It’s a well-oiled machine, worn with the experience of age, and carefully engineered to every last detail. A library of protocols and carefully planned chains of command guide its movements.
Its kept running by a team of skilled technicians that work round the clock so that we can spend as little time as possible to wrestling with it.
Move-in is something we all deal with every year, but most of the time we’re too caught up with seeing friends, recounting our summer exploits, and panicking about our work-in-progress schedules to give it much thought.
Spare a second to consider the scale of the whole operation, though, and you’ve got a system just as complex as any computer mainframe you’re likely to find.
Thousands of students and their families trying to cram themselves and a van-load full of furniture into several tightly-packed apartment complexes via limited elevators in the center of the largest city in the southeast? It’s the kind of problem that would haunt the dreams of any sane systems engineer.
Tech has a well-trained collection of experts that work year-round to keep the process working in some semblance of order.
As Dan Morrison, Director of Residence Life, describes it, “Move-out begins at move-in.”
Or, to put it into a bit more concrete terms, the planning for the four or five days of move-in typically starts months in advance, often beginning as early as May or June according to Morrison.
After the planning stage is over, though, the administrators typically take a hands-off approach, and leave the execution up to the individuals in each area: the campus police, volunteers from the Greek system, and the RA’s and PL’s for each area.
Morrison described the process in just two words, “We troubleshoot.” Rather than jumping in and potentially causing more harm than help, they typically try to stay out of the way unless an emergency (a collision, or medical emergency, etc.) starts pulling workers away from their duties and mucking up the regular flow of things.
For the most part, though, they tried to leave things up to the 200+ PL’s, RA’s, and staff that worked move-in this year.
As Arun Duraiswamy, one of the RA’s for the third floor of North Ave. North, said, “As RA’s, we’re responsible for helping people check in, regulate parking, and taking care of the [luggage] bins. Essentially, we make sure that we help the residents and parents as much as possible.”
This means doing everything from directing traffic, checking students in, and—in one case—printing out a set of Paul McCartney tickets for a student who couldn’t remember where he packed his printer.
Unlike some parents seemed to think, these duties don’t include valet service. Duraiswamy was handed the keys to someone’s car at least once before his weekend of housing duties was over.
Of course, there are always a few wrenches that get thrown in the works; the city might shut down a road, a water main might burst, or Mother Nature might simply decide to be argumentative that day. After years of dealing with problems like this, though, housing staff are well-trained to deal with problems both common and bizarre.
“You can’t know what will happen, but you’re sure that something will,” said Morrison.
Every now and then, one of the mishaps, be it natural or human-error induced, ends in amusing results.
This year, one student in particular had a surprise waiting for him upon arriving, as his gender had somehow been swapped in the system, leaving him the sole Y-chromosome in an apartment full of women until he could be reassigned to a male-occupancy apartment.
Stories of such errors however, are the exceptions that prove the rule. For most of the Tech community, move-in is a fairly smooth process, especially when compared to how much of a nightmare it can be at other universities.
“We get letters from lots of parents saying, ‘I just dropped my son off at X university, and had to wait an hour to check in,” or, “We drove around all afternoon just to get a place to park.’” said Morrison when asked how Tech’s move-in process compares to other similarly sized or urban universities.
Comparatively, Tech managed to situate over 3200 students on Saturday and Sunday alone, all with relatively little pain for students.