Georgetown University is moving 85 students out of the top floor of an apartment complex this week after structural engineers found roof damage that required swift repairs and reinforcement.
Residents of the Alumni Square complex were notified Monday of the abrupt relocation plan. The university said the 85 affected students will be required to vacate their rooms by Friday evening. They will receive a full credit to their accounts for the $5,703 housing fee paid for the semester, an official said, and will be offered lodging without charge in a hotel and conference center on the campus in Northwest Washington. They will also be offered a full meal plan without charge for the rest of the semester.
About 330 students live in the university complex, a red-brick trio of four-story buildings just outside the school’s main gate at 37th and O streets. The apartments, built in the early 1980s, include kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms and mainly house students in their second, third or fourth years. Typical units accommodate four students, two per bedroom.
The university began investigating the roofing in October after residents of one top-floor unit reported ceiling damage. Repairs were made to seven units, according to an email the university sent students, and pumps were installed on the roofs to remove excess water. Still, engineers determined there was significant damage to the rafters, and they grew concerned about what could happen after a major snowfall or a period of extreme winds.
The mid-semester timing of the move suggested an urgency to the situation. Ordinarily, roof maintenance would occur after students leave for the summer. The university said it was relocating the students “out of an abundance of caution,” allowing repairs to begin this month.
Despite the short notice given to the students, the university said there were “no imminent safety hazards.”
Tim Ring, 20, a junior from New Jersey, was one of the displaced students. He expected his belongings to be moved Wednesday afternoon. For Ring, it will be his third unforeseen move of the school year. He said he was in the unit where the first roofing problems were spotted in October. The ceiling, he said, was cracked and wooden beams were “semi-exposed. It was not good."
He had to move out of the unit for a couple of months in the fall while it was repaired. Then he moved back in. Now, he’s moving out again. Ring said he is resigned to the hassle.
“Everyone is upset about what’s happening,” Ring said. “I understand. I’ve been through it. I’m kind of jaded.” But he said the university is “doing a lot to make up for it.” He noted that he would be getting free laundry service in the hotel.
Ömer Yurtseven, 20, a junior from Uzbekistan, was lugging boxes Wednesday afternoon along O Street from his room to a sport-utility vehicle. “It’s an unavoidable situation,” said Yurtseven, a center on the Hoyas basketball team. “The hotel is nice. There’s nothing I can do, so why worry?”
Anthony DiRusso, who identified himself as the father of another dislocated student, said he was dismayed that Georgetown had not released more information about the roofing problem. He said he has been unable to obtain a copy of the engineering report. “I think that’s kind of crazy,” he said Wednesday. “If it’s unsafe for the kids on the top floor, what about the kids on the first and second floors?”
Georgetown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak replied in an email: “Alumni Square residents on lower floors are safe in their living units while repairs to the top floor are being made. Structural engineers have confirmed that there are no structural concerns with students continuing to occupy the lower floors of the building during this time. In addition to the monitoring that’s taken place since the fall, we are also inspecting the roofs on a daily basis. . . . As we begin repairs to roofs, we will make all reasonable efforts to ensure that the work is minimally disruptive.”
The university, seeking to avoid similar problems in the future, said it plans to raise deferred maintenance spending $75 million over the next five years. That will triple next year’s budget for deferred maintenance, Dubyak said.
Georgetown has about 19,000 students, including roughly 7,400 undergraduates. Tuition and fees for first-year students are about $54,000 for this school year, according to the nonprofit College Board, with room and board priced at about $16,500. Those prices don’t account for financial aid. Housing and meal charges can vary, officials said.