At the end of every year, residence hall students pack their belongings into barrels and leave them in the hallway to be mysteriously whisked away. The barrel crew rushes in, hauls every barrel out and leaves, all before commencement activities are completed. The barrels then wait in storage to be returned to their owners in the fall.
The barrel crew is a division of Facilities Distribution, which employs between 10 and 15 employees during most of the academic year. These workers deliver requisition items, such as tables or chairs, to departments and set up and tear down campus events.
But in the spring, Facilities Distribution has a special job: removing and placing in storage almost 6,000 barrels from 10 residence halls. The department hires an extra 60 to 70 male students for this intense two-day feat. On the Thursday and Friday of commencement week, the barrel crew methodically clears one dorm at a time. They form an assembly line through the halls, passing the barrels out into a waiting trailer where two guys stack the barrels three-high.
After being removed from the dorms, the barrels are stored for the summer in storage room in the maintenance tunnels. The storage room is divided into 10 different sections for each residence hall.
Each barrel can weigh between 50 and 100 pounds. “It takes a lot of man power to get all of that stuff out of the [residence halls] in a day and a half,” said Nathan Young, a junior communication major who works on the barrel crew.
Besides the physical difficulties of the job, getting everything to run smoothly with that many people and that many barrels can be challenging.
“It can be a bit of a challenge getting organized, half of the guys have never done it before, so there can be some confusion,” Young said. “It usually goes pretty smoothly, though.”
And there are some definite perks to the job as well. “It’s fun to be able to work with your friends, and to see what you’ve accomplished,” said another barrel crew member James Chesebrough, a sophomore accounting student.
The barrel crew members also enjoy encountering all of the colorful barrel designs. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy barrels,” Chesebrough said. From tie-dye to Star Wars-themed barrels, the variety is endless.
“The coolest barrel I’ve seen had a dragon drawn wrapping all around the barrel breathing fire,” Young said. “The entire barrel was just a dragon.”