UMN students have trouble retrieving belongings from dorms

About 90% of students have left their dorms, leaving about 650 students who have stayed.

Moving carts fill the mailroom at Middlebrook Hall on Saturday, March 21. Many freshmen at the University of Minnesota are moving out of University housing as a result of COVID-19.

Kamaan Richards

Moving carts fill the mailroom at Middlebrook Hall on Saturday, March 21. Many freshmen at the University of Minnesota are moving out of University housing as a result of COVID-19.

Caitlin Anderson

University of Minnesota students who unexpectedly moved out of the dorms due to COVID-19 closures face uncertainty about when they may be able to return for their belongings.

About 90% of students who lived in dorms at the University have moved out, with some unable to reenter their rooms, leaving behind any personal items. The University has not yet identified when students can retrieve these items, as no date has been set for when social distancing guidelines will be lifted.

“There’s just so much uncertainty about when I’ll be able to go back, when anyone will be able to go back,” said freshman Aidan Bragonier, who lived in Pioneer Hall and has since moved in with his parents in northern California. 

The University’s Housing and Residential Life sent out an online form to assess which students were still living in dorms after the school’s move to online instruction March 11.

Residents who did not indicate that they needed to stay in the dorms were given a deadline of March 27 to pick up their belongings,the same day Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order was to take effect. After that, all students not living in the dorms had their U Card access cut off.

About 650 students are still living in dorms — totaling about 10% of all residents, said University spokesperson Lacey Nygard. Essential services, like dining halls, are still available for these students during the stay-at-home order.

University officials are using guidance by state and local authorities, travel advisories and campus conditions to decide when the University will announce a plan for retrieval, Nygard said. Any students who need to pick up essentials, like medicine, can coordinate with HRL.

University freshman Lauren Pross, who is currently residing with her parents about a half hour from campus, said this turnaround was not enough time given her parents’ working schedule. 

Pross said essentials like her french horn, most of her clothes and her chemistry schoolwork are left in her dorm room. Not being able to practice her instrument for over a month will cause her to lose some muscle memory in order to play, she said.

“A lot of us weren’t planning to not come back when we left for spring break,” she said.

For others who don’t live so close, the uncertainty of when to retrieve belongings is more pressing. 

Bragonier had anticipated going on a short trip to Madison, Wisconsin during the second half of spring break but needed to rush back once he saw the severity of the situation increase nationwide, he said. He was able to retrieve essentials like his inhaler from his dorm.

“I ended up having to leave quite a bit of my belongings before coming back to California,” Bragonier said. 

Students who decided to leave the dorms will receive 100% money back on housing and dining services on their student account for the time between March 28 to the end of their contract. Previously, the University had proposed a $1,200 flat rate refund, which was opposed by many students. 

Pross said all she can do is wait for the order to be lifted but hopes it doesn’t get extended beyond the order’s May 4 expiration date.

“But there’s nothing really I can do about it right now,” she said.

Editor’s note: Lauren Pross is the sister of a Minnesota Daily employee.