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.

6 Comments

  1. If for no other reason – and there are plenty of other good reasons – the management needs to wake up to the fact that eventually the cost of the continued bad PR outweighs the cost savings of skimping on student housing.

    Remember the scene from The Social Network, where the president of Harvard says “this office doesn’t deal with petty larceny” – this is not DeGioia’s fault. This is the fault of the administrators in Facilities Management and Operations that are unknown to most of us and accountable to no one. Find them, look up their names, and write to them (real mail) – that is ultimately much more useful then public diatribe, even if it’s real and credible.

  2. First I want to commend Humeyra for writing this open letter. It takes courage to stand up to the authorities even in cases like this where Instagram accounts like “Georgetown Hotmess” make the extent of the dreadful facilities at Georgetown clear to anyone who wants to check it out. A shout out to whoever runs that account too!
    As a parent I am going to take issue with Hoya ’18. The buck stops at the top as far as I am concerned.
    This student has variously developed a severe fungal infection causing them to lose 15 lbs after a course of medication, survived a gas leak that caused an evacuation and hospitalised 2 other students, and has now been evacuated again in a scare over a roof that was deemed so unsafe that the university moved students out within days.
    My own daughter was one of the students evacuated. She lived in Village C in her freshman year in a room so grotty that my husband was thoroughly upset when he saw it on moving her in. We have all heard stories of friends made ill by the living conditions, seen the videos of rats on campus, of students picking live mice out of traps and the many floods with students variously trying to barricade their rooms from the water or gamely donning swimsuits and pretending to swim down the flooded landing (they are plucky those Hoyas!!!!!).
    If this isn’t a crisis situation what is?
    My husband and I have long been lamenting the impact the accommodation has had on our daughter’s college experience and taking comfort in the fact that she can live off campus next year.
    But – God forbid – will it take a fatality because of a gas leak or a ceiling collapse (yes, you can see those on Hotmess too) to get the university to do the decent thing and tackle the chronic state of the student accommodation?
    It is the responsibility of the Board of Directors to ensure the welfare of all students. It is their responsibility to uphold the Jesuit value of “Cura Personalis”. It is their responsibility – as Humeyra writes – to address the neglect of the infrastructure and make sure every student can sleep safe at night.
    It is up to the wider community – parents, alumni, donors – to insist that the Board shoulders this responsibility.

  3. Adam Blackwood B83, P16, 19, 22 says:

    This is, and has been for years, an utter disgrace and embarrassment for this otherwise incredibly highly regarded University.
    As we embark on our next multi- Billion dollar capital campaign, can we earmark the necessary amounts to remedy this campus-wide?
    #ForInfestationsBeGone

  4. I am the mom of a current Georgetown freshman. I am in full support of the comments Humeyra wrote in her letter. If you hire qualified, conscientious, and caring people to address the housing issues on campus, as with anything, change and progress will come. These talented students do not deserve this! And please work harder on the rat problem. My daughter runs in fear at night from the library to her dorm. If you have to remove the bushes under which the rats have formed hundreds of burrows and fill the area in with cement, then do so. The rat problem along with the housing issues on campus are inexcusable. How can you charge so much for students to live under these conditions. Cura personalis? Dear Georgetown, your reputation will be affected given all the negative comments on the internet. Find better solutions to solve the problems that persist or are recurring!!

  5. Nancy Ann Cave says:

    Make the air quality reports from Eastern Research Group conducted in December of 2018 public – testing in Darnall and Village C West.

    Allow students to live off campus until you ensure that our children are breathing clean air. We are paying $44 a night for housing that is making our children sick.

    For the health of our children!

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/09/990910080344.htm
    https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/awareness-week.html

  6. RG Hoya 2021 says:

    I swear I wait for fellow students to leave the library in hopes that they scare off the rats before I walk from the library down to VCE.

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