Loud banging on the door wakes first-year Humanities student Adéla Morgan, from her slumber at eight one Friday morning.
Not quite awake, she goes to the door as soon as she can and yells over the incessant knocking in Czech that she is coming and they should wait. The loud knocking ensues. She hurriedly puts clothes on and finally opens the door to let the two men into her room.
This was one of many regular room check experiences of Anglo-American University’s Accommodations. Having dorms is new for AAU, and like many new things, it has had a rocky start.
A large proportion of students had positive first impressions of the new accommodations. Viktoria Vargas, a graduate student from Hungary expressed, “I loved my room the first time I walked in because it’s brand new.” Many others remarked on how modern and clean the rooms were.
Morgan’s experience, however, was much different. When she arrived at the dorms, she was greeted by black soot on the floor. “After an hour of walking around my room barefoot, my feet turned black,” stated Morgan. “I had to get down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor clean.”
The students agree that the location is “convenient” and “practical”. The accommodations are only one tram stop away from a mall, a grocery store, and a Friday farmers market at Anděl. Many students love the fact that it takes only fifteen minutes to get to school by one tram.
Rose McCrudden, whose room won the room decorating contest, thinks well of the quality of the dorms. “I have a big and beautiful window, but some others don’t have this so I can’t speak for them,” she said. An anonymous student said that her wall is cracked a little.
Serhii Polozov, a Journalism student from Ukraine, only complains about the bad plumbing, which has been troublesome since the beginning. Additionally, first-year Humanities student, Rowan Worden, feels sharing a sink with 5 other students isn’t ideal.
A bi-weekly cleaning service is included in the cost. Worden noted that trash wasn’t removed the past two times a cleaner came. Morgan stated that the service is ineffective and performed at random. “When someone has been in the room but hasn’t done anything, I wonder what she did in there,” said Morgan.
The students expressed that they feel safe due to security. To enter, a non-tenant must talk through a monitor for a security guard to let them in. Additionally, many students comment on the sensitivity of the fire alarms.
However, some students such as McCrudden, believe the security is “too good”. “Having a security guard is marketed as a way to make you feel more safe,” she noted.
“But the only reason why I lock my doors is because of the security guards.”
The distrust of the security is not completely unbiased. An anonymous student shares a kitchen with an empty dorm. Her door was open to the kitchen when one of the guards came in, looked at the student (who was topless), turned off the light, looked at her, and left.
The guard violated the student’s privacy and did not apologize for intruding. Abigail Winand, who knew of this incident, does not like the security. “That guard is scary,” she stated. “I never want to see him again.”
The first room checks were shocking to many students. For Morgan, the security banged on her door until she opened it. Students such as Dima Rouhana, a study abroad student, did not even experience the courtesy of knocking before entering.
Winand does not mind the room checks, but she thought women should check female dorms. A male student, Cooper Tweedie, commented, “As a guy, it bothers me less that a man comes to check my dorm than if I were a girl.” Inversely, on October 11, some dorms were checked by two women instead, and a few male students were unhappy about it.
Vargas, despite prior satisfaction, had one complaint about room checks. She had left for a trip when the one room check happened. She left her room locked, but upon returning, she found the room left unlocked. “Nothing was stolen, thankfully,” she said. “But if somebody came in and took my stuff, it would have been the staff’s fault.”
Students such as Winand believe the prices are fair but admit that there are more inexpensive options. Arnaud Degueker feels he should not pay for laundry for the price of the dorms.
“Part of the price is being associated with the school,” said McCrudden, which is valid although the AAU Accommodations is provided by a third party: Vysoká škola finanční a správní. This is interesting, for many students believed that the dorms were provided solely by AAU, which may have been the result of presuppositions and lack of awareness of the partnership between AAU and VŠFS. The AAU website mentions that the accommodation is “provided by a partner institution”, but there is no further information given, not even the name of the institution.
Additionally, late-intake students must pay the same amount as students starting in September. Lana Berdzenishvili, a late-intake student, said, “The reception said they reserved the room for me, so I paid the extra month, but there are many empty rooms.” Because the accommodations belong to VŠFS, it is possible that the empty rooms are not a part of the 36 rooms AAU provides for their students. Everyone must pay the five months, but while the extra month at the end can be spent living in Prague, the late-intake students’ money is wasted.
Fines and Fees:
As any leasing establishment, VŠFS has fines and fees for damaging the room and appliances. However, many students have questioned the legality of the fines added to the lease agreement without the consent of the tenants. Ashlynn Valentik, fined for keeping an unregistered guest in her room, argued she should not pay the fine. Although hosting unregistered guests is an infraction in the VŠFS house rules, nothing says tenants are liable to any fines. A footnote to the List of Fines says non-listed damage will be dealt with on an individual basis, but forgetting to register a visitor does no damage to the room, so students should not pay this fine.
On the subject of fines, a group of students threw a party at the accommodations. Security distributed many “Noise at night” fines that night. One of the students, Soroush Sanaei, claimed innocence. The proof the security had was a picture of him at the entry of the building. He was aghast at this approach of gathering evidence: “This is how I get to where I live!”
Now, many students question the conduct of the staff. “I understand that students violated the dormitory rules, but the conduct of the staff and the way in which they went about dealing the fines are unprofessional and need to change,” said Nina Frame, a first-year Journalism student.
Language barriers are unavoidable when studying internationally. However, nearly the entire staff doesn’t speak English at the accommodations. Claire Roberson, who didn’t come on a check-in day, said, “It was hard to check in because they didn’t speak English. They didn’t know why I was there.” Roberson finally went to the school for help, but she said it felt unorganized.
Jakub Kanovics, a first-year student from Slovakia, agreed. “This is an international dorm with international students, so they should have staff who speak English,” he said.
Since the first day of check-in, there has been miscommunication, confusion, and offense taken; recently, however, AAU has begun to respond.
A group of students including Frame, Degueker, McCrudden, and Sanaei, came to a Student Council meeting on October 4. The council members were receptive to the students’ grievances, and they strove towards finding ways to improve the students’ situation.
Additionally, the Dean of Students, Ana Hernandez Blackstad, held times during midterms week for feedback on housing. She even came to the dorms herself to speak to some of the students.
Berdzenishvili had issues with the wifi in her room since moving in, but after a few weeks of dismissal, the staff gave her a wifi router for her own room. “They told me that if I have any more issues, I can ask,” she said. “They were so much nicer than before!”
As aforementioned, room checks have become more mellow, and many say that the security knocks before they enter. Also, the hours for the common room lengthened, so it is now open to students until midnight.
At the council meeting for the dorms, Stefan Fiedler told the students the plain truth. “The dorms are new for the school,” Fiedler said. “And unfortunately, you are the guinea pigs. You are going through this so that future students don’t have to.”
This is very true. AAU is growing, and with growth comes growing pains. The university has never had accommodations before this semester, and the faculty of the school are learning.
While the school responds more as the voices of the students are more heard, we “guinea pigs” look a little more hopefully towards future improvements of the AAU Accommodations.