As spring break approaches, Georgetown University students have the option to remain on campus, return home or travel. Students living on campus do not have this choice over winter break, however, when they are required to leave their residences. But some students struggle to find a safe place to go.
With the exception of those living in university-owned townhouses, students must vacate campus residences over winter break for the maintenance and deep cleaning of these spaces, according to a university spokesperson in an email to The Hoya. This policy presumes all students have a safe alternative, when in reality many students face potentially threatening home situations.
To support the physical and mental well-being of all students, the university should permit students to remain on campus over winter break if they are uncomfortable returning home for any reason.
One junior in the College who identifies as queer expressed a need for winter break housing in an email to The Hoya. Because returning to their home in New England would exacerbate their PTSD, this student has struggled to make alternative plans when Georgetown requires them to vacate their residence.
“Personally, it would greatly help my mental health to know that I will have safe, constant housing. I’ve been lucky to have older friends who live off-campus and were willing to let me stay in their apartments while they went home, but to be frank it was a bit humiliating to have to explain why I wasn’t going home,” the student wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Georgetown should allow any student to request to remain in their residence over break and, if the university feels a need to have the residences vacated for a few days while they are cleaned, Georgetown should offer the students on campus a place to stay for that short period. It is well worth reworking a maintenance schedule to ensure that students do not have to return to potentially threatening home situations.
Incoming Georgetown University Student Association Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ’21) brought attention to the need for winter break housing during his recent executive campaign.
“The idea of staying on campus started off as a way for supporting our queer students on campus,” Badger wrote in a message to The Hoya. “For some of us, going home over winter break is either dangerous to our physical safety or isn’t an environment which is best for our emotional well being. My first year at Georgetown, I was scared to go home after coming out to my parents. I didn’t want to face them or the inevitable questions, fights, and both intentional and unintentional insults that would ensue,” Badger wrote.
This experience inspired Badger to push for winter break campus housing for all students who need it, according to Badger.
Georgetown already allows some students with demonstrated financial need to stay in the Georgetown University Hotel over winter break, according to a university spokesperson. This program exists mainly for students in the Georgetown Scholars Program, a campus organization that provides support, advising, networking and mentoring to over 600 Georgetown undergraduates, most of whom are first-generation college students or come from low-income family backgrounds.
This program for students with demonstrated financial need is important and should continue to operate without change. However, Georgetown should also create an option for students who request winter break housing for any other reason, including unsafe home situations. It is well worth any financial cost for Georgetown to protect students’ safety.
Other Washington, D.C. institutions such as American University and The George Washington University already provide online forms through which students may request to remain in campus residences during break. Georgetown should catch up to its peers by offering winter break housing to any student who requests it.
No student should be required to go somewhere where their physical or mental health is threatened. The university should begin planning immediately to establish a program for any student to remain on campus during winter break for the 2020-21 school year — students’ well-being depends on it.
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.