Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

EDITORIAL: On Housing, Increase Accountability

By now, concerns about Georgetown University housing sound like a broken record: Students implore the university to address rats, mold, gas leaks and collapsing roofs, while university officials fail to prioritize student safety.

This pattern of negligence has made starkly clear that Georgetown on its own cannot be trusted to provide students with safe and healthy living conditions. Rather, the university must hold itself accountable by publishing reports about issues in student housing and detailed plans to improve facilities.

Last month, Georgetown relocated about 85 students from top-floor apartments in Alumni Square after engineers identified structural concerns with the roof. Though university officials claimed they were acting on an abundance of caution, students were given a mere four days to move, suggesting a more urgent hazard. Despite student calls to release the engineering report detailing the extent of rooftop damage in a Feb. 11 information session for relocated residents, the university has yet to do so.

Similarly, after Nancy Cave, a parent of a Georgetown freshman, requested air quality test reports from her son’s dorm, Associate Vice President of Facilities Operations Gregory Simmons assured her the room was safe but declined to release the report, citing an unidentified committee that prevented him from providing her with additional information.

Georgetown’s refusal to release these reports and hold itself accountable to students is concerning, especially given the university’s previous inaction and immense misjudgements on housing hazards.

The university only became aware of rooftop concerns in Alumni Square after a maintenance inquiry spurred inspections in October 2018, according to the residential living website. However, a university official was aware of water damage last summer, well before the first maintenance request.

Georgetown also failed to respond to a prolonged gas leak in Alumni Square, according to Humeyra Selcukbiricik (COL ’20) in a Feb. 20 op-ed. Students reported the smell to the university, but facilities declared nothing was amiss. It was not until the D.C. fire department intervened that residents were evacuated and three students hospitalized.

The university’s negligence on these serious — and potentially life-threatening — issues has made abundantly clear Georgetown’s ineptitude in solving housing problems.

Only by enhancing its accountability to students and publishing reports on the current state of housing can the university demonstrate a genuine commitment to student safety.

Currently, Georgetown’s lack of transparency conceals information that is vital to student well-being. Releasing the reports on facilities concerns would allow students to better understand their housing situation and demonstrate that the university is concerned with more than lawsuits and maintenance expenses.

Moreover, the university’s release of facilities reports would incentivize Georgetown to truly improve housing conditions. Making the information public would pressure university officials to proactively resolve any hazards or provide students exposed to dangerous conditions with alternative housing.

Georgetown should also publish its future plans to improve facilities. Though the board of directors allocated $75 million to a five-year maintenance plan on Feb. 14, the details of this plan are unclear.

By publishing its plans, Georgetown would be less likely to delay on crucial repairs. If university officials fall behind on deadlines, students and alumni would be able to hold them accountable and ensure targets are met in a timely manner.

Transparency with renovation plans would also inform alumni of the pressing need for repairs and open more pathways for alumni contributions to housing. Currently, Georgetown focuses fundraising efforts on new construction — rather than maintenance — because new facilities are more attractive for donors, according to university spokesperson Rachel Pugh in an interview for a March 2018 op-ed.

By publishing its renovation plans, Georgetown could signal to alumni the crucial need for alumni investment in housing and combat the idea that renovation is less attractive or necessary than new buildings.

Georgetown has proven incompetent in resolving the deplorable housing conditions of students. For housing to become tolerable, students must at least be able to take their safety into their own hands; the university should publish reports on the current state of student housing and its future maintenance plans.

For facilities to improve — and hazardous conditions to be addressed — university officials must be held accountable to students. Students deserve to be safe.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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    Hoya ParentMar 15, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    I am a parent of one of the “Alumni Square 85”.
    I totally endorse your plea that the university needs to be transparent and public about the $75M renovation plan. The Board of Directors should insist on that because the university authorities have little or no credibility in this regard.
    Alumni and parents should insist on action to tackle this situation immediately and properly.
    Current students should follow Georgetown Hotmess on Instagram and should urge all their fellow students and every parent to do the same.
    The Hoya should keep covering this and hold the university to account until this situation is sorted out.