Health and safety issues in Georgetown University student housing go unaddressed by the Office of Planning and Facilities Management for far too long. To address the deplorable conditions of its facilities, Georgetown must hire more facilities and maintenance employees.
Mice and rats bring the risk of disease into dorm rooms; mold on ceilings and walls exacerbates allergies; and frequent elevator breakdowns make the campus inaccessible for many students with disabilities. The frequency of these problems is alarming, but Georgetown can and should take immediate steps to ensure students can live more safely and comfortably.
The pervasiveness of maintenance issues is hardly a revelation to the Georgetown community; every student seems to have a story about a poorly addressed housing problem.
“Last year, it took 30 calls over the course of five months to get [facilities] to remove the black mold in my room that I was highly allergic to,” Katarina Stough (COL ’19) wrote to The Hoya.
“In my Village B apartment last year, facilities came to take measurements since it was one of the apartments being renovated and they broke our window so that it couldn’t open and they would not fix it,” Meghan Vinnicombe (MSB ’18) wrote to The Hoya.
Students deserve to be safe, comfortable and healthy in their living spaces. While the existing facilities staff works hard to resolve as many issues as they can, the department would be well-served by resolving understaffing problems.
The existing facilities and maintenance workforce has clearly been outmatched by housing issues and is thus unable to address every grievance, no matter how severe the issues may be.
With more facilities and maintenance workers, Georgetown would be able to address these fixable problems in a reasonable amount of time.
As Harrison Hurt (SFS ’20), an opinion assistant for The Hoya, argued in his March op-ed, Georgetown’s maintenance issues are largely a result of poorly prioritized funding.
“University fundraising tends to highlight new construction while avoiding student maintenance needs,” Hurt wrote.
By prioritizing the construction of new buildings, Georgetown has neglected much of its inadequate infrastructure. To compensate for lost time, the university must follow through on its recent promise to start prioritizing renovations and maintenance.
In April 2016, Georgetown contracted architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross to determine a path forward for immediate and long-term housing renovations. Since then, Georgetown’s maintenance efforts have included a major renovation to O’Donovan Hall and changes to Alumni Square, Village A and Village C East such as new windows, furniture and lighting.
These changes are a helpful step, but insufficient in the pursuit of clean and safe housing for students. As Georgetown looks toward major renovations for student living, it must recognize its current inadequacies by hiring more maintenance and facilities workers to address existing and prevalent problems.
Peer universities have recognized the importance of ensuring their student housing is safe and clean. For example, The George Washington University’s 2014-15 Annual Report cites six student dormitories renovated in the previous year.
By contrast, Georgetown has a transparency problem regarding facilities issues.
“Annual maintenance reports are noticeably absent from Georgetown’s public releases,” Hurt wrote.
As Hurt noted, Georgetown’s most recent financial plan, which outlines specific spending from 2019-22, commits more spending to maintenance priorities than its predecessor. The university must follow through with this plan and include the hiring of more maintenance workers along with any other facilities priorities.
In October 2016, The Hoya’s editorial board implored Georgetown to hire more maintenance workers. The university has since failed to address the understaffing problem outlined by the editorial board.
Today, this editorial board returns to the concerns of its predecessors because the university continues to look the other way as many of its students are subjected to unsafe and unhealthy living conditions.
A top-tier university has no excuse for inadequate housing.
To meet the reasonable living needs of its students, Georgetown must hire more maintenance staff and further prioritize renovations of existing facilities.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is 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.