Floors four and five of the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center function as housing accommodations for approximately 100 students this semester. There is a residential assistant, a community director, and even a converted suite with couches and a television acting as a common room.
An overwhelming desire to be on campus following three semesters of virtual learning, fewer students seeking to study abroad this semester, and the need to quarantine those infected with COVID-19 has resulted in a demand for beds that has left Georgetown’s Office of Residential Living with no choice but to make major adjustments.
This is not the first time Hoyas have roamed the halls of the hotel. A similar instance occurred in 2015, while construction was being completed on Arrupe Hall, and again in 2019 when structural concerns about Alumni Square (Village B) prompted the temporary relocation of approximately 85 students.
Claire Cheng (SFS ‘24) is living in a double room in the hotel, which includes two full beds, a desk, fridge, and microwave. Upon discovering Georgetown’s untraditional residential solution, she contacted the office multiple times in an attempt to switch out, to no avail. “I was pretty disappointed and worried about how it would affect my living situation and social life on campus,” Cheng said.
Students living in the hotel found out just like any other residential assignment. Just instead of “Darnall” or “Village C West,” the page read: “GU Hotel.”
Andrew Arnold (SFS ‘24) was confused. “I refreshed the housing page to make sure I was seeing things right, and when it still showed up as ‘GU Hotel,’ it finally set in that I’d be spending my first year on campus in a hotel.”
Students residing in the hotel are paying the same amount as dorms in the Southwest Quadrangle, a double room coming in at $5,662 this semester.
The hotel’s Hoyas have reported benefits and drawbacks to their unusual accommodations. “It’s been a mixed bag,” Arnold said. “The rooms are much bigger than traditional dorms, but it’s not set up to be a studying environment. There’s only one desk in a double to share between roommates and a lack of storage space.”
“The biggest issue is we do not have our own laundry room, so we have to haul our laundry bags across to Arrupe or Henle,” he added.
That being said, there are several advantages not found in the typical dorm room. “We have larger beds [full size instead of twin], we have our own bathrooms, we have housekeeping that cleans our rooms a few times a week, we have TVs and microwaves and mini-fridges, and we have easy access to Leavey. The only real downside is that there’s not much of ‘dorm life,’” Cheng added.
“One of the big issues—that luckily got resolved last week—was that Residential Living took away our one and only common room without any explanation,” Cheng said at the time she was interviewed by the Voice. “Hotel residents complained enough that they eventually brought it back, but it was very weird how they can just take away certain aspects of our ‘dorm.’”
Even without the traditionally cultivated dorm life, those in the hotel have found ways to connect. “I’ve been able to forge close bonds with others living in the hotel because we’re all sort of in the same boat of being on the ‘fringes’ of campus,” Arnold said.
Despite the residential assistants and community directors, most of the day-to-day operations are not dictated by the Office of Residential Living. If there is a complaint or concern, the hotel staff is the only option available to the students.
In addition to the unusual living conditions, many unprecedented fire alarm evacuations since Sep. 1 have frustrated student residents. “We never get told when they’re drills or just testing the fire alarms or if there’s actually a fire,” Cheng said. One week, according to Cheng, fire alarms were ringing off and on from roughly 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. “No warning, no notice, no explanation,” she said. Cheng further explained that the residential assistant is often in the dark about these situations as well, forcing students to evacuate each time for fear the threat might be legitimate.
When these alarms go off, the students have to travel outside through the staircase meant for COVID-19 positive students, since the elevators that typically separate the two groups shut off when the fire alarm is activated. “There’s a risk of getting COVID just by adhering to a fire alarm,” Cheng said.
Two unannounced rounds of fire alarms sparked students to finally send a letter with student testimonies to the Office of Residential Living, Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, and Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) on Sept. 25.
“Besides sheer annoyance, these alarm incidents have disrupted my health, focus, and work output. Being forced to wake up at four in the morning because of a false alarm is frankly a terrible way to start the day; the confusion, the grating sounds, the opaqueness of authorities have all severely reduced my confidence in Georgetown’s incident response and relative satisfaction with my housing situation,” Akil Cole (COL ‘24) wrote in the letter.
The letter called for the release of a substantive report of the incidents, the creation of clear communication protocol or active use of tools like HoyAlert, and the release of a statement and an investigation into the cause of the fire alarm incidents.
“Being able to communicate any false alarms or tests more quickly will help eliminate associated risks with exposure to COVID-19 as we wait near our residences, with uninfected residents unsure as to who does and does not have COVID-19 on top of the stress from having to evacuate,” Justin Dean English (COL ’24) wrote in the letter. “In addition, students becoming desensitized is becoming more and more of an issue.”
As of now, the future of these students’ housing accommodations remains unknown. “We are working closely with [students living in the hotel] to move them into residence halls, apartments, and townhouses when possible,” a university spokesperson wrote in an email to the Voice.
Several students have received emails from the Office of Residential Living announcing when there are vacancies in other dorms, but the vast majority of students have not been conducted.
“We don’t know if we’re moving. If we are moving, we don’t know when or where. We don’t know if we keep the same roommates or floormates,” said Cheng. “Overall, I’m really enjoying my time in the hotel and the friends I’ve made there, but with the uncertainty over moving as well as the general lack of communication from Georgetown, I can’t help but feel that us hotel residents are in a somewhat delicate position.”
Andrew Arnold (SFS ‘24) is currently a staff contributor for the Voice.