As Georgetown finds itself embroiled in a former employee’s lawsuit over health hazards relating to mold exposure in Village C West, students have long taken to social media to document the perils they encounter with the university’s infrastructure.
One such platform, @georgetown.hotmess on Instagram, has accrued over 800 followers by chronicling instances of broken or crumbling infrastructure with the tag line, “We pay 70k a year for this…” Georgetown Housing Horror Stories on Facebook features anonymous submissions from community members and their close brushes with, “leaks, rodents and perpetually ignored work orders,” according to the Facebook page.
With last year’s average age of a main campus building at about 70 years, the university is rife with aging buildings that require heavy restructuring and restoration. But rather than resorting to social media to air their grievances, students should be endowed with the channels to more productively voice their frustrations about Georgetown’s maintenance directly to university administrators.
According to the university’s financial statements for the 2016 fiscal year, nearly $54 million was expensed to depreciation and amortization on the university’s assets, mainly its facilities, while only $10 million was diverted to maintenance and repairs for these same facilities.
Meanwhile, total purchases of land, buildings and equipment averaged over $85 million per year over the past two years, suggesting the prioritization of new projects over maintenance of existing infrastructure. The latest campus plan, which details the university’s capital allocation decisions for 2017 to 2036, hints at the potential for renovation projects in Village A or Henle Village, but otherwise offers little concrete evidence of maintenance plans for on-campus housing.
The prevalence of residential dormitories constructed in the 1970s and 1980s — including Henle Village, Village A and Alumni Square — gives rise to rodents, pests, mold and general appliance deficiencies, which require nearly seven days to process through work orders. Even when Georgetown does address these hazards, many of its actions — including not repairing mold-damaged drywall or only using disinfectant — serve as makeshift solutions that temporarily hide the problem without offering a permanent remedy, much to the detriment of students’ health and safety.
Because students are now required to live on campus for three years, it is imperative the university prioritize the maintenance of older facilities and renovate housing structures in dire need of repairs by incorporating these into the university’s master plan for the next two decades.
Students also ought to be represented in the university’s spending decisions regarding its facilities and plans for new construction projects, even if such involvement is limited to an oversight role. As the members of the Georgetown community who are arguably most affected by the university’s housing upkeep, they should be permitted to be involved in discussions about the university’s capital allocations.
Though instances of the university’s dilapidated infrastructure may accumulate hundreds of likes and comments online, a far more productive means of communication would be opening the conversation up to students. Just as the university remains committed to nourishing the academic and intellectual life of its students in the classroom, it should promote their health and safety within their dorms.