Faulty fire alarms. Disruptive, clamorous construction. Severe miscommunication from university officials to endangered student residents.
Georgetown has proven unwilling or unable to address a wide array of housing and maintenance problems, many of which detract from residents’ health and safety.
While these problems are not new to the Georgetown community, the degree to which they have interfered with the lives of students across campus merits not only an earnest effort to address the issues, but also compensation for affected students.
For nearly three hours late on the night of Oct. 9, over an hour on the night of Oct. 10 and during the afternoon of Oct. 16, residents of Nevils were evacuated when the residential hall’s fire alarms went off, disrupting residents and fostering frustration with the university. None of these alarms were scheduled and none were in response to an actual emergency.
Faulty fire alarms are hardly a new or surprising problem for Georgetown. In the Southwest Quad, five fire alarms were unnecessarily set off because of electrical issues between Jan. 19 and Feb. 16.
The university is fully aware that fire alarms have caused problems for students before but has evidently failed to eradicate faulty alert systems from campus.
The fire alarms in Nevils had substantial negative effects on residents.
“Aside from the safety concerns, the alarms that occurred over two consecutive nights were a huge disruption to many of us,” Nevils resident Charlotte Hine (MSB ’19) said. “I had a job interview the following day. Others had early classes, midterms and work commitments. One of my roommates had to attend her grandfather’s funeral later that morning.”
The university did not explain the faulty fire alarms to students until an Oct. 25 email sent to residents of East Campus, which blamed the problems on an “electronic circuit switch fail.” This kind of communication must be clear and immediate, but for two weeks, students had no indication that the problem was being addressed.
The university claims to have attempted sending an email to East Campus residents Oct. 11 and is “investigating why residents did not receive the initial message,” according to an email to The Hoya from university director of strategic communications Rachel Pugh.
Nevils residents, like all other students who live on campus, pay Georgetown in exchange for shelter. The university failed to hold up its end of the deal: One fire alarm would have been a frustration; repeated instances imply an undue delay in addressing a clear problem.
Georgetown should refund those students for the two nights of Oct. 9 and 10, when the fire alarms disrupted students’ sleep. These funds, which would amount to just over $100, could even be returned through Georgetown services, like money for printing and laundry or GOCard credit more generally.
Students in other residence halls have faced similar intrusive problems throughout the semester.
Residents of freshman residence Darnall Hall have battled late-night construction consistently since their August move-in, as explained by Elisa McCartin in her Oct. 25 op-ed.
In this case, Georgetown has again failed to supply students with the fundamental basics of housing: a place to sleep soundly. For the consistent harm done to their health — and the university’s apparent unwillingness to ensure its contractors respect the sleep schedules of students — McCartin’s request of better odds in the housing lottery for Darnall residents as they find their sophomore homes is certainly justified.
Just as Nevils residents deserve to see their housing payment equalized with the service they were provided, those living in Darnall can fairly expect a balance of their future housing with the poor conditions they were slotted into this year.
The consequences of inadequate housing carry beyond short-term health and safety: Conversations with students revealed many also lost trust in the university system supposedly designed to keep them safe.
“I’m scared that if there is ever a fire, people are going to die,” Marshall Webb (SFS ’20) said.
Georgetown failed Nevils residents by failing to check the efficacy of their fire alarms, and Darnall residents by failing to enforce restrictions on when construction can occur. These problems have put students health in danger, and both merit compensation from the university for the subpar housing accommodations offered to them this year.
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.