Former UI residents frustrated with hotel living conditions
By Sarah Beck, Entertainment Editor
“You go to a small school to be on a small campus so everything is close to you and then you get moved off,” said freshman John Mora, who was relocated from his room at the University Inn after it was closed for renovations to fix moisture problems.Since September, Shenandoah University students originally located in the University Inn (UI) have been moved to different hotels across the Winchester area. Mora, along with other underclassmen, is struggling to be involved in his first semester at college, as they are not able to take advantage of the easy access to a small campus because of their living conditions.
“That’s one of the only reasons why I came here and it kinda defeats the purpose if I have to be so far away and never go home,” Mora said.
From the get-go, Mora was not aware that the moisture problem was going to affect him and so many other students. University President Tracy Fitzsimmons sent a mass email discussing immediate plans for the UI students, but the weekend the underclassmen moved out was a surprise to Mora.
“I wasn’t here the weekend that happened. I had to go home,” he said.
Mora explained that he got an email about everyone moving out of the UI while he was visiting his hometown, Richmond, Va.
“…So when I came back, I was by myself. I had friends help me but I had to move everything over there [Fairfield Inn] after the fact,” he said.
As a result of the transition to Fairfield Inn, Mora has struggled to succeed in his classes.
“I can never do homework in my hotel room. I have to stay on campus as late as possible to do my homework because…I’ve gotten really bad grades because I’ll submit something [at the hotel] and it won’t go through because it’s too big of an upload,” he said.
A big part of freshmen year is the new social life that comes with being a college student, according to Mora, but he has not been able to enjoy that because he does not own a car.
“I want to be on campus with my friends, hanging out with them later, and not having to worry about sleeping on their ground because I can’t go back to my room,” Mora said. “I used to be able to hang out with my friends later than 2 a.m. but if I do now, I have to sleep there because the shuttle won’t come.”
Emily Burner, Director of Media Relations at Shenandoah, elaborated on the facts regarding the shuttle.
“The shuttles are running their scheduled routes,” Burner said, “and when those routes are not in service, the vans are available to students on-call.”
But Mora wishes that the University “did some research in picking the people without cars closer to campus instead of putting people who don’t have cars far away.”
Instead of seeing friendly Shenandoah students and faculty every day, Mora gets the company of guests and staff at the Fairfield Inn.
“Those hotels are not made to live in. They’re made to stay at for like a night when you have little stuff. Not when you’re trying to go to college,” Mora said.
Mora also said that he has a “raised concern of his safety” because he witnesses guests smoking or drinking outside the entrance of the hotel.
“In terms of keeping our students safe at these hotel locations, an additional private security officer was hired specifically for the purpose of patrolling the hotel properties after regular business hours,” Burner said.Mora also doesn’t get as much privacy as he would expect from the hotel.
“Students have the ability to utilize their ‘do not disturb’ signs,” said Burner, but Mora claims that doing so is ineffective.
“We put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on our door consistently because we didn’t want them [the staff] in our room and they implemented a new policy that they have to clean our room at least three times a week. So they’ll disregard it Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” Mora said.
Other students are having similar struggles with housekeeping, including Annalee Garcia, who is staying at the Holiday Inn.
“[Housekeeping staff] are supposed to come on Thursdays for us, but usually end up coming on Wednesday and we never know when,” Garcia said. “One time, they knocked at our door at 7 a.m. to try to clean, [and] another time I came back to the room around 2 p.m. to take a nap before a game, later that day, and couldn’t because they were in there cleaning.”
“I honestly don’t like that fact that it’s so unpredictable and basically disrupts my ability to do what I need to,” she continued. Additionally, “the managers have been unresponsive to my requests to leave my room alone or have access to the cleaning schedule so I know when I can go to my room.”
Garcia plans to move out of the hotel, and into a friend’s home, where she hopes to feel more comfortable and have more privacy to study.
Mora feels similarly. He is “tired of not being able to stay in his room without having to worry about getting kicked out.”Overall, Mora does not believe that the way the University handled the moisture problem was professional.
“They were like, ‘Here’s $500 so you don’t get mad at us.’ And then they try to do everything they can,” Mora said. He hopes that “this doesn’t happen again because [he’s] paying a lot of money not to live in a hotel.”
According to Burner, “The Office of Residence Life and the entire Student Life team have been working hard since the students were relocated to create a sense of community and a close-knit atmosphere within each of these new hotel communities.”
University officials have said they plan to move the residents back into their dorms in the spring semester of 2017.
Mora concluded, “It’s hindering me as a student and it’s really starting to take a toll. I hope this ends sooner than later.”
Michelle Adams contributed to this report.