Saxa Politica: Ten years with no new housing?

November 12, 2009

In March 2009, when the University met with the surrounding community to discuss Georgetown’s Campus Plan, University Architect Alan Brangman had drawn up plans that included space for 200-800 more students to be housed on campus.

The current plan has space for no additional students. That’s right, zero.

Georgetown needs to provide more University housing in the Campus Plan, which dictates Georgetown’s expansion for the next ten years.

It’s not just because our neighbors are mad about it—although they are. The local residents want 100 percent of undergraduates living on-campus, according to the minutes from the March 30 meeting.

But even if the neighbors were taking this lying down (which they aren’t) Georgetown students shouldn’t be apathetic. We need more options, and we need them to be desirable enough to compete with off-campus housing.

“The university believes that we have a strong on-campus housing program today—providing housing for 84 percent of our traditional undergraduates, which is higher than any other local campus except Gallaudet,” Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said.

That percentage drops to around 50 percent for upperclassmen, squeezing students off campus and into the surrounding neighborhoods. Living off-campus can be great, but not if it catches you by surprise. The waiting list for on-campus housing, with hundreds of students on it every year, is a message to Georgetown that students want more places to live on-campus.

Then there are the students driven off-campus by Georgetown’s lackluster accommodations.
Dormitories will never beat the freedom and flexibility of off-campus options, but at the very least, campus housing should be improved to the point where students don’t have to worry about recurring maintenance issues. In Henle, residents have repeatedly gotten locked into their own apartments, as Megan Shudde (COL ’09) told the Voice last year. Georgetown needs to put more money into University-owned housing so these types of problems are not a deterrent from living on campus.

It’s clear that more on-campus housing is a good idea. The question is how to get it. The University pinpointed four potential places for new dorms during the development of the Campus Plan: North Kehoe, the Harbin Esplanade, North Residential (the area beyond Darnall Hall), and an extension to Village C. None of them sound like great options, but then again, residents in West Georgetown and Burleith don’t give the University much choice.

The Citizens Association of Georgetown was hoping several hundred beds would make it into the final Campus Plan, according to CAG President Jennifer Altemus (COL ‘88). However, she also noted that residents oppose expanding the campus farther into the city. Not only that, but any new buildings are subject to height restrictions.

Georgetown is running out of land to build on. The fact that the Harbin Esplanade was considered as a site for a new dorm is testament to how little space is left on campus. But if the University can’t expand outward because neighbors won’t allow campus boundaries to increase, and it can’t build upward because of zoning laws, where are even 200 more students supposed to be housed?

The Campus Plan is now out of the “options” phase, so the time has passed to plan any drastic changes to University housing. We’re locked into what we’ve got for the next 10 years, but that doesn’t mean we’ve missed the chance to improve it.

Georgetown hopes to develop Living Learning Communities, like Magis Row, to make current options more appealing, according to Olson. That, and renovations for dorms in chronic disrepair like Darnall Hall, would be a good place to start.

Campus housing got you feeling squeezed? E-mail Lillian at


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