Patience is wearing thin and anxiety is surging for residents of Letts Hall, an underclassman dorm at American University notorious for its poor living conditions. From inaccessibility to mold and infestations, residents demand immediate action for comprehensive renovations.
Leila Ouazzani-Chahdi, a freshman living on the third floor of Letts, described the living environment as disruptive. Incidents throughout the hall, such as cockroaches everywhere and rodent issues, leave her uneasy.
“We’re just constantly anxious of different things that we hear could happen,” said Ouazzani-Chahdi, referring to the rat infestation on the floor below her.
Adah Nordan, a freshman living on the fifth floor of Letts, said she’s witnessed cockroaches, and the bathrooms on her floor are usually unsanitary and don’t have enough hot water.
“There is a constant lingering smell in certain areas and certain dorms that never goes away and, it is terrible,” added Nordan.
Maintenance efforts to address these concerns, according to Nordan and Ouawain-Chahdi, have been unsatisfactory. “Since the first day and until now these problems were still a problem, like they’ve never been changed,” noted Ouawain-Chahdi.
“Maintenance issues tend to be a last priority in Letts,” added Nordan.
Since school started in August, Nordan’s floor has had only one working washer and dryer. Maintenance has not yet fixed the other two sets of machines despite several residents submitting requests on 2Fix.
Sadie Rajotte Vaughn, a junior who lived in Letts during the 2021-2022 school year experienced the same issue while on the second floor.
“One time all of the washers and dryers on our floor were broken,” said Vaughn, “so we had to go like two floors up which like obviously if you can’t breathe that’s not good.”
Vaughn also relies on a medical tank due to a medical condition, leading her to raise crucial safety concerns for disabled students in Letts Hall. This included broken handicapped buttons to enter the building, which current residents reported is still an issue.
Vaughn could not use the stairs due to her disability and constantly faced elevator breakdowns. In one incident, an elevator she was in dropped a floor, leaving her fearful of using them.
“Every time I was in the elevator, I was nervous the whole time that I was going to get dropped again or I was going to get stuck, because some kids got stuck in the Letts elevator a few times,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn emphasized the need for increased accessibility in the dorm, admitting, “I didn’t feel super safe living there.”
Multiple students, dating back to 2018, have reported mold in their rooms. Nikki Levee submitted a report of a large mold stain on the ceiling of her dorm in 2022, but Leeve claims maintenance never addressed it.
Maggie McTigue, who lived in Letts at the same time, shared that the previous resident of her room got sick from what was likely black mold in her vents.
Nathan Seibert, who lived in the Terrace of Letts last year, shared that the shower ceiling in the girl’s communal bathroom collapsed, raising concerns about the structural integrity of Letts.
The disparity between the condition of Letts and the other first-year dorm halls also causes frustration for many residents, like Nordan, who stated that the living conditions in Letts are horrible compared to Centennial and Anderson.
Connected to Letts, Anderson Hall shares the same yearly cost of $11,030 per person for a two-person room. However, unlike Letts, it has remained free of major complaints since it was renovated in 2017.
Like many residents, Seibert asserted the pressing need for comprehensive renovations in Letts Hall, especially since a majority of freshman have no choice but live on campus.
“It seems like they definitely have to improve Letts because a lot of people are stuck there with no option. I know I was,” said Seibert.
American University students are united in their belief that immediate action by maintenance and administration is needed to transform Letts into a livable space that aligns with the school’s standards and values.
AU Housing and Residence life has yet to respond to requests for an interview.