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Facilities Management disposes of First-Generation House residents’ belongings

Brisa Zielina
The disposed personal belongings were stored in a closet.

Following a miscommunication between Grinnell College administration and First Generation (First Gen) House residents that led to the disposal of the residents’ personal belongings and issues with the recycling process, the College’s administration will be compensating residents and taking steps to streamline future communications.

On Thursday, Sept. 21, residents of First Gen House noticed that three suitcases containing personal items were missing from a space they had been using for storage.

Ben Newhouse, dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs, wrote in an email to the S&B that, initially, Facilities Management (FM) told Residence Life Coordinators (RLCs) to notify residents that all items should be removed from hallways by Sep. 17. After that date, items would be discarded and residents would be fined. RLCs were asked to notify students during the week prior to Sept. 17, and some chose to communicate to residents through community advisors (CAs) or house coordinators. 

However, according to Amelia Denek `24 – one of the residents whose items were removed – no one in the house, including the house coordinator, received information beyond a warning that all personal items should be removed from hallways. 

As none of the residents had items in the hallway, they did not think this applied to them. All of the items affected had been kept in a closet on the second floor of the house, Denek said. The closet that residents of First Gen house were using was not specifically mentioned in the email, Newhouse wrote.

Anuradha Oli `24, a resident of First Gen House and Denek’s roommate, said residents noticed one day that the items they had stored in an upstairs closet had been moved to the hallway. Denek mentioned that FM then disposed of the items left in the the hallway without saying anything. “They were like Batman,” she said.

Oli said that after this event, residents noticed three more suitcases missing from the upstairs closet, two belonging to Denek and one belonging to another resident. She said that she and her roommate had been using the suitcases for storage of valuable personal items. Denek stated that her two suitcases contained winter clothing, toiletries and personal items like letters and gifts.

“No one could explain to me why that happened,” Denek said. Oli stated that she had last seen the suitcases the previous weekend. Newhouse wrote that the suitcases were disposed of on Tuesday, Sept. 19. 

No one could explain to me why that happened.

— Amelia Denek `24

Newhouse wrote that the policy regarding storage in project houses is the same as in residence halls and that “hallways and other forms of egress cannot be obstructed.” The closet that the residents were using provided access to the fire escape, he wrote, and thus storage in this closet violates these expectations.

Oli said that the residents and the house coordinator attempted to remedy the situation, as well as ameliorate the unclear communications between residents and FM. Denek said that she filed a report with campus safety, but did not file a police report.

Oli pointed out another communication problem, this time in regards to recycling. On Thursday, Sept. 21, residents received an email from Residence Life requesting that the house recycling be taken out after many warnings on the subject, said Oli. However, she said that she had not received any communication regarding the disposal of recycling. 

Allegedly, the only communication regarding this was to the house coordinator. Oli also said that after discussing the situation with residents of other project houses, she discovered that they had their recycling removed by FM. When she raised this concern to Residence Life, they stated that the FM employees in those houses “were just being nice to the houses and taking it out,” she said.

House coordinator Elizabeth Neace `24 denied multiple requests for comment by the S&B.

Newhouse wrote that residents will be reimbursed for the value of the items lost. Denek mentioned that she did receive compensation – she submitted a list of lost items and their value, and she was compensated for the amount that she listed. However, she said that she does not feel that it makes up for the lost items. “I can’t just rebuy it, a lot of it was gifts. Some of it was like handwritten stuff. Some of it is from like another country that I’m not gonna go back and get another replacement,” she said.

In terms of communication, no, I feel like no one in our house knows anything still

— Amelia Denek `24

Newhouse also said that more focus will be given to communication between administrative departments and residents. Particularly, he wrote that he acknowledges that houses have unique features that residence halls do not have, so more specifically tailored communication is necessary for clarity. Regarding communication around this specific incident, Denek said that she has not been given much of an idea of what happened and why. She said that she asked for details surrounding the event, but was not given them. “In terms of communication, no, I feel like no one in our house knows anything still,” she said.

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About the Contributors
Evelyn Wilber, Staff Writer
Evelyn is a second year intended English major and statistics concentrator from Chicago, Illinois. She enjoys reading, watching movies, listening to music, her dog Ted, and the season of winter.
Brisa Zielina, Staff Photographer
Brisa Zielina is a first year and an aspiring Theater major with a concentration in American Studies from Los Angeles, California. She loves singing and acting and uses the word “slay” way too often. When she’s not slaying the day, she’s probably in rehearsal or studying on the third floor of the HSSC. If you see her around campus, say howdy, she’s always happy to make new friends!
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