Can We Agree to the Campus Plan? With These Conditions …


Georgetown University’s 2010-20 campus plan is now in the hands of the D.C. Zoning Commission. After all the points and counterpoints, we find ourselves not quite in agreement with anyone. We have previously stated on this page in July: “We agree that an overwhelming majority — and most definitely freshmen and sophomores — should be required to live on campus and be guaranteed on-campus housing. But 100 percent of all undergraduates? Sorry, no.”

With that said, we are in agreement with the Citizens Association of Georgetown that increased trash pick-up and improved shuttle, as cited by the university, is a less than spectacular response to the neighbors’ anger with student’s behavior after hours along their streets.

Here is but a bit from CAG of what some Georgetown residents report.

Michelle Galler: “I am writing as a resident of 36th Street, and a victim of multiple vandalism incidents involving drunk Georgetown University students. Once again, last night, at precisely 2:38 am, a band of drunken, loud students removed the plants from the planters in front of my home and maliciously threw them around the premises. They have done the same with my plantings in the past, as well as urinating on the front lawn and screaming and throwing loud street parties well into the night. . . . We are helplessly being surrounded by callous, entitled students who are not being sufficiently penalized for their bad behavior.”

Walter Parrs went further: “I have lost hope that GU will implement any enforcement plan that will address the extensive problems that Burleith and West Georgetown face. How can any university – or anyone for that matter – control literally hundreds of steaming-drunk college students spread over two neighborhoods? I understand why GU cannot propose an enforcement plan: There is none that will work.”

The university mailed brochures to Georgetown residents a month ago outlining their new efforts. The brochure displayed a headline which read: “We value you as neighbors.”

You think? Sounds kind of condescending.

We know the university is an invaluable plus to this neighborhood, Washington, D.C., and the nation. No doubt about that: one of the greatest schools in America. Its campus plan mostly gained approval from the Washington Post, which wrote in October: “Imagine a city telling its largest private employer — one that pays millions in taxes and salaries, strives to hire local residents and voluntarily does community service — that it can’t grow anymore, that it might have to cut back. That seems far-fetched in light of today’s scary economy, but it’s essentially what D.C. officials are telling Georgetown University by insisting it either house all its students or cut back enrollment. The District seems distressingly disinterested in promoting a knowledge-based economy.” Again, we find it hard to disagree with that.

Here’s the catch: students who live on campus walk back along Prospect, N and other streets from events, parties and bars. That will not change. Homeowners will hear their drunken cries at 2 a.m. It is the city, the partly youthful nature of Georgetown is a good thing. For students who live in off-campus houses and get repeatedly cited by neighbors and the likes of CAG, expulsion must be in play. (We haven’t even touched upon traffic, a new playing field or boathouse, among the many other proposals.)

University administrators must totally upgrade and update their mindset — promoting campus events, offering courses, crafting programs to its closest neighbors (not just those across the city or the globe), who are their “trustees” to the world just as the students are the university’s “representatives” to the neighborhood. We are here; we are not leaving, either. Ten-year plan? We think the university should be in close, continual conversation with local leaders and neighbors. No more closed doors: politics is local, after all. Time for the administrators to open their schools and minds to the neighborhood with an active wooing of — and union with — groups and citizens to the point that Georgetowners say, “We value you as a neighbor.”

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