4000 pieces from 2020

Before you bring students back to classrooms, you have to put their chairs back.

That’s what some student workers will be doing over the next few weeks: Returning from storage some 4,000 chairs and other pieces of furniture that had been removed from classrooms nearly a year ago.

In the summer of 2020, after students had spent a spring semester working remotely because of the pandemic, the guidelines for a fall semester return called for a reduction in in-class numbers and for seating to be rearranged so students would be at least six feet apart.

“We could not keep 100 chairs in a classroom built for 100,” said David Cowan, director of facilities services. “So what do you do with all that inventory? You can’t shove it up against the wall. You have to take it out. So we started moving things out in June and July. And we got it done, we moved all 4,000 pieces.”

Student workers haul classroom and commons area furniture into Nelson Hall.

The furnishings were moved to StoreIt MN, a climate-controlled facility on Basset Drive where the University rented 30 storage units. Now, Cowan said, with fall 2021 set to welcome students back, the furniture must return.

“It’s going smoothly,” said Atiqur “AK” Rahman, one of about a dozen student workers recruited to do the moving, which uses two trucks between school and storage. “The challenging part is couches and the big benches. They’re very heavy to carry.”

More than 4,000 pieces are being returned to campus buildings over the month ahead.

At the Store It MN location Wednesday, Rahman along with Maya Hassien, Diroshan Thevarasa, Siene Haq and Benoit Kabwar were charged with loading the trucks headed for the University. There, the students unload the furniture and hand it off to general maintenance workers to place.

By far, most of the students working on returning the furniture are international students—the result of being available during summer break now as well as in 2020. Students working on the project come from Sri Lanka, Egypt, Bangladesh, Congo, India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Diroshan Thevarasa, a senior from Sri Lanka, said he’s grateful for the work while not enrolled in summer classes. Without the job, he said, he might be simply biding time watching TV.

“If I get a project like this, I get to meet new friends,” he said. “And I’m getting paid and not getting bored at home.”

Students, from left, Atiqur “AK” Rahman, Maya Hassien and Diroshan Thevarasa at the StoreIt MN location where 30 units were rented to store removed furniture.

Rick Melvin, coordinator for delivery services and surplus management, said every building on campus is involved, with most of the furniture belonging to Armstrong Hall.

“It will be nice to get everything situated and get back into school,” Melvin said. “Knock on wood.”