On the Wednesday before he had to vacate his top-floor Village B apartment, Suraag Srinivas (SFS ’20) had some friends over. He described it as a celebration soured by the knowledge that it would be his last in that apartment. Now, Srinivas lives in the hotel and conference center which makes up part of the Leavey Center.
A problem with Village B’s rafters forced administrators to relocate all 85 occupants of the top-floor apartments. Matias Burdman (COL ’21), one of the two Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners who represent Georgetown’s campus, said that administrators explained the issue at a university master planning meeting. A fire retardant material used in Village B’s supports has weakened the building’s rafters. Now, they may be unable to support the roof and precipitation which accumulates on it.
The university hired several architecture and engineering firms to inspect Village B, Burdman said. Although only some of them found a systemic problem in the roof, the university decided to move all 85 students.
Inspections of similarly constructed buildings on campus did not reveal additional problems, according to a university statement.
Former Village B residents now occupy the entire second and third floors of the hotel. Roommates have been kept together, albeit in new, double-occupancy rooms, each with two queen beds, only one desk, and no kitchen or living room.
But Srinivas was appreciative of the Georgetown administration’s efforts to compensate him. On a recent weeknight, the former Village B resident found a plastic bag with two chocolate chip cookies inside waiting for him by his door. University staff had left one in front of each student room in the hotel.
A vegetarian, Srinivas seemed most concerned about the fact that he no longer had easy access to a kitchen. The university gave him a choice between a top-tier meal plan and about $3,000 Flex dollars, which he can only spend on food at specific locations on campus. He took the Flex dollars, which he said amount to $46 per day. Even though it’s more funds than he will likely spend, vegetarian options are not abundant on Georgetown’s campus.
“I want a kitchen, not cookies,” he said. Still, he added that university administrators were “trying their hardest.” He was satisfied that the process—given the circumstances—was fair.
Srinivas also accepted the university’s offer to store some of his possessions for the remainder of the semester. He is storing some of his clothes, a minifridge, and a wooden chest that would not fit in the hotel room. He packed the things he needed for the semester in boxes for university-hired movers to bring from his apartment to the hotel. He had not yet unpacked all of the boxes, but his and his roommate’s things already filled the hotel room.
Burdman said that university administrators had found that the hotel’s electrical system could not support a refrigerator and microwave in each hotel room. In a fitness room turned common room on the hotel’s second floor, staff have installed a refrigerator and two microwaves alongside a pair of single-serve coffee makers.
For Thomas Peacock (COL ’20), evacuating a Village B apartment is nothing new. He and his roommates were forced out during the fall semester because their living room ceiling was gradually caving in. After several work requests and more than one visit by university facilities employees, the students’ calls to GUPD spurred the university to act.
“That night, I slept in my sister’s Darnall room on her floor, and my other roommates scattered around,” Peacock said. “Then they put us in the Key Bridge Marriott. That weekend, we were moved into a Vil A apartment.”
Peacock said that the university had refunded both semesters’ housing costs and that university chief operating officer Geoffrey Chatas had called his parents to inform them of the situation. Peacock said he will use some of the refunded money to pay for a prep course for the MCAT, the standardized test for medical school admissions.
“Once the COO got involved, it was pretty smooth,” he said. “It was pretty clear that he was sympathetic about the situation.”
Peacock said that Chatas called his family again before he learned he would have to move out this semester. He laughed as he recounted the phone conversation he had with his mother in which she told him that he would have to leave his apartment.
“We’ve moved once,” he told her. “We can move again. It’s not a big deal.”
Just as they did for Peacock and his roommates in the fall, the university has refunded students’ housing costs for this semester. They also waived the residency requirement and cancellation fee for students who have decided to move off campus instead of into the hotel.
The Office of Financial Services, which oversees financial aid, will make sure that the refunded fees do not cause students’ financial aid packages to decrease. University spokesperson Rachel Pugh said they would “navigate any adjustments” that may be necessary for each student and financial circumstance.
Inside the hotel, students’ bed linens are cleaned for them. A cart, like the ones available for move-in days, holds Wash Cycle laundry bags full of students’ clothes. Wash Cycle, a third-party laundry service, will wash and fold the clothes twice a week at no cost to students.
In the meantime, the university will begin work on Village B. The fixes Peacock’s apartment saw last semester will be performed across all the top-floor Village B units. All the units—including those unaffected by the roof problems—will be upgraded to match the renovations the university has performed on 30 units over the past few summers.
On Feb. 14, the university announced a $75 million fund to address deferred maintenance. Burdman said that the fund was independent of the Village B roof problems and that the work done to the roof would be financed by other means. Peacock said he is glad the university is being proactive about moving students.
“It’s good that they’re taking care of it before something bad happens as opposed to sitting back and waiting for something bad to happen—which it almost did with us.”
This post has been updated.