More than seven months after the University responded to mold infestations last semester, this academic year is set to end much the same way it began. At the Aston and other halls of residence, students still face persistent maintenance issues and problems with facilities.
Student bedrooms are their safe spaces, but reports of flooding, leaks, mold, water cuts, elevator breakdowns, security issues, and backlogged maintenance show just how great they really are. dangerous. The University must respond to these concerns more quickly and transparently and offer more than token compensation to students facing emotional and financial stress related to the state of their residences. Until he does, the students’ persistent self-representation may put pressure on GW to meet one of their most vital needs – a safe and secure living space.
GW has renovated nearly a dozen of its decades-old freshman and upper-class residence halls over the past decade. The COVID-19 pandemic and the continued search for a permanent university president have halted and delayed GW’s strategic plan, respectively. In the meantime, dramatic renovations to mid-century apartment buildings have allowed the University to continue to house thousands of students in the nation’s capital.
These expensive renovations make for spectacular tape-cutting, but preventative maintenance and behind-the-scenes emergency repairs are just as vital. The University’s three-year, $22 million plan to improve campus accessibility is just beginning to scratch the surface of an overall $300 million deferred maintenance backlog — for comparison, the ongoing overhaul of Thurston Hall cost $85 million. It is unclear which maintenance projects the University has postponed and how long it has postponed them.
Addressing the general condition of student residences seems even less of a priority than the already deferred maintenance. And while the University’s 2022 budget provides more than $129 million for capital expenditures, which include facility upgrades to address this maintenance backlog, the University hasn’t specified how it assesses the issues. the most urgent.
Perpetually deferred maintenance can pose a real threat to student safety. Perhaps the problems facing dormitories are so severe that preventative action is simply no longer possible, but officials are surely aware that such problems exist.
While the context of the pandemic and the challenges of returning to campus explained GW’s inability to properly inspect its buildings for mold at the start of last semester, that is certainly no excuse for the current problems. Responding sporadically to mold, poor ventilation, burst pipes, HVAC problems, blocked elevators, and dozens of other malfunctions days or weeks after they appear is hardly fair to people. students and other people residing on campus, especially when the University is aware of the inconvenience and even danger they represent.
Across campus, the failure of officials to address a range of maintenance and facility issues means that residence halls can be an unwelcoming and unsafe environment rather than a unique, comfortable and safe residential experience. . GW’s failure to address these concerns caught the attention of DC officials, who fined the University $1,000 in 2019 for sewage leaks in the GG building.
The University understands that maintenance issues and subsequent attempts to resolve them can significantly disrupt students’ lives, work, and academic schedules and force them to move between residence halls and off-campus accommodation with little or no access to their personal items. In 2018, GW reimbursed residents of Guthridge Hall for an undetermined amount after damage to pipes, flooding and ceiling leaks temporarily displaced students living there. Compensation is a means of redress, but it must be more than a token gesture – earlier this month the University has so far publicly offered only $250 to residents of The Aston for trouble similar.
If GW is unable to provide its students with truly livable conditions, it should reimburse them an amount more representative of their total housing costs which can reach upwards of $16,000 per year. The University’s requirement that students must live on campus for at least three years establishes an obligation to provide students with affordable, quality housing. If long-term decay prevents students from living in safe and secure conditions, GW should grant exemptions allowing them to live off-campus. It is not fair to charge residents thousands of dollars a year to live in poor conditions, and this low cost-benefit ratio will determine the University’s reputation with current and prospective students.
Until GW is able to address these issues, the onus of reporting, prosecuting, and resolving them unfairly falls on the student population. Yet their perseverance appears to have paid off – although insufficient, authorities only granted Aston residents the $250 housing credit after dozens of students used an email template to inform them of collective and individual problems in the building. While asking GW en masse to address these concerns shouldn’t be necessary, and their response should be more than a $250 credit, this is an effective strategy in the absence of communication. clear and effective action on the part of the University.
Officials have been tight-lipped about the reasons for and their response to these facility issues, but leaks, breakdowns and flooding are detrimental to student lives and livelihoods. Further acknowledgment of this crisis and more transparent and effective communication would address student concerns pending actual repair work.
Every student deserves access to quality, safe and affordable housing. While there may not be a quick fix to long-standing maintenance and facility issues, one thing is clear – to enjoy the benefits of student life at GW, students need to feel at home. comfortable living there.
The Editorial Board is made up of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the Newsroom. This week’s Staff Editorial was written by Opinion Editor Ethan Benn and Opinion Editor Riley Goodfellow, based on discussions with Culture Editor Anna Boone, Sports Editor Nuria Diaz, Editor-in-Chief Grace Miller and editor Jaden DiMauro.