The Harvard Undergraduate Association undertook its first major task since its formation in May by organizing the summer storage program, but some participants said the program was marred by confusion and disorganization.
Launched 2019 by the Undergraduate Council, the summer storage program offers students an affordable option for storing their belongings between academic years. The bill that brought this year’s iteration of the program to life came as the student body replaced its existing student government with the HUA, leaving the implementation of the program under new leadership.
“We couldn't just fully focus on working on the storage program,” HUA Residential Life Officer David Y. Zhang ’24 said. “There was reelection, all sorts of different things for people to focus on.”
Zhang, who also previously led the program as part of the Undergraduate Council, noted the increased size of the program added to the difficulties in organizing summer storage this year. According to Zhang, 1,623 undergraduates signed up for the program this summer, up from 526 in 2021.
When students who participated in the program picked up their belongings in August, some raised concerns about a lack of communication between the HUA and Five Star Movers, the storage company employed by the HUA.
Taruna Singh ’24 said Five Star Movers employees running the box pick-up on campus referred her to the company’s warehouse to retrieve her boxes. But employees at the warehouse sent her back to campus.
“I think it was handled really badly because I had to literally drive to the warehouse to go get my stuff, and they also had no idea about it,” Singh said. “The Five Star Movers guys didn’t have any communication with the [HUA].”
Talia G. Levitt ’25 said complications in picking up her boxes from the storage company meant she was not able to retrieve all her belongings until the first day of classes on Wednesday.
HUA Co-President LyLena D. Estabine ’24 blamed the moving company for sowing confusion about when students who missed their assigned pick-up day could receive their boxes.
“The moving company had taken it upon themselves without communicating with us to tell students that they were simply out of manpower — that they simply were refusing to bring back any more boxes and that students could either pick up their boxes directly from the storage company or they could wait until Saturday,” Estabine said.
She added that Five Star Movers complained to the HUA when “too many students” subsequently showed up to pick their boxes up at the company’s warehouse, and after a series of negotiations, the company agreed to bring all remaining boxes to campus on Aug. 31.
“We are incredibly sorry for the inconvenience, and I know how terrible it is to expect your things and to not be able to receive them,” Estabine said. “I just issue my truly heartfelt apologies. But all I can say is that we tried our very best, and that sometimes companies go back on their word, unfortunately.”
Five Star Movers spokesperson Gilberto Ayala attributed the confusion to a "miscommunication" from the HUA in an emailed statement to The Crimson. The company originally planned to deliver boxes in batches across four days, he wrote.
"We later found out by some miscommunication an email had been sent out that stated we would have all the boxes from every student at Harvard for all four days and anyone would be able to come get their items at anytime," Ayala wrote. "We were made aware of this mistake after the email had been sent out and it left us scrambling to try to correct it. This left a lot of extra work for both us and students, to the point that we had to get one more day to deliver the rest of the boxes."
Adam Pearl ’25, who struggled to track down his boxes during the pick-up period, suggested relying on a different moving company could have helped the HUA avoid the chaos encountered this year.
“I think the moving company was a bit badly organized,” Pearl said.
HUA Co-President Travis A. Johnson ’24 acknowledged the shortcomings of the program but defended its benefits for the student body, saying that “the program wasn't perfect, but it was amazing.”
“I think it's really important to highlight that this program was beneficial to the students,” Johnson said. “It resulted in thousands of dollars — their personal hard earned money — being saved because they didn't have to go to an alternative storage unit.”
“We encourage all students to, you know, have patience and understanding with us as we continue to refine the system,” he added.
—Staff Writer Mert Geyiktepe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.