The Trending Twitter Hashtag Prompted Conversation on Living Conditions
By Donovan Thomas, Campus News Editor and Zaina Fairey, Staff Reporter
Recently residents of the female freshman dormitory, Harriet Tubman Quadrangle, have taken to Twitter to reveal the quality of their living conditions after the reopening of the residence hall at the start of the Fall 2019 semester. Students created the hashtags #HUFailedQuad, #HUCantFixIt and #HURepairQuad to bring awareness and garner a response from the university to address the various grievances of residents.
The students have joined together in a group chat that was first designated to pass along mailroom information but is now used to share the problems that they are currently facing within the dormitory.
From a street view, it is apparent to any onlooker that the building is unfinished with construction signs and exposed and incomplete sections visible from the sidewalk. Many current residents were caught off guard when they arrived at the Harriet Tubman Quadrangle and saw the condition that it was in.
Prior to their arrival to campus, residents of Harriet Tubman Quadrangle were informed of amenities that would be available to them as part of the renovations that the building underwent. The following amenities were advertised but are not available to residents: an on-site, state of the art fitness center, an on-site hair salon for residents, secured card-controlled access into the building, lounges with flat-screen TVs, an on-site computer lab and keyed package lockers for delivery.
Unique McFerguson, a freshman political science major living in the Quad, was very surprised at the state of the dormitory on move-in day.
“They advertised lounges with flat-screen TVs and it just looked very pretty in the pictures. And when we moved in on my floor, there was already a toilet that leaked into the hallway. First day,” said McFerguson.
Circumstances vary person-to-person and hall-to-hall. A list compiled by a number of residents from all five halls showcases the wide array of problems that they have experienced. The most widespread problems include: sewage problems; pests (mice, rats, gnats, termites, roaches and wasps); poor communication from Residence Life; cloudy, dirty and undrinkable water; persistent fire alarms; multiple air conditioning shutdowns; construction disrupting sleep and male construction workers not following protocol when present on dormitory floors.
“In all seriousness, this is affecting every realm of my life. And I feel bad because there are girls who are going through it worse than I am. I feel bad, almost, speaking my experiences because other girls are like ‘I wish I had what you had’,” said McFerguson.
After days of posting on Twitter, sending emails to administration and with the arrival of news vans from various outlets on campus, a group of sixteen residents of the dormitory landed a meeting with the Residence Life and an additional meeting with the Howard University Student Association.
Many of the students are still frustrated by an alleged lack of effective communication from university officials. Due to this, residents of the Quad have begun to form a council in order to stay in communication with each other as well as Corvias and Residence Life.
“It took way too long. They should have been communicating like this from the moment that I found out I would be living in the Quad. From the moment I found out construction wouldn’t be done,” said freshman biology major Trinity Pisarsky. “One email a month is great, but it only contains the good stuff of what’s going on and computer-generated images that aren’t even real. I want to know the real stuff, like how far you’ve gotten in construction, not what I will get once construction is done,”
According to Quad residents, a pipe burst in a closet on the fourth floor of Truth Hall on Tuesday, October 8, leading to several inches of brown water flooding the third and fourth floors and eventually leaking to the second floor. Residents in other halls in the Quad invited those who were displaced to stay with them for the night.
Quad residents also offered food, clothing and toiletries to the Truth residents affected as they were not allowed back into their rooms. Unfortunately, many Truth third and fourth-floor residents were forced to spend the night in the College Hall North and College Hall South lounges. Trinity Pisarsky was one of the affected residents.
“The aftermath of the incident was hectic and in a minor way traumatizing, seeing as though people didn’t know where they would sleep and there was visibly thousands of dollars of damage to personal property… I feel scared, to be honest, now knowing that something catastrophic can happen to anyone at any time,” said Pisarsky.
Overall, Truth residents affected are left feeling both shocked and disheartened. While they have been informed that they will be reimbursed, they don’t know what that entails or even where they’ll be staying as temporary room assignments have yet to be issued.
At 1:11 a.m. on Wednesday, October 9, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Tashni-Ann Dubroy, issued an email to Quad residents following the incident. The email stated that “a sprinkler activation” was responsible for the flooding, despite student reports that it was a busted pipe, and that all students affected will be relocated until the water is cleaned up. The email also mentioned that students with damaged items will be reimbursed and a follow-up email will be sent by Student Affairs on how to report damaged items.
“Howard University is working diligently to renovate our residence halls to improve the student experience. We ask our students to pardon our growing pains during this process. We are actively working the residents to address each issue they have raised,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Kenneth Holmes. We are addressing these housing issues daily, making weekly inspections and meeting with our student residents to hear their concerns in order to continuously improve their on-campus living experience. All students are encouraged to report any housing concerns to their Resident Assistants for a timely response.”