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Neighbors irate as GU plans no new housing
Georgetown residents are upset with University administrators, and it has only been the first community meeting for the draft of the school’s 2010 Campus Plan.
The meeting, which took place at Georgetown Visitation on Tuesday night, was a follow-up to meetings last November and May, during which Georgetown officials presented a menu of options for the University’s construction plans for the next decade. Neighborhood residents who attended the May meeting demanded more specific meetings where the University would outline what it intended to include in different areas of the plan. Tuesday’s meeting, the Off-campus Life/Housing/Enrollment meeting, was the first of five November meetings.
Georgetown revealed that it is not proposing the construction of any new on-campus housing in the plan. In response to residents’ concerns about disruptive student behavior off-campus, the University intends to increase Student Neighborhood Assistance Program patrols on weekends, as well as employ off-campus “Community Advisors,” whose roles would mirror that of Residence Hall directors.
Citizens Association of Georgetown President Jennifer Altemus (COL ’88) was “really disappointed” that there would not be construction of more housing on-campus.
“We were hoping to get a lot of off-campus people onto campus, and apparently that is not in the cards,” Altemus said after the meeting.
Associate Vice President for External Relations Linda Greenan said the University chose not to propose construction of new undergraduate housing because the needs to expand the library and student space are more pressing. She also said that the University was concerned students would not want to live in new on-campus housing.
Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson pointed out that currently 84 percent of undergraduates live on-campus. However, the residents argued that students in townhouses, LXR, Nevils and Village B should not be counted as part of the 84 percent, as they live outside the University gates. To the neighbors’ frustration, Olson reaffirmed that residences outside campus gates are still considered on-campus.
“As we just said … we are making no effort to be deceptive with these numbers,” Olson said. “We are describing our on-campus housing stock and telling you [what] … we’ve been telling you for years … I’m not trying to be cagey.”
Several residents charged that the university does not do enough to entice students to remain on-campus because its housing is not better in quality or price to that of off-campus housing. Georgetown University Student Association Marketing & Advertising Executive Molly Breen (MSB `10) said that students choose to move off campus for increased independence.
“There’s the undeniable fact that you hit a certain age and you’re ready to not live in a dorm, to be an adult, pay your bills,” Breen said.
The two “Community Advisors” would be stationed in West Georgetown and Burleith. Olson said after the meeting that the University would rent residences where these staff members would live.
“They’re really there to help students understand that they’re moving into a neighborhood with adults, so it’s just part of a way to stop problems before they start,” Advisory Neighborhood Student Commissioner Aaron Golds (COL `11) said after the meeting.
Olson and Greenan do not yet know if the advisors will be able to issue citations.
The University is also committed to doubling SNAP from one car to two cars starting January 2010, and keeping one SNAP car in service over the summer. Altemus called the idea a good move, but she did not think it would solve anything.
Olson said Metropolitan Police Department has “recognized and applauded” the SNAP program, and other universities have considered the SNAP program a “national model.” However, many neighbors were skeptical of SNAP’s effectiveness. One neighbor asked, “With other universities that are congratulating you on your SNAP program, I want to know why I’ve made 10 calls to the cops this year.”
Residents were especially concerned about off-campus housing, considering the University’s enrollment plans. While Georgetown intends to cap undergraduate enrollment at 6,016 students, the university hopes to grow graduate and professional school enrollment by 3,188, to a total of 8,700 students.
But according to Greenan, many graduate students already live elsewhere in the D.C. area and would come to campus only part-time. Greenan said meetings on November 18 and 19 should focus on “how these numbers break down.” Georgetown does not currently house graduate students, but future meetings will discuss the proposal to build graduate housing on 36th Street, by the 1789 restaurant.
Residents doubted that graduate students would be any more “mature” than undergraduate students.
“I think it’s a mistake to assume that graduate students live a monk-like existence,” ANC Chairman Ron Lewis said.
West Village resident Roberto Coquis and others were surprised by how “unprepared” Georgetown was for Tuesday’s meeting.
“The initial kickoff meeting was a year ago, and the issues that were raised in this meeting were the same issues that were raised over and over to the University,” Coquis said after the meeting.
The next meeting on November 12 will discuss transportation, such as proposed GUTS bus routes. At the November 16 meeting, the university plans to discuss developing the 1789 block for graduate school housing. Olson said a meeting for students should be November 16 or 17, but the date has not been finalized yet. The November 18 and 19 meetings should review the entire plan draft. Meetings are 6:30-9 p.m. in the Heritage Room at Visitation School and are open to the public.