Graduate students living in the Hall on Virginia Avenue are concerned about poor living conditions, and many feel the University is not acting quickly enough to address their concerns.
Residents in HOVA said in interviews that they live with malfunctioning elevators, walls splattered with mold, little to no lighting in their rooms and without personal kitchens. While some issues have been fixed since the beginning of the academic year, other problems have persisted, they said.
HOVA has been graduate housing since fall 2006, per a University agreement with the city to eventually remove undergraduates from the Virginia Avenue building, The Aston, City Hall and Columbia Plaza.
In response to resident concerns, Director of GW Housing Employment Matt Trainum said they will soon be implementing house mentors in the hall to increase communication with students. Currently house mentors are designated for upper-class undergraduate housing.
“House mentors already work in third- and fourth-year buildings and we hope this enhanced staffing pattern will benefit our graduate students as well,” he said.
HOVA remains a popular choice for graduate students because of its competitive financial costs and location to campus. Students living in the building said they want the University to fix issues with the facility, however.
Jung-Yu Chay, a second-year business student, echoed these sentiments, but added that he feels overlooked by the University. Even though HOVA is blocks from the center of campus, it is not considered part of GW’s campus grounds.
“They can do better to help us,” he said. “Not being on-campus, we feel isolated from GW, from everything going on at the school.”
Chay said he would like to see more effort to include graduate students in University activities. He also proposed that a cafeteria replace the storage room on the first floor of the building. Presently several hundred HOVA residents use a common kitchen in the building’s basement.
Weinshel said the presence of only one kitchen in the building benefits the students because it helps to keep individual costs at a minimum. Presently residents pay $900 per month.
“The graduate students living there knew when they applied (that there was only one kitchen),” he said.
For handicapped students like Diaz this kitchen is inaccessible and there are no other places to make food within the building.
“I’ve had to jump the rail before just to use the oven,” she said. “I feel forgotten by the school and by the administration.”
Diaz also expressed issues with her room, stating a lack of proper lighting and the presence of mold. When she called GW Housing, she was told some rooms do not come with a standard number of lights.
“I had to purchase a light for my room myself, just to create some light in the room,” she said.
While some students are visibly irate with the issues surrounding HOVA, others are choosing to ignore the problems.
Preston Coleman, a graduate student living in the building, said he regards the dorm as an ideal situation for him, although he admitted he only spends minimal time in his room.
“With work and school all day, I’m barely here that often, I just use (HOVA) as a roof over my head,” he said.
When asked if there are outlets for residents to voice their concerns about their living situation, Coleman said there are bulletin boards with numbers to call.
Weinshel said that GW Housing Programs tries to address all student issues that are brought to their attention.
“Some issues are easier to fix than others,” he said. “Many are outside our areas of responsibility.”