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Magis causes row with neighbors
“I live on 35th St. … and I’m a chronic complainer,” Eugenia Kemble, a resident of West Georgetown, announced. The other 20-or-so people in the Off-Campus Life Resource Center at the corner of 36th and N streets chuckled, and the introductions continued.
It was a diverse group at Wednesday’s quarterly community meeting—longtime Georgetown residents and community leaders mixed with recent additions to the neighborhood, young mothers, professionals, and a nun. They were all crowded into the small front room for the same reason: Georgetown University students.
The inevitable mixing of students and adults outside of Georgetown’s gates has resulted in a generally volatile clashing of interests. In an attempt to diffuse the tension, the University holds bi-monthly Alliance for Local Living meetings as an open forum for both Georgetown residents and administrators where neighbors air their grievances: students’ parties are loud and long, they yell and fight at 3 a.m. on Saturday mornings on their way back from Philly P’s, and the garbage outside student houses overflows onto the sidewalks.
Magis Row, the block of houses on 36th St. between N and O St. that the University has designated as Living Learning Communities for next year, is part of Georgetown’s answer to residents’ concerns. The student groups living in Magis Row were selected by University officials though an application process; parties at Magis Row houses will be required to end by midnight.
“Magis Row is an example of us listening to you,” Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Jeanne Lord told the group at the community meeting.
However, the neighbors in attendance were largely skeptical about Magis Row. Tony Dewitt, a West Georgetown resident, said that he did not think Magis Row would be an improvement, and suggested that faculty members be interspersed in every two or three houses along the block.
“We all know there are going to be some parties here and there,” Aaron Khan, a West Georgetown resident, said. “These meetings take a repetitive tone … when are there going to be real, concrete repercussions?”
Lord said after the meeting that she was surprised at the neighbors’ almost hostile responses, because the residents and community groups the University had consulted had been largely positive about the initiative.
Many of the residents were pleased, however, with the Metropolitan Police Department’s re-authorization of 61Ds, a noise citation that would go on offending students’ permanent arrest records, which they see as a powerful deterrent against excessively loud parties.
Vice President of University Safety Rocco DelMonaco assured the meeting’s attendees that the students are aware of 61Ds, adding that there are plenty of students who hope to get jobs in government who would not be able to do so with a tainted record.
“Quite frankly, we’ve played that up,” DelMonaco said.
Aaron Golds (COL ‘11), the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who represents the University, was the only student present at the meeting. He struck a relatively diplomatic tone between neighbors and students, emphasizing that neither “side” will be entirely satisfied with the balance that Georgetown is trying to strike.
“I think [Georgetown residents] won’t ever be perfectly happy until all students are on campus and stay on campus,” Golds said, “but I think students should be able to strike a balance so that they can have a good college experience and have fun to a level that the neighbors can tolerate as well.”
The meeting ended with the understanding that Magis Row would be evaluated next fall to determine its effectiveness in making the neighborhood more livable for its non-student residents.