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Harvard Undergraduates Concerned Over Storage Plans Ahead of Fall Semester

A student waits with his belongings outside of Leverett House in March morning, preparing to vacate campus after the College sent students home due to COVID-19.
A student waits with his belongings outside of Leverett House in March morning, preparing to vacate campus after the College sent students home due to COVID-19. By Jonathan G. Yuan
By Sydnie M. Cobb, Crimson Staff Writer

Many Harvard undergraduates say they are concerned about their belongings stored with Olympia Moving and Storage after the University’s Monday announcement that only incoming freshmen and a group of approved upperclassmen would return to campus for the fall semester.

When students evacuated campus in March due to the spread of coronavirus, Harvard provided students receiving financial aid with a $200 grant to help cover the costs of storing or shipping their belongings. Additionally, the Undergraduate Council introduced the “Storage Relief Program,” which paid the $55 balance that was not covered by Harvard’s storage grant.

Since most students will not be returning to campus in the fall, both Olympia and the University are working to accommodate shipping and extended storage periods for students’ belongings. The University’s Monday announcement also referenced a $175 storage and shipping stipend for students receiving financial aid.

Derrick T. Ochiagha ’22 said he called Olympia shortly after learning of the $175 stipend to determine how many months of storage it could covered.

“Olympia essentially said that they had no idea Harvard was doing this. They said that the rates they had for college students were significantly lower than their usual rates and that they hadn’t planned to store the boxes any longer than September,” Ochiagha explained.

“They told me, as far as they were aware, that they were still delivering the boxes back to Harvard on the predetermined date. They were never in communication with Harvard to know that Harvard was not planning to get sophomores, juniors, and seniors back to campus.”

Rachael F. Lyons, the director of marketing and business development at Olympia, wrote in an email that the company will work to meet the University’s needs.

“I am not sure if a plan for these students’ belongings has been confirmed with the university yet,” Lyons wrote. “Regardless, Olympia will ensure we have the capacity to accommodate whatever the university plans for next steps.”

College spokesperson Rachael Dane did not provide comment on the storage plans.

UC treasurer Noah Harris ’22 said the UC is currently working on “contingency plans” to continue to provide extra funding for student storage.

“We would like to do the same thing we did for summer storage, which is to be able to pay the difference between what Harvard is giving and the total. Right now, we don’t know what that difference is,” Harris said. “There are so many variables that most of our plans are mere frameworks for now.”

Rukmini “Mini” Ganesh ’22, the UC finance committee chair, said the UC’s plans to finance student storage have faced pushback in the past from administrators including Associate Dean of Students Lauren E. Brandt and former Associate Dean of Student Engagement Alexander R. Miller.

“We had about $130,000 left in our budget, and we wanted to give as much of that away to students in the form of storage subsidies. We wanted to work with [house committee] chairs to get some of their budget for subsidies for students in their houses, but Dean Brandt basically told them no,” Ganesh said.

“Dean Brandt spoke to our then advisor Dean Miller, and Dean Miller told us not to do the program and that he did not support the program and that we should just save our money,” she said. “We knew that students needed this program, so we decided to go ahead and do it anyway.”

Despite the confusion, Samyra C. Miller ’21 said she is “confident” the College will resolve any storage issues before the fall semester commences.

“I am confident that they can get everything resolved, but I need them to start the process of doing so,” Miller said. “In the meantime, Olympia, keep my stuff safe. I have my fan stored in there and my microphone and my linens.”

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

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