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Saxa Politica: Breaking promises, slowly

October 3, 2013


If it seemed to casual observers that the GUSA leaders were violating the trust of administrators when they chose to publicly reveal what they had learned in private discussions, it was only because administrators had already breached that trust.

When an agreement was finally reached on the 2010 Campus Plan, it was presented to students as a tradeoff. For strengthening off-campus housing regulations and losing 35th Street townhouses, students got upgrades in on-campus student life. Ending the keg limit, loosening open-container policies, fewer restrictions on partying on campus, and food trucks were all touted by administrators as ways in which they were helping “strengthen the residential undergraduate experience at 37th and O Street,” as University Spokeswoman Stacy Kerr put it the night that D.C. Zoning Commission approved the campus plan.

While the agreement wasn’t ideal, students could live with the results, even if they weren’t consulted during the negotiations. At the time, student leaders resolved to fight the quiet, protracted fight of implementation. If they couldn’t change the plan, they could at least ensure that students received the best outcome within the confines of the agreement.

For the time being, this plan of action seemed prudent. The University had so far resisted plans to move students to a satellite campus or to add student beds in odd, unnecessary spaces. Even though neighborhood groups had been pushing to add a paltry 75 beds to a section of the Athletic Training Facility, administrators pushed back on the idea. They insisted that 75 people wouldn’t be enough to foster a community of students at a school the size of Georgetown. Any new dorm would need to house 250 students in order to foster the kind of student community Georgetown strives for.

Presumably, this commitment to the integrity of the student community would carry over after the Campus Plan was enacted in 2012. Keeping with their commitment to “student engagement” despite it being summertime, administrators held their first ever town hall via teleconference to discuss the effects of the campus plan agreement on students. University President John DeGioia gave prepared introductory remarks, in which he assured students that, whatever happens, the undergraduate heart of Georgetown would remain on the main campus.

“We believe that our undergraduate experience best can take place on this historic campus,” he said. “Our vision prioritizes development of an enhanced living-and-learning campus focused on undergraduates on the main campus, on this plot of ground.”

One year makes a lot of difference. While students benefited in various ways from the Campus Plan, administrators are reneging on the promises they made to students. They went from reassuring us that students would never live in a satellite residence to, a year later, floating the idea in meetings with groups of select students.

After GUSA President Nate Tisa dropped his satellite dorm media bomb, University administrators began by accusing Tisa of lying and trying to convince reporters that there was a pertinent difference between a “satellite campus” and a “satellite residence,” (in the process failing to realize that a simple far-away dorm would be worse for students than a full-fledged satellite campus.) In the same breath, they stressed that it was one of many options being considered.

After another week passed, we find out that a satellite campus would only be temporary. Then administrators took the line that only the five percent of students who want to live there would have to live there.

Lost in all of the talk of satellite campuses is the University’s commitment of having enough students in one place to build a community. At maximum, a satellite campus would house around 160 students—a considerably lower number than the 250 established as minimum a year and half earlier. At any given time, only a fraction of them would be present.

Not only would such a residence fail to qualify as a community by the school’s own standards, it would flatly break the promises administrators made to students a year and a half ago. Too many details have emerged for a plan that is being considered among a “number of housing alternatives.”At this point, student leaders can’t be sure what administrators are planning.

 

Got any broken promises you want to complain about? Email Connor at cjones@georgetownvoice.com


Connor Jones
Connor Jones is the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Voice. Before that, he edited its blog, Vox Populi and the features section. He was a double major in mathematics and economics and is from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at cjones@georgetownvoice.com.


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    I see the thread you’re trying to weave here Connor, but the statements you’re using as support don’t say what you’re claiming they do.

    While students benefited in various ways from the Campus Plan, administrators are reneging on the promises they made to students. They went from reassuring us that students would never live in a satellite residence to, a year later, floating the idea in meetings with groups of select students.

    Please find a single definitive statement from an administrator that promised (your word) that there would never, ever be a satellite residence, even a temporary one. Saying that we’re going to strengthen the on-campus experience and residential community is not the same thing as saying there will be no satellite residence halls, ever. We encourage study abroad and have properties in Italy and Turkey – those things may draw students off of campus, but they do not inherently contradict the idea of strengthening the residential on-campus experience.

    Lost in all of the talk of satellite campuses is the University’s commitment of having enough students in one place to build a community. At maximum, a satellite campus would house around 160 students—a considerably lower number than the 250 established as minimum a year and half earlier. At any given time, only a fraction of them would be present.

    Two things:
    1. 250 was never described as a hard minimum, as there are residences, including the new Northeast Triangle dorm, that have fewer than 250 beds. Unless you have a direct quote that says otherwise?
    2. Why are you assuming that the satellite building would house only 160 people? Because that’s the number that gets you to the magic cut-off requirement by 2015? What if the University is planning on getting more beds and then filling the remainder with, say, graduate students? That’s exactly what they’ve said, in fact.

    If you’re going to accuse people of breaking promises, you need to actually document them making those promises.


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