35, and other belongings, including refrigerators, mirrors, drying racks, mattress pads, bicycles, and more, each entail an additional charge.
Swarthmore College, which doesn’t offer on-campus storage, already partners with the company. Lijia Liu ’20, a student at Swarthmore, has used the off-campus storage and complimented the service’s friendliness and ease of scheduling online, but said that the pickup time window is inflexible and that prices became high with added costs, including an optional charge for carrying items down stairs.
Students can request access to remaining free storage on campus through LIFTFAR, and students who live outside of a two-hour radius will receive priority consideration. Rebecca Chang ’19 shared concerns with the administration’s application of the LIFTFAR program.
“I feel like given the new policy looks towards LIFTFAR as a proposed solution for low-income students, but does not think about how it will affect low-income students timewise, emotionally, or socially,” she said.
Jake Ogata Bernstein ’19, the Officer of Campus Life of Students’ Council, has been fielding some student concerns on the Havermemes Facebook group, and also said that details about the policy are soon to come from the administration. Though he wasn’t involved in any decision making about the new policy, he started brainstorming last semester during weekly meetings with College deans about how to address the problem of storage spaces given their condition.
“It wasn’t like ‘oh we need more spaces,’…it was really that facilities cleans out these spaces every few years, and it costs 40 to 50 thousand dollars per space to do a full cleaning, which is ridiculously unsustainable,” he said, also citing safety and fire hazards and destruction of property.
Dean Martinez cited similar concerns, notably regarding items like mini-fridges, which he described as potential biohazards if abandoned for a long period of time. Facilities removes abandoned items each May, and Dean Martinez said that students have not respected the prohibition of storage during the academic year.
“Unfortunately, Haverford does not have the staffing infrastructure to organize and maintain a large-scale storage effort on campus,” he said via e-mail. “We have been wrestling with this issue for many years, and unfortunately we have concluded that we cannot sustain a system in which belongings are safely stored and then reliably retrieved. To our knowledge, none of our peer institutions do either, which is why Haverford has been pretty much the outlier in offering on-campus storage up to this point.”
Even given current problems with storage spaces, Chang perceives an apparent “disconnect between the administration and a number of groups of students on campus, particularly low-income and international students.”
“With the new policy, it seems like those who are able to afford it will be able to utilize the off-campus pick-up and drop-off service, and thus, not have to worry about their storage,” she said, “but these issues will continue for low-income students, for whom these problems are exacerbated also by the added lessening of storage spaces to only three locations.”
As for the use of current storage spaces, Bernstein and Dean Martinez indicated a desire to make the transition a student-driven process. Martinez also hoped to establish a more efficient system for donating or recycling unwanted possessions. Even with potential improvements as a result of the policy change, students remain skeptical whether the benefits outweigh the costs.
“The administration believes that getting rid of storage would provide more space for student ‘resources,’” said He, “but to low-income students like me, having free storage is a resource.”