The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate and Executive leadership met with Georgetown administrators earlier this week to discuss housing and dining options for students remaining on campus over winter break.
International students can now apply to remain in their on-campus residences during winter break, which lasts from Dec. 17, 2021 to Jan. 11, 2022, according to an email obtained by The Hoya from the Office of Residential Living to international students with J1 or F1 visas. The meeting between GUSA and administrators was held to secure housing for international students over the break, according Vice Speaker of the GUSA Senate Rowlie Flores (COL ’22).
The decision came after international students raised concerns about facing housing insecurity during the break, as many are unable to travel home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any individual with demonstrated need should be allowed to stay on campus over winter break, according to Yichu Huang (SFS ’23), an international student who circulated a petition last month demanding winter housing for international students. The petition has garnered 59 signatures.
“I think they should really re-define what international means in this case,” Huang said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I know people who have American passports but are essentially international students because they have lived abroad for all of their lives. Also, if international students are allowed to stay, anyone who demonstrates a housing need should be able to stay, as maintenance costs won’t increase dramatically.”
International students who wish to stay on campus during the break must apply for housing, which will only be available for the full break period and will cost $1,560, by Dec. 8 according to the email.
Students will be housed in the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center as utilities will be shut down in residence halls during the break, according to GUSA President Nile Blass (COL ’22).
Huang, an international student who will apply for on-campus housing, said that this new opportunity to stay on campus is beneficial for those facing uncertainty about their winter break plans.
“Before, when I spoke to some international students, they were making plans, because they weren’t sure that the school would allow them to stay, basically. But now, if we are allowed to stay, and a lot of them, including me, I would just stay in D.C.,” Huang said.
International students who receive winter break housing will not be provided with financial aid, according to acting GUSA Vice President Thomas Leonard (COL ’23), who said that GUSA is working to develop a stipend to help students pay.
“We definitely want to make sure that any students who need financial support over the break are able to get it, maybe through a stipend that’s offered by the university in a way that doesn’t impact financial aid,” Leonard said in an interview with The Hoya.
Students in the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), which provides support for first generation and low income students, in accordance with previous years’ policy, will also be allowed to stay on campus during winter break at no cost, according to a university spokesperson.
“These students may stay in the university hotel during the break, and the cost will be covered,” the university spokesperson said in an email to The Hoya.
GUSA also plans to address issues of food insecurity over break, which stemmed from concerns students expressed in regards to dining hall operating policies over Thanksgiving break, according to Leonard.
“We were most concerned about the fact that Epi’s was the only location operating and Leo’s was closed, which created a lot of financial burden and issues regarding dietary restriction for students. I think what happened with Thanksgiving break is that there wasn’t enough turnaround to address those issues, and we want to get the ball rolling ahead of winter break,” Leonard said in an interview with The Hoya.
While Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall and other dining locations on campus will be closed for winter break, with the exception of Epicurean, students who remain on campus will have access to kitchens and laundry facilities in Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Hall, according to a university spokesperson.
“GSP will host a few events for students who stay during the break, including a holiday dinner and a meet-and-greet of other students who will be on campus over the break,” the spokesperson wrote.
Dining hall operation plans for winter break and Thanksgiving break are consistent with past years, according to the spokesperson.
Students who anticipate challenges to their food, financial, or housing situation over winter break should contact GUSA, according to Leonard.
“GUSA is always there as an advocate for students, and it’s very important that we have tangible student concerns that we can use as testimonies,” Leonard said. “In a lot of the conversations that we have with the administration, we’re speaking about problems in a very abstract sense, although the problems are very real and tangible for students.”
The change in the housing situation for international students comes as a relief, according to Huang.
“We sent the petition, but we never received any confirmation from the school side,” Huang said. “So I felt like no one really cared about it, but then it seemed like they were talking; they were doing something and talking about this all the time. And I’m happy to know that I have a place to stay for winter break.”
This article was updated on Dec. 3 to clarify Epicurean’s winter break status.