Disclaimer: This article refers to a petition of which The SAIS Observer is also a signatory.
With all the grandeur that has characterized the transition to the new SAIS building at 555 Pennsylvania Ave, many students are complaining that the new building lacks many necessities needed on a school campus. Foremost among these concerns is the lack of fundamental appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves.
Presently, there has been little word from the administration on the timeline for new refrigerators and microwaves. One representative from the Student Government Association (SGA) told us, “We have been told by the administration that there are no updates at this time regarding refrigerators and microwave use for students at this time. They are currently working on a solution.”
Many students are complaining that the lack of microwaves and refrigerators on campus has impacted their personal finances. One student’s feedback to the Blueser read as such, “It makes no sense for me as a student to pay for food simply because my school does not have a single fridge or microwave for me.” Another student describes the lack of kitchenware as “being especially difficult for those that commute to campus, since packing a lunch is no longer an option.” Students who live farther from campus are thus limited to buying lunch outside of campus, which can be upwards of $15 per meal. If a student has 2 or 3 classes a day, these costs only increase.
In addition to the personal costs of having no usable fridges or microwaves, students are unhappy with the fact that staff and faculty lounges are equipped with appliances that students do not have access to. Another feedback submission to the Blueser stated, “While staff on floors 3-7 have access to lounges equipped with fridges and microwaves, us students have to simply eat out or not at all.” This has left some students questioning the administration’s prioritization of students and academic performance amidst the transition to 555 Penn.
A copy of an SGA-led petition shared with the Observer calls for both shared access to existing appliances, as well as a “clear and transparent timeline” on the part of the administration “for the introduction of microwaves and fridges for student use.” The petition, also signed by several student organizations (including the Observer), also highlighted the impact on “special dietary needs” of lack of easy access to basic kitchen appliances.”
The present issue with the lack of kitchen appliances at SAIS is somewhat emblematic of what some feel has been a rushed transition to the new building. One student commented, “Moving into the new campus, administrators have a lot of challenges on their plate: ensuring there are enough classes available, organizing Secretary Blinken’s visit, and installing more outlets in the building. All of these involve tradeoffs, time, and money. Ordering a fridge should be the easiest item on the agenda, but it’s been two weeks, and administrators still say they are ‘working to come up with a solution.’”
As the petition concludes, “We are empathetic that there will be growing pains; students should not be the ones bearing the financial cost of every unfinished aspect of the new building.”
If this issue persists, it threatens to undermine not just the transition to a new building, but SAIS’ reputation in relation to its students. It only highlights a growing perceived gap between the optics of the transition and the lived experience of students.
SAIS students have voiced their concerns, expressing the desire for the new building to be equipped with standard amenities commonly found in workplaces nationwide. Many students hope that going forward, the administration will prioritize students first and publicity second.
To put in the words of another student’s comments to the Blueser, “Imagine seeing people taking pictures of you studying, but they don’t realize you are going hungry.”