Not in this economy: Federal Work Study and Security at GW

GW Musket | Halley Brown | April 20, 2016

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Empty chairs that have an impact on FWS and safety.
Empty chairs that have an impact on FWS and safety.

According to GW housing, Fulbright Hall houses roughly 250 students. This resident number does not account for the uninvited guests who sleep in the basement, however.

Sophomore Katie Biggs witnessed a Fulbright-intrusion earlier this semester when she reported a man lurking by the elevators holding what she believed to be a camera. “He was dancing and making strange noises. I’m not sure [what he was doing]… it sounded like he may have been rapping.”

He was gone by the time UPD arrived. The responding officer told residents that they would further investigate the situation.

Given GW’s downtown location, residence hall disturbances are expected. As of early April, UPD has reported 12 “unlawful entries” in their crime log, the majority of which have taken place in Shenkman Hall’s basement.

University spokesperson and director of media relations, Maralee Csellar, spoke on behalf of UPD, stating that

“In addition to CSAs and officers patrols, the Office of Safety and Security has an extensive CCTV network throughout Foggy Bottom and the Mount Vernon Campus that provides the GW Police Department the capability to monitor and review activity in public areas of residence halls. We continue to monitor and evaluate the activity across campus and make adjustments as needed to all of our security protocols.”

Like any crime, the number of cases reported is generally lower than the actual number of instances. This is demonstrated by UPD’s failure to officially report Biggs’ incident at Fulbright in the February crime log, despite promises that the trespassing would be examined further.

Biggs stated that “The intrusion could have only happened because of a lack of security personnel in the lobby to check student IDs.”

Fulbright is also one of the many Foggy Bottom dorms that lacks video surveillance throughout the entire building. According to UPD’s website, only six of the downtown residence halls have security cameras that cover the whole dorm. The document also reports that UPD makes rounds inside and outside of all dorms. How is this possible, when the majority of GW halls have no security guards present whatsoever?

Biggs stated that “The intrusion could have only happened because of a lack of security personnel in the lobby to check student IDs.” She suggested that a double-tap system with a community service aid (CSA) or security guard could not only have prevented this incident, but intrusions throughout campus.

Thurston has double tap-access, a security guard, and two CSA’s 24/7. Residence halls like South and Munson, on the other hand, only have single tap-access with no additional safety features like freshman dorms.

“In extreme circumstances, some students are even penalized because of their inability to receive a Federal Work Study position.”

Fixing the variation in dorm security would not only protect the students who live on campus, but could allow for additional Federal Work Study positions. The Rival conducted a survey which revealed the difficulties that students have with work study at GW. Only 34 percent reported hearing back from every position they applied for, while roughly 30 percent were called back for an interview. Once hired, the survey revealed that it took three or more weeks for students to start work.

In extreme circumstances, some students are even penalized because of their inability to receive a Federal Work Study position. Freshman Madison Yerke was charged for the dollar amount awarded to her; when she questioned financial aid, they did not remove it, but urged her to take out a loan to pay for the sudden fee.

“[A lot of] college campuses have student guards, not because they are necessary but because it provides students with FWS. GW should expand on these types of positions,” suggested freshman Ashley Atilano.

Although Foggy Bottom is a relatively safe neighborhood, creating a secure living space is an aspect of campus life that should be emphasized; the appropriate funds need to be provided to ensure this right to students.

If the reason CSA workers and security officers are not present throughout dorms is a matter of finances, then budgets should be reevaluated. The university should arguably tighten security of the dorms it already has before it builds new ones like District.

The matter of the fact is this: we can prevent potential burglaries and assaults while employing students who need financial assistance, or we can spend millions of dollars on yet another unsecured residence hall.