UBC Okanagan's campus is busy this week with students packing, hauling, cleaning and moving.
The university is kicking off what they call "the great shuffle," which sees thousands of student rooms cleaned in just one week.
Between Vancouver (7,000) and Kelowna (2,100), there are more than 9,100 students either moving out or switching rooms, making it an enormous job to clean and organize rooms, common areas and dining halls.
This annual exercise takes place in late April to early May and it’s all because of the school's winter session and year-round residence contracts expire at the same time, meaning some students are leaving for the summer or for good, while others are transferring to a different room on campus.
UBC says they provide more on-campus student housing than any other university in Canada, that UBC is one of the largest in North America, with 15,300 student beds on both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses—which means thousands of rooms to clean and prepare.
In Kelowna, one residence building is set aside for forest fire fighters over the summer fire season.
“It’s a busy time with all hands in rubber gloves and on deck,” said Lakshmi Sangaranarayanan, director of student residence with Student Housing and Community Services (SHCS) at UBC Vancouver.
“It takes literally hundreds of housekeepers and supervisors to clean and inspect rooms to make them ready for new residents. There’s an established, complex choreography involved. Some might call it organized chaos. We just call it organized.”
While cleaners and supervisors grind all week long to get the job done, it’s not always easy.
“We work as hard as possible to catch everything, but it’s simply not possible to be perfect. Sometimes, despite our team’s best efforts, rooms are left in a less-than-ideal state. Any student who sees issues with their new room should let us know right away so we can correct them," added Sangaranarayanan.
A big issue for the university is what students decide to leave behind.
“We find everything and anything you can imagine, from refrigerators full of food, to closets of clothes, big screen TVs, cell phones, appliances, even cash. You name it, we’ve found it left behind," said SHCS facilities manager Ricky Biring.
According to UBC, there's been times where a resident appears to have not cleaned anything, deciding to simply walk out the door, leaving behind all their possessions — even their shoes and socks.
“For us, the great shuffle challenges processes and systems to be a little more agile than they usually are,” he says. “I think it is a time that flexes our commitment to be mindful of the responsibility we have to our outgoing residents, our ‘shuffling’ residents, our incoming residents, but also the space they live in or around, and the items they leave behind.”
Starting in early April, students on both campuses are encouraged to start thinking about their belongings and what they want to keep, donate or recycle.
Items that are left behind are bagged and stored for 90 days before they are given away by donation.