Yiming Zhang, Contributing Photographer

As the end of the semester nears, students enrolled in residence must pack up their belongings and prepare to move out of their dormitories, regardless of whether they plan to return in the spring.

In an Oct. 16 email to undergraduate students, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun outlined the move-out process for students enrolled in residence. While students who do not plan on returning to campus in the spring will have to pack, store or donate their belongings, students who do intend to return in the spring are also required to pack any belongings they plan to keep in their rooms over winter break. The University’s move-out process reflects public health protocols and lessons learned from the spring 2020 semester.

“Even though it involves some work for students — especially those planning to return — it is still a two-month-long break, and we would rather be safe than sorry,” Chun told the News. “Relative to the inconvenience of having to pack, the cost of the potential of not being able to pack one’s own things like in the spring — in the event that there is a delay in the reopening plan or something we cannot foresee now — is worth it.”

Last spring semester, students departed campus for spring break and never returned, as the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced campus to close while students were still away. Because of the timing of events, many students remained at home without their belongings.

Chun described the spring semester as “a nightmare,” since most students could not pack up their own rooms and had to rely on movers to pack up suites that often did not have clear delineations between whose belongings were whose. Chun also lamented that some students lost belongings or received damaged items, and he explained that the College is mandating that all students pack up their rooms to prevent that from happening again in the event that Yale is unable to open as planned in the spring.

According to the Oct. 16 email, campus residences close on Nov. 21 at 2 p.m., and students must vacate campus by that time. The email noted that moving out before that date is permitted. 

Despite the recent cluster of COVID-19 cases among undergraduates in Saybrook, Grace Hopper and Davenport colleges — which led Yale to change its COVID-19 alert status to orange and implement a weeklong quarantine for students in those three colleges — that policy has not changed.

In a Nov. 6 email to the News, Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd confirmed that students are still permitted to leave early if they choose, but she expects Yale College to follow the planned departure schedule, with all students leaving just before Nov. 21.

Chun’s email to undergraduates broadly outlined the move-out process, which includes taking a viral test 72 hours before departing campus to reduce the chance of spreading infections,  packing belongings and completing an online process to check out of one’s room.

Students — including most first years — who will not be returning to campus in the spring must pack, store or donate their belongings and vacate their rooms, which must be completely empty by the time they leave. Students will have access to packing materials and official preprinted labels. Any belongings students leave behind to be stored will be unavailable to them over break, or until their class is eligible to return to campus.

Unlike during move-in, parents, guardians or other individuals will not be permitted to enter the residential colleges to help students pack for public health reasons.

“I would say that while physically it is a really big inconvenience to move everything out by yourself, the mental/emotional toll is definitely worse,” Claire Dow ’24 wrote in an email to the News.

Dow explained that while moving out is supposed to be marked by goodbye hugs and “last hurrahs,” this year is vastly different. For one, Dow — a member of Grace Hopper College — is leaving campus a week early and will not get to say goodbye to her friends that are currently in quarantine. She also expressed sadness about the fact that she will not see most of her friends until they all return to campus next fall, since first-year students are not eligible to return to campus in the spring.

While students who do plan to return to campus in the spring are encouraged to take as many items home as possible, they can leave some belongings in their rooms, as long as they pack up their belongings. That way, the University can store or ship student belongings in case campus is unable to open as planned. Students will not have access to those belongings until campus reopens again.

Shannon Sommers ’22 has been living on Old Campus this semester, and she plans to move out next weekend. She plans to take as many of her belongings home with her as possible to avoid any valuable items getting lost or damaged in the event that Yale changes its reopening plans.

While Sommers agrees that it logistically makes sense to have all students pack up their rooms in order to avoid repeating the events of last spring, she commented that packing feels like a “bigger burden” than what she had imagined when she first chose to live on campus.

“Having to pack up my belongings, select classes for next semester, write extensive seminar applications for those classes and begin studying for finals at the same time is really overwhelming,” Sommers said.

Students enrolled in residence will go home before Thanksgiving, and the rest of the semester  — the final week of classes, reading week and finals period — will be completed remotely.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu

Julia Bialek currently serves as a public editor for the Yale Daily News. Previously, she covered the student policy & affairs beat as a reporter on the university desk. Originally from Chappaqua, New York, Julia is a junior in Saybrook College studying political science and history.