Storage Blues

It is unfortunate items are lost in storage, but students have little grounds for complaint

The latest incarnation of the annual storage debacle has arrived in full form this fall. As usual, it seems that students have legitimate complaints—both about Harvard Student Agencies-sponsored Collegeboxes and in-house storage options. While this is unfortunate, it is important that students remember that on-campus storage is a free service provided to Harvard students. It is a privilege, not a right.

As far as the oft-maligned Collegeboxes is concerned, last year’s disaster, during which many stored boxes were lost, was not repeated. In fact, Collegeboxes told The Crimson that it serviced 628 customers at Harvard this year and that only four claims are still pending. Collegeboxes’ national record, however, is far from sterling. At New York University and Columbia, Collegeboxes appears to have performed as poorly this year as it did at Harvard last year. Students are understandably squeamish about Collegeboxes and will likely remain so until the horror stories abate.

The issue of on-campus storage is a different story. To begin with, the College does not insure storage like Collegeboxes and makes it clear that students store belongings in Houses entirely at their own risk. Such storage is a luxury; very few peer institutions provide free, on-campus storage, even at colleges where students typically live on campus for four years.

It is thus unreasonable for students to expect the College to protect their stored belongings. The storage space is exactly what it is advertised to be: free, voluntary, unsecured storage for the summer months.

Generally, the system works remarkably well given the utter chaos of move out and move in. Lost boxes are remarkably rare and are often the result of disorganization and haste rather than malicious removal.

It’s unfortunate that some students are peeved about not being able to find stored items, but overall this is not cause for uproar. If a student needs peace of mind, he or she can always contract another storage company—of which there are many that will insure stored belongings. It is unreasonable to argue that the College, which already goes to great lengths to provide storage and protect stored items, should do even more.

This argument, however, does not apply to those students who cannot afford any other option besides House storage. Consequently, the College should look into offering a stipend for qualifying students who want to store or ship their belongings off campus but cannot afford to do so.

Nonetheless, the College’s storage system works remarkably well. Students should appreciate it rather than griping about it.