When students left for spring break March 6, they were excited to have finished their last midterm, so they could head to Cancun, Fort Lauderdale, Appalachia, or another site. The last thing on their minds was cleaning out their personal refrigerator in their residence hall before they left.
While the students’ rooms remain vacant over the next several weeks amid the pandemic, teams from Student Affairs, Maintenance and Building Services have worked together to ensure that the rooms remain safe and pest-free until the students return to campus. As a member of the Emergency Operations Center’s Planning and Logistics team, Carol Mullaney, senior director of sustainability and logistics, led the project in close collaboration with Student Affairs. Over the course of about four days, teams of staff—each consisting of one rector or Residential Life staff member, one maintenance technician and one custodian—visited each residence hall.
Working collaboratively yet isolated, the maintenance technician on each team secured all windows and unplugged refrigerators and other small appliances to reduce energy consumption and potential fire hazards. Then, the custodian followed, cleaning out perishable food in refrigerators and disposing of opened containers of food that may attract unwelcome pests. Lastly, the Student Affairs staff walked around the hall and completed a checklist to ensure that each room was secure and ready to be vacant for the next several weeks. All of their efforts were supported by the Warehouse team that delivered the necessary supplies to each hall.
Systematically visiting nearly every student’s room in 31 residences halls in around four days is no easy feat, so Mullaney and the project team conducted a pilot project to determine how much time it would take and what resources would be needed. Two teams went to a men’s and a women’s hall—Zahm and Cavanaugh Halls—in late March. Based upon the pilot, they were able to refine their approach and address each residence hall in a quad on a given day, all while spreading out to ensure social distancing.
“Every aspect of this project was guided by the objective to secure and protect student belongings during this unanticipated and prolonged time of absence from the residence halls,” said Mullaney. “It was accomplished quickly and efficiently through great teamwork under the guidance of the rectors and other Residential Life staff while ensuring the utmost respect for student spaces.”
When students and their parents return to campus to collect their belongings, the halls will be ready to welcome them. “We receive notes of heartfelt gratitude every day for efforts like this and our course material shipping project,” said Jonathan Retartha, director of residential life housing operations. “Our students have peace of mind knowing the hours so many people commit to the stewardship of their campus homes and belongings.”