Bringing community apart

By the

September 6, 2001

Neighborhood residents have always considered University students to be unwelcome and irritating guests in their community. In 1996, they tried to prevent students from voting. It failed. Just last year, they tried to remove students as a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act. That too failed. Now, the local task force charged with redistricting the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) has tried something new. When you can’t beat them, marginalize them.

Last week, the 17 residents of the local task force adopted ANC Chair Commissioner Peter Pulsifer’s redistricting solution, which created one district comprised of solely on-campus dorms and distributed the remaining dorms across three districts. According to Pulsifer, his plan “gives students a chance to discuss among themselves what their particular issues were rather than having student commissioners focused on how to unite the interests of dorms and off-campus residents.”

What Pulsifer and the task force members are really saying is that uniting the interests of students and residents is not very important or even desirable. Obviously, students cannot hope to change residents’ negative attitudes about them, so why waste the effort? And by creating three districts where students form the distinct minority, the task force effectively minimizes student involvement and influence. Pulsifer now points out that students have the potential to elect four commissioners to the ANC, the local political body that advises the District government on matters relating to Georgetown. But given university-neighborhood relations over the past few years that seems unlikely.

Some task force members wanted to put all on-campus dorms into two districts. Why, Pulsifer explains, is because students have common interests. He’s absolutely correct. Students want their neighbors to respect their rights as residents of the Georgetown community, which requires dealing with students on a consistent basis so as to maximize cooperation between both groups. Under Pulsifer’s plan, however, that simply won’t happen. In fact, his plan marginalizes students in such a way that makes residents a shoo-in for a majority of ANC seats. Ultimately, students have common interests, but they are far less important than residential common interests, which basically center on keeping student common interests as irrelevant and impotent as possible.

Students need to speak out against the ANC redistricting. We are all members of the Georgetown community and our community does not end at Healy Gates.

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