Missing Futons, Sofas Anger Storage Users

When Efrain G. Guerrero ’04 made his annual trip to retrieve his futon from the Leverett House storage room, he came up empty-handed.

He and his roommates searched the storage rooms repeatedly and couldn’t locate their futon so they returned with the House superintendent—again to no avail.

“All that was left in the room at the end of the week was a mangled, broken futon that barely stood upright,” he says. “It’s frustrating...we don’t want the old mangled one.”

“It was actually a futon I was borrowing from someone else,” he adds of his missing furniture, “and I might have to pay for it now.”

This fall students have flooded House open lists with e-mails about items they left in storage over the summer but now can’t find—from boxes, jackets and futons to beanbags, printers and fridges.

House superintendents say the number of items missing from storage was not unusually high this year. Francisco Medeiros of Eliot House says he has received no formal complaints and Superintendent Paul Hegarty of Leverett says his House had actually seen “fewer losses than in previous years.”

But with the launching of many open House e-mail lists just last year, persistent problems with House storage have been aired more widely.

Some students insist the storage situation has deteriorated. Leverett House Committee Co-Chair Michal Y. Spechler ’03 says the storage problems were “much worse” than in past years.

But losing items in storage “has always been a problem, but now it’s more publicized,” says Miriam S. Udler ’03, the other Leverett House Committee co-chair.

With the influx of student grumbling this fall, superintendents cite problems in the storage process, from lax security to overcrowding, that contribute to items getting lost or stolen.

Dorm Crew assigns student workers to guard the storage rooms and some Houses also use custodial staff.

But most Houses hire only one student to guard each room, and sometimes one student guards two nearby rooms.

There is also no specific protocol for checking what belongs to whom. Student monitors are supposed to match the labels on boxes with students’ identification cards.

But Cabot House Superintendent Gene Ketelkohn says the system has flaws that mean identification cards often go unchecked.

“Often, students have already lent out their I.D.’s to rent handcarts, or they are picking up their roommates stuff,” he says.

Student monitors may also be at fault, he adds.

“With all the confusion and movement that goes on during the first week, I wouldn’t be surprised if the student storage monitors are not totally diligent,” he says.

In some Houses, lack of storage space contributes to confusion and inefficiency in the storage system.

Mather House Superintendent Miguel Casillas says he had to use classrooms and tutors’ offices last spring when space ran out.

“The end of last year was a disorganized mess,” he says. “The space was too crowded and too small. I don’t know how we are going to do it next year.”

When storage gets crowded, he says, it exacerbates theft problems. During move-in, students arriving early want quick access to their belongings in the back of storage spaces and put extra items in the hallways.

“A lot of stuff left in the hallway during this time was taken,” he says.

Leverett House Superintendent Paul Hegarty says many reports of missing property result from others mistaking belongings for their own.

“Most people realize their mistake and return the item,” he says. “The student storage areas are what they are. They’re not always foolproof.”