On May 21, members of the Vassar College Class of 2023, myself included, will walk across the grass on Commencement Hill, receive their diplomas and graduate college. Before 9 a.m. the very next day, all seniors are required to be fully moved out of campus housing.
This is an abrupt timeline and one that does not send a particularly kind message to the College’s graduating class: “Thank you for your hard work and hundreds of thousands of tuition dollars. Now get the hell out.”
The Vassar move-out timeline is publicized on the Office of Residential Life’s website. Next to May 22 is the descriptor: “All students expected to be completely moved out of all residential areas by 9 a.m.” This information was also shared in an email to students on April 3 from Associate Dean of the College Luis Inoa.
Notably, this policy of having seniors move out of their residences mere hours after graduating is not unique to Vassar; fellow liberal arts colleges have similar practices this academic year, according to their respective websites. Hamilton College has a 10 a.m. move-out deadline the day after its graduation. At Smith College and Bryn Mawr College, seniors must move out by noon the day after graduation. Wesleyan University seniors must move out by 4 p.m. that next day. Worse than Vassar is Williams’ 5 p.m. move-out deadline on graduation day itself.
The fact that Vassar follows this trend does not mean that the issue is absolved, though. In fact, it feels even more concerning that so many colleges do not find fault in essentially kicking its students off campus moments after they become alumni.
I reached out to the Office of Residential Life in order to gain insight into Vassar’s move-out timeline. Associate Dean of the College Luis Inoa wrote in an email correspondence: “Senior Week is intended to provide seniors with time to enjoy their final days at Vassar and begin packing and cleaning their living spaces. It is also worth noting that many families leave on the Sunday of graduation, which can often leave the last person in a residence with the majority of the cleanup responsibilities. By requiring all seniors to move out by 9 a.m. the day after graduation, we aim to ensure that everyone has ample time to complete the necessary tasks and avoid any last-minute rush or undue burden on any individual.”
While I understand and appreciate the sentiment behind this decision, an individual student could still be left with the majority of the cleanup, just on an earlier and more stressful timeline. Moreover, most seniors living in houses or apartments have successfully co-existed for a full year; I would hope that the amount of people who would benefit from a little extra time to move-out would outweigh those who will be abandoned by their housemates.
The real problem with this abrupt move-out is that it forces seniors to prioritize packing over enjoying the last moments they get to call Vassar home. In order to successfully move out before 9 a.m. on May 22, there are two possible plans of action.
One: Pack up during Senior Week, a stretch of days meant for making final memories with friends and enjoying time on campus. While a slower move-out may be less stressful, it also means seniors will be living through their packing, spending their last few nights in progressively emptier bedrooms.
Or two: Wait until graduation weekend to pack, when family and friends are eager to spend time with soon-to-be alumni. Seniors can then either enlist their guests in the oh-so-fun sorting/boxing/schelping/sweating ordeal or pack alone while their families enjoy their weekend at Vassar without them.
My family is flying from Seattle, WA, for my graduation. I haven’t seen them since winter break and would prefer to spend the weekend celebrating, rather than packing up my TH. However, I would also like to enjoy my senior week—on a campus that I am going to miss so much with people that I love so much—without having to juggle the immense amount of work that is moving.
What Vassar’s current policy also fails to recognize is how emotional the end of college is and how packing our lives into boxes only exacerbates the overwhelmingness of graduation. Coupled with last moments with friends and the arrival of family, these last days are bittersweet.
Inoa recognized the inherent difficulties that moving can present, writing: “We understand that moving can be a challenging process, and we are committed to supporting our students and families during this time.” He also added that there may be leniency given to students on the 22: “While we expect students and families to be up and ideally packed by 9 a.m., we understand that it may take a little longer to complete the necessary tasks. We do afford families some flexibility on that day.”
Evidently, in this current model there is no perfect solution. That is why I am arguing for a change in policy: Give seniors two extra days after Commencement to pack and move-out. Let us fully enjoy senior week with our friends and the weekend with our families and guests.
This change is small but, for me at least, would provide just a little bit of relief during a weird time in life. While I am ready for bigger things, I will miss Vassar immensely. It’s home for me. I want to leave, but I don’t want it to be over.
Moreover, per its name, Commencement is only the beginning. Once we leave Vassar, we will have real jobs and new cities and graduate school work to contend with. As a parting gift, at least give seniors a peaceful, less-stressful goodbye to the place we have called home for the past four years.