Animal House

Last year, my roommate and I agreed that should one of us unexpectedly get run over by a bus or killed in a kitchen fire because someone (Stephanie) forgot to unplug the George Foreman grill, the survivor would immediately destroy a box containing all of their friend’s most embarrassing, private and objectionable personal items.
 
That’s not to say I’m hiding a Polaroid of an indecent encounter with the late Gary Coleman, but there are journals and such that I just don’t want other people going through. While I can’t speak for my roommate, I assume she’d feel the same about her box of rabbit skulls. I’ve said too much.
 
While most normal adults have a healthy paranoia about someone rifling through all of their belongings, the same can’t be said for college students.
 
According to student-housing apartment operators, many residents have no problem leaving some things behind when they move out for the summer. But we’re not talking about a notebook or a hat or a half-eaten box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s more bizarre than that.
 
One Director of Operations says her team entered an apartment to begin the turn process and found a prosthetic leg. Another student-housing professional walked into a male resident’s room and discovered dozens of new shoes—most of which were just lefts or rights. (I pray these two soul mates found one another.) Others say most of the crazy items they find—presumably of the Gary Coleman variety—aren’t even suitable for print.
 
Welcome to the chaotic, ridiculous and stressful two-week period that is the student-housing turn season—a short period of time when student housing operators must turn hundreds of units before the start of the fall semester.
 
Apartments need inspecting, vendors need hiring, prostheses need throwing out, walls need painting, floors need waxing, showers need scrubbing and team members need a plan—and a sense of humor.
 
Constant communication and a proactive approach certainly make the process more efficient, but most student housing providers say nothing can really prepare you for your first turn experience. Many employees are working 10- to 15-hour days, seven days a week, scrambling to get each apartment in pristine condition for the next resident.
 
It’s an impossible task that somehow gets done, says one student-housing employee. Some apartments are in fairly good condition and require standard cleaning. Others have broken bed frames, holes in the walls and closets full of dirty little secrets.
 
Then again, this is college—a magical place where anything goes…or gets left behind.
 

For more, check out “Tossing and Turning” in the July issue of units, which mailed July 10.