Dozens of American University freshmen are planning to stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown D.C. after being told that it was ill-advised by the Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw. Screenshots from a Facebook group titled "AU Residence Inn DC" sent to the Agora show parents of American University first-year students planning to send their students to Washington, D.C. after their students were removed from on-campus housing. So far, there are 19 rooms booked with 2 students per room. There are reports that some George Washington University freshman will also be staying at the Residence Inn.
Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw, when reached for comment, reiterated her concerns. In a webinar with parents and family members of American University students on August 4th, Dr. Aw said, “It would be ill advised on lots and lots of levels. We know enough about student development and we know enough about the maturation of students that this idea of students coming to Washington, not knowing the city, ... can be incredibly detrimental on a lot of levels … This [pandemic] is not over yet.”
There are reports that a conference room that meets social distance guidelines will be reserved for students to work together on school work. When reached for comment on how the Residence Inn would enforce social distancing, Marriott gave no response. In addition, there was no information given on how the Inn would enforce the quarantine mandated by the D.C. government on students and families traveling from states that are particularly affected by the pandemic.
Given that colleges and universities that started their academic year with in-person classes have already seen massive coronavirus outbreaks, it is imperative that the organizers of this housing scheme understand the danger in which they are putting both students and downtown residents. Most notably, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had to move all undergraduate classes online after one week of in-person learning and on-campus residency after 13.6 percent of returning students tested positive last week. The introduction of students living in a dorm-like environment and going to Zoom classes together in person reduces the effectiveness of the strategy AU is implementing to combat the coronavirus.
The seven-day average of new cases, as of the publishing of this article, has been falling in D.C., as have hospitalizations and deaths. Mickey Watson, a D.C. resident and American University student, said “I think it's completely irresponsible of both the parents and students to allow this to happen. It makes no sense that people who are not locked into a binding lease agreement are coming into the city. It’s an unnecessary risk to introduce so many people coming from all over the country into our city.”
Anna Hickey is a third-year C.L.E.G. major in the School of Public Affairs. She is the chief editorial columnist for the Agora.
Image courtesy David Mark, Creative Commons