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Housing and Residence Life gives students the option to move out themselves

After initially announcing that student belongings would  either be stored for the summer or shipped home, Duke is now giving students the option to come back to campus and clear out their rooms in June. 

While the option for storage or shipping will remain available, students can now opt for moving out themselves between June 1 and June 28 if public health guidance permits, Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life, wrote in an April 30 email to students. 

Duke had originally announced that student belongings that had not yet been moved out would be either stored and moved to future housing assignments or shipped home for graduating students. At the time, Gonzalez wrote in an email to The Chronicle that "traditional move out operations will not be possible." 

Now, if conditions in Durham and North Carolina allow it to take place safely—the state's stay-at-home order will last at least until May 8—students will be able to return to campus to retrieve their possessions. While more specifics on the plan will not be available until next week, Gonzalez wrote that move-out times will be carefully scheduled to avoid health risks. 

“Move out times will be scheduled to maintain social distancing in residence halls, and students will be assigned to specific times based on dates they have requested,” he wrote. 

Mary Pat McMahon, vice president and vice provost for student affairs, told The Chronicle Thursday that moving out would have to happen in a way that did not endanger the health of people on campus.

"We're going to have to make sure that doesn't put our [Residence Life], housekeeping, ground crew staff at risk," she said. "We're going to have to watch how we think about registering that with public health guidelines in June while we do it."

She noted that public health guidelines include those around the country and the world, not just the stay-at-home orders in place in Durham and North Carolina. If someone is in a place where the curve of coronavirus infections has not peaked, the University will have to "think about what that looks like" for that person to come back to campus.

McMahon said she could not predict what public health guidelines would be on June 1.

"And I might not know what exactly they are on May 28," she added.

Students who want to move out in person can expect an email next week with more information, according to Gonzalez's update. The system for reserving a time will open May 11, according to an FAQ on the Housing and Residence Life website.

Meanwhile, the option for storage or shipping is still available. Moving crews will teleconference with students as they are packing and students will be able to either store belongings for the summer or have them shipped home. Students can also choose to have some items shipped and others stored.

The storage option is free to students, and returning students can ship up to four boxes home at no cost, while graduating seniors can ship 15—and all students will have the option to pay for more boxes. For stored items, the moving crews will be able to move possessions back to on-campus housing or to off-campus housing within a five-mile radius of Duke in the fall. 

Students who want items stored or shipped will receive an email the week of May 4 with that option, per the FAQ. Gonzalez wrote that the moving services will begin working the week of May 18. 

The FAQ also includes updated information on items that cannot be stored or shipped, including alcohol, drugs, firearms and liquids including shampoo. Prescription medications will be stored separately by the Duke University Pharmacy, and students will be able to pick them up in the fall.

Gonzalez did not respond to a request for comment about the information in the FAQ in time for publication.

This story was updated at 5:54 p.m. Thursday to add information provided by Mary Pat McMahon.

Nathan Luzum contributed reporting.

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