Dear Georgetown University,
You are accountable for all the suffering caused by your facilities and management system.
As an international student, when I first visited Georgetown, I was mesmerized by the campus and could not wait to live here. Given the university’s reputation as an elite institution, I expected to live in good conditions with acceptable maintenance services.
I had no idea how wrong I was. Three years in, my experience with Georgetown housing has been nothing but disastrous.
During my freshman year, I became accustomed to seeing rats and insects in my Village C West dorm. As if rats were not enough, at the end of my freshman year, I was diagnosed with a fungal skin infection disseminating through mold, which was definitely prevalent in our dorm room. For two months, I used prescribed medicine, feeling disgusted by every inch of my own body. When my body finally healed, I was around 15 pounds lighter than I had been just two months prior.
Dear Georgetown, you are accountable for my infectious disease and all the hazardous situations caused by the mold in your dorm rooms.
Regardless of these disturbances with facilities, a classmate once told me, it is still manageable to live in Georgetown, as no rat or broken door handle can actually “kill me.” He was correct, a leaking sink would not kill me.
What did have potential to kill me, however, was a gas leak.
During Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year, my roommate and I stayed in Washington, D.C., along with some other residents in our Alumni Square tower. After a few people started to smell gas, the issue was immediately reported. Facilities briefly examined the room, concluding nothing was wrong. My roommate had been sleeping in the room with a gas leak for three days before the D.C. fire department intervened and told us to immediately evacuate the building the night before classes began. Georgetown facilities failed to ensure our safety, so the D.C. fire department had to.
Once we evacuated the building, I immediately called Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Services after my roommate said that she was feeling dizzy, probably due to prolonged exposure to the leak. GERMS told us that two other students had already been hospitalized for the same gas leak, one of whom had severe asthma issues. As they gave my roommate oxygen, I prayed to God she would be okay.
Dear Georgetown, you are accountable for the toxic gas they breathed in for three full days.
At the beginning of this year, I expected a better experience, as I would be living in a renovated Alumni Square apartment. However, this school year again proved to be an unpleasant one. This past week, 85 students were relocated to the Georgetown University Hotel as a result of roof damage, and I was one of them. The issue had been known for a while, yet students were abruptly notified last Monday and given only four days to pack in the middle of midterm season.
The lack of transparency about this relocation must be addressed. Students were moved because of an “abundance of caution,” according to an email from the university; however, the fact that students were not even given the weekend to relocate suggests a more serious issue. As students whose lives were potentially threatened under these collapsing roofs, we are entitled to know the full extent of the danger we were faced with.
Dear Georgetown, you are accountable for all the stress and anxiety caused by this situation. And no, a refund and free ice cream does not make up for the abrupt move. Address this lack of transparency and release the engineering report, immediately.
The suffering of the students can no longer be ignored. Address the ongoing neglect of university infrastructure, now. You eagerly advertised your Jesuit values on brochures and campus tours, but they are nowhere to be seen in the way you manage your housing and facilities. If you claim to abide by the principle of cura personalis, substantiate it with appropriate action.
No student should ever sleep in hazardous conditions at an institution for which they pay more than $70,000 per year to attend. If you mandate that students live on campus for three full years, then you are responsible for providing on-campus residences that are acceptable to live in.
Humeyra Selcukbiricik is a junior in the College. Of Mice and Mold is a series of student and alumni letters highlighting issues within Georgetown University’s housing and maintenance.