Like clockwork, every Monday through Saturday at 7 a.m., I am woken up by the deafening sounds of drills, trucks and bulldozers from the MedStar construction project happening right outside my second-floor window in Darnall Hall — and those are the lucky days. Several times throughout the semester, the construction has occurred in the middle of the night, making a normal night’s sleep almost impossible.
While every residence hall seems to suffer from problems like mold and leaks, the constant disruptions due to the construction project have made Darnall particularly unlivable this year.
Georgetown University has an obligation to provide compensation to Darnall residents for enduring these conditions. Georgetown should give each Darnall resident a 0.5 housing-point boost for the 2019-20 school year to compensate them for a year’s worth of disruptions.
The construction often happens outside of reasonable hours. Washington, D.C. construction law states that construction without special permits must occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Yet this statute has been violated multiple times.
Most recently, construction commenced at 3:33 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, even though the university did not give students due notice. On Thursday, Sept. 11, students spotted bulldozers working at 11:36 p.m., which continued into Friday, Sept. 12, at 1:13 a.m. and 3 a.m., when students reported construction work being done in the hall GroupMe.
Even if the construction company has legal permits to work outside the typical timeframe, Georgetown should inform Darnall residents prior to the nighttime work. Further, any work at these hours is inherently disruptive, regardless of legality or prior notice.
In its defense, the Office of Residential Living claimed in a meeting last week that the construction company did not notify it in advance about the work on Sept. 11 and 12. However, I continued to be woken up by the construction for the following few days after this incident, indicating a continued lack of communication between Georgetown and the contractors responsible for keeping students awake.
Even construction during the normal 7-to-7 window of operation is a severe impediment to Darnall residents’ daily lives. Being woken up at 7 a.m. six days a week severely limits the amount of sleep students are able to get, which has disastrous health and educational consequences. The mere fact of the construction is enough to warrant compensation because it makes a good night’s sleep or a full day’s work nearly impossible for anyone in Darnall.
When Darnall residents were first informed about the construction project — just four days before move-in day — Residential Living promised there would be “minimal noise from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, and 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. on Saturdays.” This claim has also been consistently false. The sounds of drilling and tractors backing up start reliably within the first few minutes of the construction beginning at 7 a.m.
All the university has done to remedy these conditions is host an ice cream social to discuss the construction and provide free earplugs and noise machines to affected students. These measures are wholly insufficient to address the issue. The construction can be heard even with the earplugs and noise machines; an ice cream social does not make up for an entire year of little sleep. Even if earplugs and noise machines effectively drowned out the noise, the university should recognize the level of inconvenience Darnall students face regularly and award corresponding compensation.
Darnall residents paid just as much as freshmen in other dorms yet received compromised housing in return. Georgetown has a duty to provide equitable housing conditions to all its students, which it has failed to do in Darnall. Since the university has limited flexibility in what it can do about the construction project, it should offer each resident of Darnall an additional 0.5 housing points for the 2019-20 school year to make up for the insufferable sleeping conditions.
An additional 0.5 housing-point boost would ensure Darnall residents higher housing points relative to other rising sophomores, but upperclassmen — who receive one or two baseline housing points based on their year — would be entirely unaffected by this proposal.
The university might say this proposal could be perceived as unfair to students living in other residence halls, as a Residential Living official argued to me in a meeting last week. However, other students have not faced the same level and consistency of disturbance as students in Darnall have as a direct result of being adjacent to a large-scale construction project. While other dorms may have problems that arise during the year, Darnall residents must face these same problems and the construction every single day.
Georgetown has not only a duty to correct for the violations that have occurred and the daily strains construction places on students but also an obligation to compensate Darnall students who have paid an equal amount for housing and have received severely subpar conditions. By giving Darnall students additional housing points, Georgetown can begin to fully address the impediments Darnall students face on a daily basis.
Elisa McCartin is a freshman in the College.