Student vows to continue legal battle against GW

A GW student who unsuccessfully sued President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg over health code violations in his dorm room said he plans to continue with his case even though it was dismissed.

The violations, which were identified by a city agency last semester and have since been fixed, included cracks in the ceiling and walls, defective doors, loose paint, broken floor tiles and missing caulking in his 2109 F St. room. Mike Strong, a senior, also unsuccessfully sued Tom Dwyer, managing director for Property Management, and Walter Gray, director of Facilities Management. He was seeking damages of $4.5 million.

On Aug. 30, Strong went to the basement of his dorm to do laundry and placed a call to Fix-It upon finding roaches there. He then left his dorm for two days, and returned to find a padlock on his door.

After being locked out of his room for hours, he said he was finally allowed back in, and found that the room had been left a mess and was mistakenly fumigated.

Strong said that inside the room was a sign warning that it had been treated for roaches. He said there was no indication that he was in any danger because he did not smell poison. A few days later, Strong started to feel sick and went to GW Hospital, where he was admitted for insecticide poisoning.

Strong also said he noticed other safety problems in his room and asked Dwyer to come take a look at, among other things, a door he was able to unlock with a plastic knife.

“I called in Facilities Management, but they didn’t do anything for six weeks, so I called in (the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs),” Strong said. “The day I got the report, I filed the lawsuit for $4.5 million dollars in D.C. Superior Court.”

DCRA documents obtained by The Hatchet indicate that on Oct. 4, 2004, the city served GW with nine housing violations for Strong’s room plus one for an infested basement.

Facilities Management director Peter Comey referred calls for this article to the University’s media relations department and its lawyers. Media relations could not be reached for comment. Linda Schutjer, GW’s associate general counsel, said the University was not concerned with the suit.

“He serviced the wrong people,” Schutjer said. “He should have sued the University. On these kinds of technical ground they typically try and give them another shot at filing it correctly.”

In response to the lawsuit, the University made three petitions to have the case thrown out. One said Strong did not properly serve the University with the lawsuit, and the other two were that the case was moot.

The case was originally thrown out and later dismissed without prejudice, meaning Strong could re-file the case. Strong believes he still has a case and is hoping to make the University aware of the problems with its dorms.

“The lawsuit is not about me, it’s about bringing change. It’s to ensure students’ safety in the future. The University has a rank for their house,” he said, referring to the widely held belief that GW offers some of the best college housing in the country. “It’s time to live up to their rank.”

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