For the first time in recent memory, on-campus students have been assigned a different type of residence hall — a hotel.
University spokesperson Crystal Nosal said officials assigned 282 students to live in One Washington Circle Hotel this academic year after renovations to Thurston Hall limited the number of on-campus beds available to campus residents. Students living in One Washington Circle said the assignment comes with various perks – like more spacious rooms and free laundry and housekeeping services – that are left out of traditional residence halls on campus.
Senior Liam Searcy, the president of the Residence Hall Association and a resident at One Washington Circle, said life in the hotel is more accommodating to students than his experiences in all three of his previous residence halls — District House and Thurston and Shenkman halls. He said the housekeeping, increased space and the free weekly laundry service by hotel staff gives him more time to focus on school and other priorities instead of chores.
“I can focus on class, I can focus on applications, I can go to work, I can have time for friends,” he said. “Reclaiming that two- to four-hour process of doing my laundry is something that’s just amazing.”
More than half of the rooms available to students are two-person studio apartments with a kitchen, and the majority of other units are one-bedroom, two-person apartments with a kitchen, according to GW’s residence hall website. The website states that 11 percent of the rooms are two-person studios without kitchens, and two percent are single units with kitchens.
Searcy said the University sealed off the hotel’s in-unit balcony access because of a 2019 agreement with the D.C. Zoning Commission to prevent potential noise complaints and keep students from throwing items off the balconies. In a 2019 hearing before the Zoning Commission, University representatives said they would also close off the pool at the request of the hotel.
In an email sent to students living in One Washington Circle late last month, the hotel’s community coordinator said students were accessing the balcony in violation of GW and D.C. policy – violation of which could lead to an automatic referral to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. All students living in One Washington Circle are juniors and seniors, according to GW’s website.
One Washington Circle Hotel reservations are not available to the general public, and the University has agreed to pay $1 million for every semester the University spends housing students off campus beyond the targeted end date for the Thurston renovations – slated for fall 2022. The agreement, signed with the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission in 2019, permits officials to house students in One Washington Circle, the Aston and 1959 E St. during Thurston’s reconstruction.
Searcy said students must communicate with hotel staff to fix physical maintenance issues in rooms instead of submitting a FixIt request. He said students with these issues can contact the hotel’s operations manager or other staff members to explain their situation and receive a quick response.
A representative for One Washington Circle Hotel did not respond to a request for comment.
Senior Richik Chakraborty, a resident at One Washington Circle who previously lived in Potomac House and Lafayette Hall, said he was assigned to a hotel suite with one roommate that includes a living room, two TVs, a bathroom and a closet. He said the room also came with traditional hotel amenities, like cups, plates and pots.
“My first reaction was like ‘Holy cow,’” Chakraborty said. “I liked Potomac, then living in Lafayette was kind of generic, and then living here I feel like a king.”
Chakraborty said the hotel’s housekeeping service is one of the biggest upgrades from a traditional residence hall, where maintaining a clean living space was more of a chore. He said his living space doubled from his room in Lafayette Hall to his hotel unit.
“The bedroom, that size alone, that was the size of our entire room in Lafayette,” he said. “So then the living area is almost twice the size.”
Junior Jade Greenberg, who previously lived in Madison Hall, said her housing assignment in One Washington Circle was the “best possible outcome” although the building was at the bottom of her housing request list. She said she loves the hotel’s facilities, and her room’s issues, like a malfunctioning stove and broken shower bar, were quickly fixed by staff.
“There are problems, but like any dorm, they are to be expected, and they’re being fixed relatively quickly,” she said.
Senior Sim Montrond, a resident of the hotel, said he wishes he had access to the balcony, because he wants to use the extra space and table to study and relax.
“That’s one thing I wish we had because it’s a nice space,” Montrond said. “There’s a table and a chair where it would be nice to sit and do homework, but for some reason, we can’t go outside. It’s a bummer.”
Montrond said he and other students at One Washington Circle have talked about starting a petition to gain access to the balconies, but GW is bound by its agreement with the D.C. government to keep the access sealed.
“We’re all adults, so I think we can handle sitting outside on a balcony,” Montrond said.
Alfonso González Cordero, a junior living in the hotel, said he loves One Washington Circle and the varied perks that come with it, like a readily available front office staff and space for students to gather in the lobby, making the building one of the best housing options for students.
“We have a lot of communal space, whereas in the dorm, you would have to go specifically to a lounge in the middle of everything,” González Cordero said.