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Posts by Kara Brandeisky

Kara Brandeisky is a student at Georgetown University majoring in government. She writes for the Georgetown Voice, recently as campus news and politics columnist and currently as its features editor. 


Improve campus life to fix Georgetown town-gown relations

The Office of Planning's recent recommendation to require Georgetown University to house 100 percent of undergraduates on campus would both severely damage Georgetown student life and fail to achieve the campus plan opponents' objectives. A better approach would be to make campus a more desirable place to be.

Photo by swe.anna on Flickr.

If Georgetown improved student gathering spaces, brought back Healy Pub, reduced restrictions for on-campus parties, added more housing and helped students avoid problematic landlords, many students would voluntarily move on campus and spend more social time there.

OP's report followed more than two years of negotiations over Georgetown's 2010 campus plan and changed the debate considerably. Recognizing that there is likely no room to build enough dormitories to house 100% of undergrads on Georgetown's campus, the OP report would mandate that the University reduce enrollment to equal the available housing.

In the Zoning Commission hearings, OP representatives also hinted that they would look favorably upon satellite housing and forced triples, like there are at American University. But satellite housing would only further fragment campus life.

Freshmen should not be forced to live in 170-square-feet triples while paying for some of the most expensive University housing in the country. Reducing enrollment by nearly 25 percent would represent a huge blow to the University's already constrained financial resources. These losses could lead to layoffs at the District's largest private employer.

Additionally, requiring all students to live on-campus would reduce the vibrancy and diversity of the already fairly staid surrounding community. Students live off-campus so that they can assert their independence and learn what it is like to live on their own. This arrangement, which furthers student ties to their community, should be encouraged, especially by a city hoping to expand its tax base.

Fortunately, the OP seems to recognize that their recommendations are not the only way forward. At the May 12 Zoning Commission hearing, OP representative Jennifer Steingasser repeatedly said that she was open to other solutions, so long as they brought students back on-campus and mitigated objectionable impacts in the community.

These solutions are possible. Today, Georgetown students spend time off-campus because they are frustrated by a lack of on-campus space that meets their needs. There's no real reason to live close to the center of student life, because there isn't one.

As long that is true, students will continue to socialize in the community and frequent bars on M Street, even if they are barred from living off-campus. A more holistic plan to remedying the objectionable impacts that OP sees is needed. Such a plan, which both recognizes the need to draw students back on-campus and their right to live off-campus, is laid out below.

Increase student space

For years, students have been advocating for more student space on campus. In 1999, a group of student leaders compiled the Report on Student Life, which recommended that the University reorganize Leavey Center and invest in a real student union. Plans for a New South Student Center were included in the 2000 Campus Plan but never came to fruition, and the proposal is again part of the 2010 Campus Plan.

Last year, the Student Space Working Group released a report that found that the same problems still exist a decade later. When surveyed, 64 percent of students said they desired more study space, 56 percent desired more social space, 49 percent desired more space for eating, 41 percent desired more meeting space, and 32 percent desired more student club space. The longer the students had been at Georgetown, and the more involved they were in extracurricular activities, the more frustrated they were with the space available.

What's more, when asked to identify the center of student life on campus, a plurality of students (33 percent) said it was Lauinger Library. This perception demonstrates a core problem. The spaces available do not meet the full variety of student needs, which means students need to use space in a way that conflicts with its intended purpose—for example, we socialize in an area where other people are trying to study—which renders the space ineffective.

As a result, a full 17 percent of those surveyed answered that there was no center of student life at all.

The closest thing we have to a student union—Sellinger Lounge in the Leavey Center—has not become the student-centered space it was envisioned as because of the presence of hotel guests and Georgetown Hospital staff.

If the campus were the real center of student life, more students would choose to live on-campus. The University can and should create spaces and opportunities for a healthy social scene to thrive.

Bring back Healy Pub

Many alumni still wistfully remember Healy Pub, the bar located in the basement of Georgetown's signature building. In 1987, responding to the higher drinking age, the University ordered the pub to shut down. Town-gown struggles began in full-force in the early 1990s, as student social life began to shift to private parties in Burleith and West Georgetown.

Now, a group of students are trying to bring the pub back. Since 2001, the student body has been paying into a Georgetown University Student Association Endowment Fund. The interest from the fund was supposed to finance student activities once the fund reached $10 million by 2011, but the University reneged on its promised $3 million contribution, so the fund has only reached $3.4 million. The student association leaders now consider the endowment a failure and plan to re-appropriate the money. We have $3.4 million to spend, and the Endowment Commission, identifying the same lack of student space we have, voted last month to put $3.23 million towards the pub.

The proposal is to model the pub after Queen's Head Pub at Harvard. On weekend nights, the area would function as a bar. Those under 21 would be allowed to enter, but they would not be allowed to drink. The rest of the time, the space would function as a lounge, where students could meet, socialize, work, eat snacks and reserve private rooms for meetings.

There are obvious obstacles. Once running, the pub will need an alcohol license, which obviously requires support from the Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

Also, the Financial Aid Office and other administrators currently occupy Healy basement, so students need the University's assistance—and blessing—in relocating the people already there to space that will be opened up with the completion of the new science center.

Although the New South Student Center is a necessity and a part of the plan that students welcome, it is not enough. A student-designed, student-run, student-financed space in the heart of Georgetown's historic campus would go a very long way to creating a stronger sense of on-campus community and toward bringing socialization back on-campus.

Reduce on-campus party restrictions

During finals week in 2007, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson surprised students with the announcement of a new alcohol policy. Administrators had decided to institute a one-keg limit, require host training for parties, require students to register parties by Thursday morning, limit the number of students, and increase sanctions for violations, with a third violation leading to suspension. At the time, the Georgetown Voice termed the changes "draconian."

The following September, the student association president led administrators on a tour through campus on a Saturday night. To their surprise, "There were about eight people standing around [on the rooftops] and when they moved on to Henle, they could hear crickets in the courtyards." Before, it had been one of the biggest party weekends of the year.

Neighbors complained that they noticed an increase in off-campus parties and student noise. Students expressed fear of throwing parties on-campus, citing the new increased sanctions and party registration requirements.

Now, the dynamic has shifted somewhat. Many students express similar fears of 61-Ds for noise violations or Office of Off-Campus Student Life sanctions for off-campus parties.

Students know that despite their best efforts, parties often take on a life of their own, especially at the beginning of the year when groups of freshmen search high and low for a party to crash. Therefore, students decide to throw their parties on- or off- campus depending on where they perceive they'll attract the least trouble.

If we want students to socialize on-campus, we should consider this constant calculus. To an extent, we can shift the party culture by simply shifting the incentives. As we have seen in the last few years, it's not enough to increase the punishments for out-of-control off-campus parties. We need to also loosen the restrictions on on-campus parties.

Meet all undergrad demand for on-campus housing, starting with hotel and 1789 Block

The University maintains that it has provided housing for all undergraduates who have requested it. However, should the above measures be implemented, more upperclassmen will want to live on-campus so that they can be closer to the center to student activity. This is especially true if the expansion locations are well-integrated with existing student patterns.

Considering the existing campus, the two sites for additional housing that seem most sensible are the Leavey Center hotel and the block bounded by Prospect, N, 36th, and 37th, known informally as the "1789 block."

Although the Leavey Center has many flaws as a student center and should ultimately be replaced, it has recently become more student-friendly with the opening of the Hariri Business Building, which connects to Leavey. This trend will continue when the new science center opens in fall 2012 (plans call for the science center to connect to Leavey via open lounge spaces). The addition of student housing to Leavey will help ensure that foot traffic in the building returns to being predominantly student-driven, as opposed to hotel guest- or hospital staff-driven.

The "1789 block" which was once a part of the 2010 Campus Plan, would add up to 250 beds and 8,500 square feet of neighborhood servicing retail in the middle of a university-owned block right outside the university's gates. This project would be within a block of three other university dormitories and two university academic buildings. The "1789 block" would be closer to the front gates than the preexisting Nevils apartment complex and LXR dorm. This space is already a center of student activity, and additional commercial areas so close to campus would entice more students to the area.

The University estimates that these two projects could house approximately 500 undergraduates. This would bring the total number housed on-campus to 5,553, which represents about 92 percent of Georgetown's traditional undergraduate enrollment. This figure compares favorably to every university in Washington and is in line with schools like Harvard, Princeton and MIT, which OP praises in their report as models.

Rate My Landlord

Even if these measures are successful, approximately 8 percent of undergraduates will still have the ability to live off-campus.

However, those students who choose to move out of University housing often pay high rents for low-quality neighborhood housing. Slum landlords regularly fail to maintain their property or respect tenant rights. Students are blamed for the unsightly rental houses, when it is the landlord's responsibility to pay for upkeep.

Theoretically, the Georgetown Office of Off-Campus Life is there to "address the needs and concerns of off campus students." In practice, the office spends as least as much time serving its secondary function: acting "as a liaison between the university and our neighbors, encouraging dialogue about issues of mutual concern."

Lost in the shuffle are the students, who need a stronger advocate in their negotiations with landlords.

One service that would make a big impact would be a "rate my landlord"-type website, where students and other subletters could share information about rental rates, housing quality, upkeep and landlord responsiveness.

Students don't want to live under poor conditions. With more transparent information, students can demand better treatment and drive the slumlords out of business.

The takeaway

In the long run, holistic solutions that aim to improve campus and community life will be far more effective than draconian mandates, which will mire us in legal battles for years to come. We ask that the Zoning Commission, University, and community rethink their approach. The only solutions that can truly address persistent town-gown tensions will be the ones that also take student interests into account.


Georgetown U needs to manage transportation demand

DDOT rejected Georgetown University's campus plan last week, citing its lack of an aggressive transportation demand management plan. While we are not in agreement about the Office of Planning's call for on-campus housing for 100% of undergraduates, we are in agreement that GU could make a much more aggressive investment in transit.

Photo by Drifty on Flickr.

We believe that Georgetown University could manage its growth while having a dramatically smaller impact on the environment and on pedestrians and drivers in the community than it currently does. The path described below outlines how this could be done.

GU is the city's largest private employer and GU Hospital (GUH) is the sixth largest. We all want GU and GUH to grow and create more jobs, but that requires an aggressive investment in transit by GU and the city.

There are three changes in direction that GU should take if it is serious about managing transportation demands to enable smart growth.

Charge market rates for on-campus parking. Georgetown University should not be subsidizing parking for its employees and visitors and should not be overbuilding parking spaces.

GU and its hospital offer massive subsidies to employees, patients and visitors to park on-site. Even with those subsidies, typical parking demand during peak periods is 88% of available spaces. If parking were not subsidized, it would be clear that the campus has too much of it.

The university and hospital only charge $135 and $68 per month, respectively, for employee parking (p. 14 of TDM report). That is significantly below market rates in Georgetown, where others who work there pay between $200 and $300 per month for parking. The lowest monthly rate for a Georgetown parking garage is $215.

GUH charges $6 per day for patients and their visitors. The least expensive daily parking for visitors to Georgetown, by comparison, is $25. Washington Hospital Center charges $12/day, and GWU Hospital charges $7 for the first hour, $6 for the second hour, and up to $17 per day.

Even with these heavy subsidies, Georgetown experiences "typical demand for 3591 spaces during peak times" out of a total of 4080 spaces (p. 17 of TDM report). That's 88% usage during typical peak times.

The city's largest employer should create more jobs, which can only happen by shifting commuters to transit. That's why DDOT also recommends that developers charge market rates for employee parking as part of their transportation demand management plans.

Oddly, GU thinks its prices disincentivize driving. The Campus Plan states that "the University will continue to manage its parking permits and rates to disincentivize driving to campus" and GU will "continue use of price to discourage single occupancy vehicles."

Subsidized parking rates induce driving, and nothing would increase transit use by employees, patients and visitors more than charging the same rates that employees and visitors in the rest of Georgetown have to pay. 46% of GU and GUH's 8,302 employees drive alone to work, and only 396 of them participate in SmartBenefits. Those numbers may be better than they were in 2000, but they are nowhere near what they could be if GU stopped massively subsidizing parking.

Lobby DDOT to help manage demand and bring the streetcar to campus. Typically, very large employers provide lots of jobs, and they expect transit routes to go where those jobs are; for example, National Harbor in Maryland, which receives a subsidized shuttle bus from the Green line paid for by the state.

But Georgetown has not lobbied DDOT to bring transit to its doors. When DDOT rolled out its Capital Bikeshare initiative, the agency had to take the initiative to place a CaBi station on campus and push to secure a deal with GU. It should have been the other way around.

The biggest benefit for GU from DDOT would be for the agency to bring the planned streetcar line along K and M Streets past Wisconsin Avenue to campus, either to the Car Barn (where the city's original streetcars turned) or up the Canal Road entrance into campus.

Residents and students have disagreed on the route of the GUTS Shuttle from campus to Dupont Circle, but the planned streetcar route would connect to several Red and Orange Line stations, making the Dupont and Rosslyn GUTS routes less important. DDOT would rather run the streetcar down M than along K, but will accept K if that's what the community wants. The community wants the streetcar, but many oppose overhead wires on M Street.

GU knows none of this because it was communicated to a meeting of the Georgetown BID, ANC and Citizens Association that the University wasn't even invited to. DDOT doesn't know what GU wants, and that has to change.

Support performance parking. The University should also support performance parking. Currently the Georgetown ANC, as well as BID and Citizens Association, are working with DDOT to place meters in high-demand residential blocks that would charge market rates for parking. This will increase parking turnover and availability.

The Georgetown ANC has pressed DDOT for years on this initiative, with the help of CAG and the BID, and has grown frustrated at times with DDOT's pace. GU, on the other hand, has been fine to be placed on a need-to-know basis. This is simply unacceptable.

Prioritize pedestrians over cars with car-free promenades and woonerfs. Library Walk connects the majority of student housing with the library, quad and several academic buildings and is the primary route used by students. One would expect that such a route would be an attractive footpath with park amenities like benches and tables.

Instead, Library Walk is a street, with narrow sidewalks for students. It doesn't even connect to other streets; it's a dead end.

This is a missed opportunity for creating an engaging, attractive space where students want to be. Spontaneous interactions on Library Walk don't result in lingering, because no one wants to congregate on a narrow sidewalk next to a street.

Car-free promenades in red, woonerfs in orange

Cars should be banned on Library Walk, the asphalt and curbs should be replaced with an attractive park and footpath (just like the path south of the SQ Quad) and benches and tables should be added to encourage socializing.

Woonerf example. Photo by Joel Mann on Flickr.

In addition, streets that are heavily used by students but also required for certain car trips should be converted into woonerfs. The key features of woonerfs are that pedestrians have priority over cars and the distinction between the sidewalk and the street is blurred (short curbs, same brick/stone patterns used on street as on sidewalk).

GU needs to make a greater commitment to transit than it is today. Such a commitment would demonstrate GU's lip service to environmental issues and its consideration of the community's concerns, and enable it to create more jobs without overburdening its transportation infrastructure.


ANC making unfair demands on Georgetown transportation

Monday night, Georgetown ANC approved recommendations concerning the University's 10 Year Campus Plan. This includes the usual complaints about students living off-campus, but also dedicates four pages to concerns about transportation-related issues including objections to campus shuttles traversing the neighborhood.

GUTS bus. Image from Georgetown University.

Neighbors have long complained that the free Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle buses to Dupont Circle rattle their houses. In response, some neighbors have lobbied the university to keep the GUTS buses off Reservoir Road and Q Street, the most direct route to Dupont, even though Metrobuses run on the same streets.

Instead, neighbors have asked the university to route all Dupont shuttles through the Canal Road entrance, which requires construction of a north-south roadway on campus so that the buses can turn around.

The university included this construction initiative in the Campus Plan. But the ANC's draft proposal asks that the university begin making changes immediately, while also limiting student parking in off-campus neighborhoods. These demands are excessive, and even previous compromises seem to have been made without student and staff transportation needs in mind.

Canal Road entrance

Routing the Dupont GUTS bus out of Canal Road makes it far more difficult to get to Dupont in a reasonable time. When the University Office of Transportation Management devised new routes in 2009, it tested routes down the Whitehurst Freeway.

This route is not only longer than the current rush-hour route on Q Street, but it also traverses some high-traffic areas. Of course, the current compromise route, which sends buses up Wisconsin Ave during non-rush hour traffic, is also circuitous and inconvenient. But routing the buses down Whitehurst would be even worse.

Q Street GUTS route (blue), detour up Wisconsin (red), and proposed Whitehurst route (purple).

Much larger Metrobuses also run on Reservoir Road and Q Street, and neighbors tolerate those buses on their streets. But as ANC Chair Ron Lewis told the Voice on Thursday, "The only reason the Metrobuses are on [residential] streets is that they serve stops along those roads, which are very valuable to the community."

GUTS buses are valuable for other reasons. GUTS buses are an extensive enough fleet with a short enough route that they're remarkably punctual. They run every 20 minutes during calm times and every five minutes during rush hour.

Also, they're free. Taking a D6 to and from the Dupont Metro stop every day of the workweek is $60 a month—which is what many people would pay if the Dupont route became too inconvenient. That's because only 32 percent of GUTS bus riders are students, according to a survey administered by the Georgetown University Student Association in 2008.

The rest are MedStar Employees (32 percent), staff (29 percent), faculty (10 percent) or other (2 percent). Of the respondents, 53 percent rode the GUTS bus five times a week.

I ask Mr. Lewis to expand his definition of "community" to include the people who staff his hospital, the people who work at his neighborhood's largest employer, and the 6,000 students that make up about 40 percent of his constituency.

The inconvenience of GUTS buses on residential streets pales in comparison to the inconvenience that the ANC's demands cause for students, staff, hospital workers, and community members who benefit from the shorter Dupont route.

Another possible compromise would be to combine the Dupont GUTS route and the D bus, if WMATA could work out a way for Georgetown to pay for its students and employees to get a free ride and add more frequency on the D. This would make the current shuttles also serve the community, and thereby become valuable in Mr. Lewis's eyes.

However, the GUTS buses are more on-time than the D, and run every 5 minutes during rush hour. Merging the Dupont shuttle with the D bus could be better than rerouting the Dupont shuttle down Whitehurst, but still worse than the current buses running down Q Street.

Additional demands

Unfortunately, the university conceded the arguments about Canal Road early in the negotiations. The Campus Plan already does exactly what the ANC is proposing—just not fast enough. The commissioners demand that the north-south roadway necessary to route the buses out of Canal Road be completed within "the first year of the campus plan."

However, there are some complications. For example, the ANC is unhappy with the actual blueprint of the western portion of the north-south roadway, fearing "environmental concerns and a lengthy and uncertain National Park Service approval process." The commissioners ask the university to consider another location for the loop road or a north-south road with a turnaround at the northern end.

Also, a year is still too long to wait. In the meantime, the ANC asks the university to find ways to route buses out of the Canal Road entrance using existing space. They suggest, "If necessary, buses with a relatively short turning radius could be obtained; or turntable technology is available to turn buses around in a space not much larger than the length of a bus. See, for example,"

The suggestion speaks for itself. It makes little sense for the university to invest in such extensive infrastructure when it already plans to undergo construction to implement long-term changes.

The GUTS buses also have five different routes, two of which (Rosslyn and Dupont) run every 5 minutes during rush hour. To route everything out of Canal Road, any north-south road or carousel would need to handle heavy shuttle traffic and turn buses around very quickly, or else the University would need to significantly cut service.

Students have expressed frustration that the university seems to concede on almost every argument, often to the detriment of students, and yet the ANC continues to fight the Campus Plan tooth and nail. This is exactly what we're talking about.

Student parking

The ANC adds insult to injury with its next recommendation: prevent students from parking anywhere in 20007. The commissioners write, "GU should provide students who live on campus or in the surrounding community—both undergraduates and graduate students—with a combination of incentives, better transportation arrangements, and satellite parking to assure that GU students will not have cars in zip code 20007."

First, making GUTS bus routes more inconvenient gives students far less of an incentive to use University transportation. To suggest that the University both reroute the GUTS buses and encourage students to use them more is disingenuous.

Second, students are highly discouraged from bringing cars to school in the status quo. The University already refuses daily or monthly parking to students who live on-campus. City law creates additional difficulties for off-campus students.

In 1996, the DC Council passed a law preventing only students in certain ANCs—those districts encompassing Georgetown, George Washington, and American University—from obtaining reciprocal parking permits available to other students throughout the city.

Georgetown students must get a DC driver's license and register their vehicles in the DC to park within the ANC 2E boundaries. (Frustration about this law, which is still in effect, was one major impetus for Campaign Georgetown, the mass student voter registration drive that got two students elected to the ANC in 1996.)

As a result, I don't personally know any undergraduates who have a car in DC. Regardless, once students move off-campus and pay rent to a landlord, the University should not interfere to further prevent them from parking their own vehicles.

It's good policy to encourage everyone to use smart transit in order to reduce the number of cars on the road. But if the ANC were actually concerned about parking congestion, we could have a productive discussion about how to improve public transportation options. (The Campus Plan brags that GUTS buses keep 7,750 cars off residential streets every day.) Instead, the ANC only wants to discourage students from living in the neighborhood, by any means possible.

The big picture

The Campus Plan transportation proposals should give people real incentives to use public transit that is safe, convenient and environmentally friendly. The ANC's suggestions go to great lengths to prevent the GUTS buses from operating in an efficient way—while simultaneously limiting other options. If Mr. Lewis really had the whole community in mind, he would reconsider some of the ANC's demands.


On-campus housing not the answer for Georgetown

In "GU takes student ghetto approach to housing undergrads," Ken Archer argues that Georgetown University has created a "student ghetto" by failing to guarantee undergraduates four years of on-campus housing. In response, he suggests four locations where the University should build "multi-use" facilities behind the gates.

Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr.

However, the University's very real financial and space constraints, historical context, and students' actual needs don't support this approach.

Historical context

It' s hard to substantiate the claim, echoed by many other neighbors, that the University has created a larger "student ghetto" than there was in the past.

Mr. Archer uses 1980 as a benchmark. But a 1979 Hoya student newspaper article reported that only 3,058 students were offered on-campus housing in 1980, or 58 percent of Georgetown's 5,293 undergraduates. Today, the University houses 84 percent of its undergraduates. In 1980, 2,235 students lived off-campus. Last semester 1,077 students lived off-campus, not including those studying abroad.*

Mr. Archer might still be right that something fundamentally changed in the 1980s. However, I think he misses the true cause. In 1986, the drinking age in D.C. rose from 18 to 21. As a result, the University implemented a harsher alcohol policy in 1987 that made drinking a punishable offense. The University also ordered the closure of the University Center Pub in Healy basement.

Students responded by moving their parties off-campus. The University instituted additional restrictions in 2007, introducing a one-keg limit and requiring that parties be registered beforehand. There aren't more students actually living off-campus now, but they might be louder.

Regardless of the cause, the 1990s were a highly contentious period. In 1996, neighbors were so bothered by the "student ghetto" that they tried to displace students by proposing a zoning overlay that would prevent more than three unrelated people from renting group homes together. The Zoning Commission rejected the proposal in 1998, ruling that it was discriminatory against students.

In response to the overlay, over 1,000 Georgetown students registered to vote in D.C. to elect two undergraduates to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. Then-ANC Commissioner Westy Byrd distributed flyers warning students of the consequences of registering and was subsequently charged with voter intimidation (though the US Attorney's Office declined to prosecute).

Once the two students were elected, the losing ANC commissioners launched a lawsuit against them that dragged on until 2002. When I wrote a feature story about this time period, several people stressed to me how much better town-gown relations are now.

But opposition to the 2000 Campus Plan was just as fierce. Some of the points in the
Burleith Citizen Association's response letter could be used verbatim as arguments today. ("In fact, the University already has facilities on campus not presently used for undergraduate student housing that would be suitable for that purpose now or in the near future.")

At the time, the Board of Zoning and Adjustment sided with the neighborhood, refusing the University's request to increase its enrollment cap and requiring the University to publicly disclose information about student misconduct complaints. The University appealed, and in 2003, the DC Court of Appeals overturned the decision, declaring it was not the BZA's purview to rule on the University's disciplinary code.

The Southwest Quad also opened in fall 2003, bringing 780 students onto campus. There is a September 2003 newspaper hanging in our student newspaper office with the headline, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood: Have Georgetown's persistent town-gown battles finally come to an end?" The short answer: absolutely not.

It helps the neighbors' cause to pretend town-gown relations are worse than they've ever been, which is why some neighbors have been using this tactic for decades. The reality is, history is only repeating itself. In 1997, Mayor Marion Barry celebrated with the Georgetown ANC over their success in keeping a Papa John's from opening in the neighborhood. In 2010, Mayor Adrian Fenty held a press conference at the shuttering of our beloved Philly Pizza.

In 1979, Citizens Association of Georgetown Vice President Thomas Parrott told the Hoya he opposed the 1980 Campus Plan because it would extend campus boundaries to include Nevils Hall. In 2011, CAG President Jennifer Altemus reminisced about her time as an undergraduate living in Nevilswhile opposing the construction of University housing literally across the street.

Within historical context, it does not seem we are reaching a tipping point. Town-gown relations have ebbed and flowed for years. So we're finalizing the ten-year plan and residents say students are taking over the neighborhood? We're right on schedule.

"Multi-use" buildings are not the answer

Mr. Archer erroneously believes students are unhappy with the Southwest Quad and similar proposals because they are not "multi-use." Take it from a student: we couldn't care less.

Adding 800 beds on-campus would require building additional dorm-style accommodations, with double and triple rooms, common rooms and common bathrooms. Dorms are vastly inferior to off-campus options, which include kitchens, living rooms, single rooms, washing machines, dishwashers and all the furnishings of independent living.

We don't care if the dining hall is an elevator-ride away or a 10-minute walk. We want our own kitchens. We want area for entertaining. We want independence. We want apartments.

Mr. Archer's specific recommendations don't work for students. Considering Darnall's square-shaped floor plan, extending over Epicurean could only be marginally useful. But to any student, the proposal to expand Darnall would just be a sick joke.

Darnall is commonly considered the worst freshman dorm. Every floor houses about 50 people in 173-square-foot doubles. The beds are so close together that roommates can reach out and touch hands. For freshmen, this is fine. I myself survived Darnall Floor 1. But no upperclassmen would live there willingly. At New Student Orientation, ifsomeone says he was assigned to live in Darnall, the appropriate response is, "Oh... I'm so sorry."

The University actually provides townhouses and several nice apartment complexes: Village A, Village B, Nevils and Henle. But apartment complexes are more expensive than dorms, and they are not as space-efficient. In 1979 the Hoya reported that building Village A cost about $58,000 per unit—$169,180 in today's money. It's also harder to
build apartment complexes in the tiny slivers of space the architectural firm suggested.

Likewise, the University is already using the parking lot at the end of library walk to reroute the GUTS buses, as the neighbors have demanded. If the University could add apartments on top of O'Donovan Dining Hall or the new athletic facility, maybe it would attract some interested upperclassmen. But the architects did suggest adding on to Village C, so they likely already considered adding on to other buildings as well.

Considering that expensive apartment-style accommodations are the only options that will keep students on campus, when University officials insist there is no room to build on the traditional campus, they're not being wily. They're being realistic.

Going forward

The campus plan is a balance of sometimes competing interests: the University's desire to expand its offerings and bring in revenue, the neighbors' desire to preserve Georgetown's historic character and family-friendly atmosphere, and the students' desire for access to quality, affordable housing and state-of-the-art University facilities. This
balance requires compromise.

One seemingly obvious solution has since been taken off the table. I would like to see a reconsideration of the 1789 Block proposal, which could have housed 250 students in apartment-style accommodations. Neighbors considered this space "off-campus," even though it is University-owned and wedged between existing classroom buildings and University housing. After their ceaseless complaints, the University relented and struck the project from the plan.

In regards to noise, Mr. Archer says, "27% of student group homes have had run-ins with the police in the past year." Honestly, I'm surprised it' s not more. Neighbors urge each other to call the Metropolitan Police Department about noise before even talking to their student neighbors or calling the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program.

Admittedly, parties get out of control, and destructive behavior should not be tolerated. But calling the MPD about noise complaints takes resources away from real emergencies, like the too-frequent robberies, muggings and sexual assaults.

Neighbors are also quick to blame students for houses in disrepair. I have some Burleith horror stories of my own, as CAG likes to use as evidence for their cause. When I
subletted a room this summer, we had to exterminate bedbugs and pantry moths. The landlord left us to pay for the damages.

Students don't want to live in filth. But it's a seller's market. We don't have the resources or bargaining power to advocate for ourselves, and it's not a summer subletter's job to take on beautification projects. More of the condemnation needs to be directed at landlords who take advantage of students and fail to maintain their property.

Most importantly, neighbors should direct their frustrations at specific problem houses rather than write off students as a group. Responding to a student question at the Campus Plan meeting last Thursday, Ms. Altemus said, "We welcome students into the neighborhood if they obey the laws." If only she meant it.

Ms. Altemus and Mr. Archer do not decry our behavior—they decry our very presence. But under DC Code, it is illegal to discriminate against people based on their "matriculation status," which is why the Zoning Commission struck down the overlay preventing more than three unrelated people from living together. As a group, we have as much of a right to live here as anyone else.

Finally, DC Students Speak and other involved students are making good-faith efforts to engage residents about the campus plan. About 30 students showed up to last Thursday's meeting, and 784 people have signed a petition in support of the plan. My newspaper, the Georgetown Voice, has been attending these meetings from the very beginning. We want a stake in this community. Writing us off as a "student ghetto" doesn't even give us the chance.

* Since there has been so much debate about these numbers, I'll explain my methodology. The 1979 Hoya article said that 1,558 students won the housing lottery, 660 lost and were then "forced to look for off-campus housing," and 1,500 spaces were reserved for freshmen and students with health problems or special circumstances.

A History of Georgetown University, Volume 3 Appendix A, says for academic year 1980-81, the University enrolled 2,091 college students, 462 nursing students, 1,201 school of foreign service students and 838 business students, adding to Mr. Archer' s total of 4,592. However, he forgets to count the School of Languages and Linguistics, which merged with Georgetown College in 1995 and enrolled 701 students in 1980-81.

This brings us to a total of 5,293. If Georgetown had 5,293 undergraduates and housed 3,058, then 2,235 lived off-campus, though not all requested housing.

I have not yet found good statistics about how many students studied abroad during this time. However, considering that study abroad has gotten immensely popular in recent years—according to the Office of International Programs, 57 percent of current students study abroad at some point—I think it's most accurate to exclude students who are studying abroad from the current off-campus count.

The 2010 Campus Plan shows specific enrollment figures for students on the main campus dating back to 2006. There are fewer students on the main campus in the spring because more students study abroad that semester, so under the 2000 Campus Plan, Georgetown reported the enrollment as an average of the two semesters.

I have chosen the most recent data available, fall 2010 alone, when there were 6,130 undergraduates enrolled at the main campus. The University provides 5,053 beds, so assuming every bed was filled last semester, 1,077 students lived off-campus.

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