“They don’t get much ruder than this bunch who seems to feel the need to host a party anytime they can,” writes Burlieth resident and former American University photography professor Stephen R. Brown under a video depicting a 37th Street party. His website, “Drunken” Georgetown Students, launched in April 2010, is once again in full swing, cataloguing the drunken debauchery of Georgetown students and “young professionals” in their own back yards.
While DrunkenGeorgetownStudents.com certainly brings the conflict between 1st Amendment rights and privacy infringement to the foreground, Brown’s hobby has deeper, more local implications for town-gown relations.
Brown is, of course, justified in his dissatisfaction with students; after all, the controversial 2011 D.C. noise ordinance explicitly prohibits any sounds “likely to annoy or disturb other persons in their residences,” behavior the ordinance has yet to effectively stymie. The unreasonable nature of his blog, however, arises from the way in which he ventures outside his residence to actively document drunken behavior of what he incorrectly calls “pigs in a poke.”
This attitude toward students on the part of the more grumpy neighbors is, in effect, the result of the 2010 Campus Plan, two years and many more stubbornly fruitless Advisory Neighborhood Commission sessions in the making. Brown represents the resulting dissatisfied extreme, but viewing Georgetown students through barnyard animal-colored glasses does no justice to the final compromises reached in July; both the students and the neighbors suffer as a result.
Those attending Georgetown perceive the vocal minority as a mean, brewing suspicion and animosity toward the victims of the real world extending past Reservoir Road. Any action by the surrounding communities meant to deter crime, then, becomes an attack on the liberty of students.
The Citizens Association of Georgetown’s camera initiative, for instance, appears to target weekend partiers, even though CAG President Jennifer Altemus assured the neighbors in a letter that the cameras, installed in the homes of volunteers, are meant only to “act as a deterrent to crime and assist the Metropolitan Police Department with criminal investigations.”
While the cameras are managed by CAG, not the individuals whose houses the cameras adorn, the precedent has been set for students’ skepticism in spite of lack of proof. Any house could have a camera; any student’s photograph can be used in the prosecution for drunk and disorderly conduct.
Drunk and disorderly conduct, of course, is a crime, one further codified by the aforementioned noise ordinance. However, college students subject to decades of expectations of traditions involving alcohol are rather difficult to reeducate.
Unfortunately, the neighbors appear to disagree. The packs of howling, roving drunkards ruining a peaceful weekend must be fixed, and Georgetown must sweep the Burleith streets clean of such rubbish.
With removal of party registration restriction, Student Neighborhood Assistance Program vans prowling the streets, and SafeRides shuttles following set routes for the benefit of students, the University is doing what it can to reign in off-campus activities.
What neighbors like Brown fail to understand is the impossibility of restricting students to an already crowded campus. The proposed measures to convert the Leavey Hotel and Conference Center into a dormitory housing 385 beds by 2025 is already designed to keep 90 percent of undergraduates on University grounds. As a school already largely isolated from the District, Georgetown cannot afford to further restrict student movement.
Students also must examine their actions from the point of view of the opposing party on the opposite side of Reservoir. In the real world, functional humans work to maintain a living, and booming Katy Perry or Drake songs playing late into the night are not conducive to much-needed rest.
In spite of GUSA’s assertions on the Campus Plan, the students are not crushed between a careless University’s appeasement and the neighbors’ irrational cruelty. In fact, the administration is the party cursed with the mission of balancing support for students and unyielding complaints of the off-campus residents.
Both the neighbors and Georgetown undergraduates must abandon preconceived notions of the tyranny of the rival community; such conflict does not facilitate cooperation and sustainable coexistence in such close quarters. When all participating parties demonstrate some semblance of empathy, perhaps we will be able to avoid another two-year-long drag of passing something as elementary as a campus plan.
Report Kirill’s drunken behavior at email@example.com