HU Students Adjusting to Life after Dorm Fire

There are 93 dormitory rooms on the fourth floor of Meridian Hill Hall at Howard University, all of which are now deemed unsafe due to a fire that occurred last Wednesday.

Last Wednesday Interim President Wayne Frederick said, "All students on the fourth floor and other impacted residents have been relocated to other halls on the main campus," in his second update email.

The university moved the displaced students to dorm rooms in Lucy Diggs Slowe Hall, George W. Carver Hall, Meridian Hill Hall, Mary M. Bethune Annex, George W. Cook Hall and the West Howard Plaza Towers.

 Living arrangements for some students improved, and for others it worsened. Two students who say their status worsened agreed to be interviewed only if their names were not used because they were concerned about repercussions from the university for complaining. One student is a 19-year-old psychology major from New Jersey. The second student is a 20-year-old biology major from Atlanta.

Previously, the students shared a single half bath connected to their rooms. They still each have single rooms at Slowe Hall but share communals bathroom with 10 working commodes on their floor of 177 rooms.Their old rooms cost $4,324 a semester, the new ones cost $3,992, according to the Howard University 2013- 2014 Academic Year Residence Hall Semester Room Rates.

According to both students, they are supposed to receive a prorated refund for the monetary difference in dorms from the Department of Residence Life, but for them the value of their previous dorm extends past monetary value. The displaced residents are scheduled to meet with Interim President Wayne Frederick in early April.

The 19-year-old psychology major said "I lived in a spacious room for Meridian, I was moved originally to a single room that was dirty and less than half the size of my original room. There was [used hair] weave in the dresser, and it was just disgusting."

The 20-year-old biology  student said "I would say there were more people in Meridian. It was more sociable and there were more businesses around the area, so there was more to do. There were parks nearby."

Although both students prefer their living arrangements at Merdian, they admit there are slight advantages to residing in Slowe.

"As far as things I have gained since being here is that I’m closer to campus so it’s easier to get to and from campus," said the biology major.

The psychology major added: "At first I was upset because I had a smaller room and dirty , but thankfully I was moved to a larger room, but I realize it could be worse some people have boxes in Carver, some share a double in Cook and the Annex, and it’s only going to be six more weeks so I can survive.".

It is learning how to survive the stress of events after the fire that they find most difficult. A spokesman for the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Services said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

 "At first I did not believe the damage would be so bad on the fourth floor, but when I went in and saw smoke damage everywhere and water on the ground I knew we would have to move, I just didn’t know where, which added to the stress," the biology major said.

Although they did not know their exact living arrangements for about 15 hours after the fire, both thought that would be moved to the Towers because of its comparable living quarters.

"Because most of the dorms are not singles I assumed we were going to [move to] the Towers because they had bathrooms too," said the other student, the psychology major from New Jersey.  "Just talking to the administration I assumed that this move would be temporary, and I would be able to move back to Meridian at one point, but now I see that won’t be the case," the student said.