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Editorials and Opinions

Utraque Unum?

The Latin phrase (normally not in the form of a question) is Georgetown University's motto—"both are one”—first found in St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, regarding Gentiles and Jews together, on coins of the Spanish Empire, and later for the Jesuit school's unity of learning and faith. Today, this phrase cannot be uttered between the University and the historic neighborhood to describe Georgetown, as the University's new 10-year plan has moved neighbor groups to protest anew and loudly so. Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans finds the plan a "disappointment," while University president John DeGioia believes the campus plan to be "modest." A recent Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting did not echo such mild words. The University has argued: "Georgetown’s plan includes a handful of new projects that would enhance on-campus academic and recreational spaces, including pedestrian-friendly walkways, construction that would allow buses to turn around on campus and renovations to the Medical Center. The new plan also carries over some projects not completed from the 2000 plan, including an addition to Lauinger Library, the renovation of the New South building for student space, and construction of a new athletic training facility on campus. The 2010-2020 campus plan reflects more than two years of conversations with the university community and local residents, and includes deliberate efforts to respond to concerns about enrollment, off-campus student life, safety and congestion in surrounding neighborhoods. For example, in response to community concerns, Georgetown removed its proposal to develop on-campus student housing in the 1789 block of 36th Street and decided not to request an extension of the chimney height on the heating and cooling plant." Citizens groups still strongly disagreed. They see the addition of more graduate students and lack of any new on-campus housing as threatening to the historic district's quality of life. Indeed, the Citizens Association of Georgetown—which acknowledges the immense value of the University, founded in 1789 in a Maryland village established in 1751—has started a Save Our Neighborhood Fund: "CAG has carefully reviewed the G.U. plan and believes it violates D.C. zoning regulations and would negatively impact the quality of life in Georgetown's residential neighborhoods." CAG contends that the plan would increase graduate student enrollment by more than 2,100 students, thus "increasing the total student population from approximately 14,000 to more than 16,000 students, provide no additional undergraduate on-campus housing and add 1,000 parking spaces to accommodate anticipated additional traffic to campus and the hospital." Moreover, CAG continues: "We will testify before the Board of Zoning -- the ultimate decision-maker regarding the campus plan. We need your help to prepare for this hearing, and to educate our neighbors, our community leadership, the University's leadership and our city decision-makers about this issue." Georgetown student activists have been knocked out of their bubble by the neighborhood response to the plan. "It is definitely possible to understand [the neighbors'] concerns to some degree, but at times [they are] almost irrational," said one student at an ANC meeting. And in the non-news category, let us affirm that some students have been the university's worst ambassadors, causing late-night noise, rowdiness and vandalism. "[The students] cannot follow basic rules of living," ANC commissioner Tom Birch said at the same meeting. Students are left to ponder that some Georgetowners their parents' age don't really like them. The previous 10-year plan wrought enormous changes within the campus: the Southwest Quadrangle (the University's largest-ever construction), the Davis arts center and the new business school building, to name the biggest. The university is jammed against its west (Archbold-Glover Park) and south (The C&O Canal and the Potomac) with spillage, pushing north to Burleith and Foxhall and east into the west village of Georgetown. Such geography does not excuse University administrators' past poor decisions, such as the fumbling of Mount Vernon campus. Indeed, just as the University has a presence in Qatar, and its students volunteer in Appalachia and Anacostia, the nation's oldest Catholic institution of higher learning would do well to connect even more often and consistently to its neighbors just three blocks away. The Georgetown ANC will vote on the campus plan at its monthly meeting, Feb. 28. "We've gotten the comments from the community organizations and the university. So, it's time for us to take a position," said chairman Ron Lewis. Expect lawsuits to follow—just like last time. Again, Hoya paranoia spreads, and generational resentment grows. Not that anyone is really seeking a "Can't we all get along?" moment. There need be no call for an idealistic "Utraque Unum." Nevertheless, both of us are here, in this together, and we can say hello to each other. It is merely a separate peace that we can abide.

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The April 24 death of Edward Blatz, Jr., 21, a Georgetown University undergraduate, is certainly a tragedy for his family — and a cutting, lasting sorrow no parent should have to bear. Our condolences are offered to family and friends during this time of mourning. The discovery of the death was made more poignant because on this sunny April Sunday people were walking past the fateful house at 1401 33 St. NW — some from the service at nearby St. John’s Church. At the corner, shut down by the Metropolitan Police Department, were police cruisers, an ambulance and a Homicide Division vehicle. With some sharp comments, a few justifiably upset neighbors shook their heads at the well-known student group house and its sad conclusion. The Georgetown University Athletics Department released a statement April 24 quoting Kevin Warne, head coach of the lacrosse team: “Eddie was a great young man who was well-respected and well-liked by his teammates and the Georgetown lacrosse family. He was a very bright student and a talented player and words cannot express the loss we are feeling right now.” Along with a general email to students, that was about all that Georgetown University seemed to want the media to report about the death. The Georgetowner went on to report where that student lived — and the concerns of neighbors over drug and alcohol abuse. Several emails arrived in our inbox — from down the street and across the country. One of those emails came from someone well acquainted with student athletics and the lacrosse world. The accusatory missive — while tough to hear right now — raises some basic questions and is reproduced, in part, here: “Hoyas men’s lacrosse players partying after loss to Virginia, three OD, one dies, one revived by paddle defibrillator, another also hospitalized. “Georgetown University is so tight-lipped on this as it is a clear demonstration of the complicit conspiracy within the quasi-elitist lacrosse community-culture cover up — just as are all schools, coaches, parents and players where the self-ordained immunity to rules violations and consequences tolerate the norm of ‘good boys from good families’ allowed to historically and chronically abuse drugs and alcohol. You needn’t be so disappointed in just Georgetown. This overlooking of the root cause of the problem is systemic and ubiquitous in lacrosse.” The death of Ed Blatz need not be in vain — and we are not saying it is part of any so-called lacrosse insider culture, as described above. But his death should shine a light on any problems students may have with drugs or alcohol — and any exclusionary sports subculture that would be so selective of the truth. Drug abuse or alcohol abuse survive in the dark, not so much in the light.

William Raspberry, Pioneer Journalist and Other Black Firsts at the Post

To the Editor, Growing up in northeast Washington, I was only a college sophomore when I first met William Raspberry in 1970. Bowie State University had no journalism program then, only two introductory courses. Our teacher Clyde Reid had invited Bill to the small class. In the Washington Post, I had often read Raspberry’s “Potomac Watch” local column as well as Carl Rowan, whose columns were on the op-ed page. Following his visit to the campus, I went to the newspaper – then at 1515 L Street, N.W. – and was hired as a newsroom copy aide on the fifth floor. During summer months or on semester breaks, I answered phones, sorted mail, ran replates, gallery proofs and page proofs and moved supplies. It was Raspberry’s influence that inspired me to earn a B.A. in English and join the Post full-time in 1973, when President Nixon was being treated at the Bethesda Naval Hospital for pneumonia. The Pentagon Papers, Watergate and the printers’ and pressmen’s strikes at the paper were all roiling issues between 1970 and 1976, when I worked there. The Post also had a two-year intern training program in the contract for minority employees. Thus, it was gratifying to see Post reporters and editors Ivan Brandon, Leon Dash, Dorothy Gilliam, Judith Martin, Martin Weil and Hollie West and Vernon Jordan, former president of the National Urban League, the second largest black civil rights organization in America. All were present for the funeral of William Raspberry at the Washington National Cathedral more than two months ago. It was a moving experience to shake Vernon Jordan’s hand just before the service. Jordan was shot in the back by a racist sniper in Fort Wayne, Ind., in 1980. Both Dorothy Gilliam, now at George Washington University, and Bill were hired at the Post in 1962; he at 28, when Phillip Graham was publisher. Bill, who retired in 2005, did not get a Pulitzer Prize until 32 years after his hiring. Such prizes are for younger men with strong legs as career enhancers. Maybe the Post by now would have its first black managing editor or executive editor. Katharine Graham’s rise at the paper followed Phil Graham’s reported suicide in 1963. Bill, hired by Phil, was eulogized by Phil’s son Donald Graham, Dorothy Gilliam, Vernon Jordan and Dr. Vincent Adams. — Mario B. Schowers, Washington, D.C.

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Helping Out Our College Grads

Touring my old neighborhood in Logan Circle with my daughter recently, looking for her first one-bedroom apartment without roommates, I was shocked to find that the average rent was north of $2,000. What 20-something, much less a recent college graduate, can afford that rent by herself? I often hear people say that they don’t know how kids these days can afford to live, but this didn’t sound right. I went home and crunched some numbers. When I lived in my daughter’s neighborhood 34 years ago, my rent was $875 with an inflation rate of three percent. That same rent would be $2,390 today. I did some more math. My starting salary was $18,000, which is the equivalent of $49,175 today. It is any wonder that over the next couple of weeks college graduates all across the country will be accepting jobs, packing their bags and moving back in with their parents? As parents we have raised our children, begged them to do their homework, sent them packing for college and cheered at their college graduations. After they graduate, it’s time for them move out, pay rent and start contributing to their 401(k), right? It’s harder than ever for college graduates to find jobs, afford rent and pay off rising student-loan interest rates. Even more worrisome, only one in four Americans has emergency savings. We, their parents, are the primary source of help when our graduates have to deal with emergencies. This got me thinking. Maybe, if we really want our children to be independent, we should welcome them back home rather than encourage them to move into an apartment they cannot afford without our financial support. Perhaps we are making the biggest parenting mistake of all by helping them with money, rather than with wisdom and experience. This is the time to help our recent college grads get a head start on their financial future by saving for law school tuition, for a down payment on their first house or for the seed money to launch their own business. But no matter what it is, make them pay. If they move back home, mandate that they save the monthly equivalent of rent in the community they want to live in, teach them to maintain a budget, encourage them to sign up for online money-management apps and show them how to grow their credit score. After a couple months, they will have saved enough money for an emergency fund and to splurge on life experiences. You will have taught them to live within their income, while giving them the tools and understanding to save systematically. Perhaps most important, you have also given yourself the time to get to know your kids as adults, a friendship that you will treasure. Walking around my old stomping grounds with my successful, financially independent daughter reminded me that parenting sometimes means being flexible. But when you get to watch them set themselves free, it is worth every penny. A registered principal of Cambridge Investment Research and an Investment Advisor Representative of Capital Investment Advisors in Bethesda, Maryland, John E. Girouard is the author of “Take Back Your Money” and “The Ten Truths of Wealth Creation.”

At Large Candidates, First Look

Candidate Forums, at this stage in the campaign to fill the At Large City Council Seat vacated by Kwame Brown’s winning bid for the City Council Chair, are a little like large meet and greets. They resemble the political equivalent of speed dating. The election for the seat isn’t until April 26, which leaves plenty of time for voters and interested parties to get to know the candidates, and vice versa. And there’s a lot to choose from in terms of quantity, with the quality being currently evaluated. Close to ten candidates are in the field, and one of them is already sitting on the council. We went to a couple of these forums, one in the Downtown area sponsored by the Penn Quarter Association at the Madame Tussauds wax museum, another the Good Will Baptist Church sponsored by the Kalorama Citizens Associations in Adams Morgan. Another forum was recently held by the Georgetown Citizens Association. Three things frame these forums and this election. Most importantly, this is a citywide election, and whoever wins will get some political cred for having citywide voter appeal. This is not a small thing, because of the second critical factor in this campaign: it is being waged with a noisy background of scandal and uncertainty—so much so that it almost seems like a re-waging of the Fenty/Gray mayoral race. The third thing is that this is a time when candidates stake out their territory, test their appeal, make claims to being this or that kind of candidate. Like for instance “reform”—this time not of the schools, but of the city and its political culture—a word much overused here. You’ll hear a lot of that from Joshua Lopez, the Georgia Avenue resident and seeming firebrand who is vocally calling for cutting the salaries of the city council members and who paints himself as an anti-establishment type who “will stand up to people.” He also presents himself as the first serious Hispanic candidate for a major citywide elected office. Be that as it may, many—but not all—of the candidates gathered at the Penn Quarter forum in monumentally odd circumstances. Surrounded by wax figures of presidents and politicians—a figure of Marion Barry, no less, greeted visitors to the forum as they walked down the stairs—the candidates were placed at a dais where life-size figures of the Jonas Brothers stood behind them, frozen in mid-performance, and Britney Spears, apparently working a strip pole, flanked the podium. Videos of Miley Cyrus and a gyrating Beyonce played on continuous reel in the background, which may explain the “flimsy top” reference in my notebook. “I have to say this is the strangest setting for a forum I’ve ever attended,” Bryan Weaver, a veteran ANC commissioner from Ward 1 quipped. He too is a reformist, but Weaver, articulate and known for his community involvement in Adams Morgan for years, wants to reform the political culture. “You have to change things, you have to change the way the council doe’s things, and the way the mayor’s office does things. There are lots of good ideas, but it’s the implementation of policy that matters the most. We don’t have oversight about who gets contracts and how things get done. It’s all well and good to write legislation, propose change, but ideas, once they leave the council chambers, don’t seem to get implemented.” Sekou Biddle is the focus of a lot of attention these days—the Washington born educator was named to the seat vacated by Brown by the local Democratic committee, pushed by both Mayor Vincent Gray and Brown himself. That might have been an advantage two or three weeks ago, but now it’s an iffy endorsement, which can be used by his opponents against him. “It’s not about endorsements,” Biddle said. “It’s about experience, what you can do and what you can get done.” He’s the only one who can say he’s a councilman, which does count for something, because he’ll have a lot more name familiarity, a heads up on the council culture and ways of business, and he can speak from the experience he’s gained. Biddle also comes from the Teach for America environment that brought Chancellor Michelle Rhee and current Chancellor Kaya Henderson to Washington. There’s no question about where Biddle stands on school reform, nor is there a question about his expertise. Vincent Orange has had a lot of experience too, having served as Ward 7 Councilman before running for mayor five years ago. “I have more experience than anyone, I came with Mayor Anthony Williams, and together, all of us changed the political and practical environment of the city,” he said. “We got things done.” With Orange, the problem isn’t experience, but familiarity. This is his second recent major run for major office, not counting his mayoral bid, and the first one, in spite of being endorsed by the Washington Post, ended in defeat against Brown in the race for chairman. Then there’s Patrick Mara, the jaunty, young Columbia Heights residents, who reminds everyone that he is the only Republican in the race. A school board member—and an unsuccessful at large candidate several years ago, in which he helped oust long-time GOP council member Carol Schwartz—he calls himself progressive on social issues and conservative on financial issues. “I’m not your typical Republican,” he says. He was late to the Adams Morgan meeting, saying, “You know, when you have a name like Patrick Mara, you get invited to a lot of St Patrick Day’s parties. I apologize for being late.” Weaver hammers the theme of accountability and transparency, but he can get lost in the wonk and details sometimes, peppering his words with acronyms that not everybody is familiar with. But he also comes across as dedicated and smart, with no ax to grind. Lopez says he’s the outsider, but he’s also spent a lot of time working for Adrian Fenty campaigns and in his council office, according to his campaign biography. He also worked as a deputy manager of Muriel Bowser’s Ward 4 City Council Campaign. The campaign has now become part of the background landscape, and that landscape sees Mayor Gray mired in controversy and Kwame Brown again under fire. The winner in this campaign gets something nobody gets right now: a fresh start.
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