This year, the University has restructured the Office of Neighborhood Life to better support students living off campus. I’d like to take this time to share how we can now better serve your needs.

We have shifted our focus to become a resource for all of our neighbors — both students and non-students — and have moved the off-campus conduct process out of our office and into the Office of Student Conduct. These are welcome changes that let us better focus our resources on the needs of students and neighbors to improve quality of life in our community.

In the first few months of this new office we have seen an overall improvement in the neighborhood. There is still much work to be done to strengthen our partnership with neighbors, but I am pleased to report that things are improving.

Since the school year started, we have made a serious effort to be transparent with students about the rights and responsibilities of living off campus and the laws and policies that govern life in the neighborhood. We’ve provided orientation programs and printed guides so that students can understand noise laws in the neighborhood and possible sanctions. We’ve talked with the entire freshmen class and much of the sophomore class about being good neighbors and guests in the community.

And our office continues to speak openly about the need to improve safety in the homes students rent. In the coming months, we’ll begin working with landlords to ensure homes rented to four or more students have a Basic Business License, which ensures the home meets the minimum safety standards by law as outlined by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. And the Office continues to partner with the Georgetown Student Tenant Association in efforts to improve property conditions that students bring to our attention.

My office monitors a University Helpline — a 24-hour phone number anyone can call to voice concerns in our neighborhood. So far this year, we’ve seen a rise in the number of phone calls to the Helpline. This was to be expected. In orientation, we highlighted SNAP as a resource for students and widely shared the Helpline with our neighbors. We have already received calls from students to report noise complaints or help get parties under control and neighbors have also called the Helpline instead of 911 or 311. And while SNAP does respond to concerns via the Helpline, many forget that their primary job is to keep our students safe; they are a visible presence that can help deter crime and keep students safe late at night.

Unfortunately, we’ve also seen an increase in the number of 61D citations — considered an arrest in the District of Columbia — issued to students by the Metropolitan Police Department. We never want to see this happen to our students, and we want to make sure that all students understand the risks of these arrests. We believe it’s better for everyone if the University can resolve a situation before MPD needs to respond.

To better support our community, our office staff has grown, now including community directors for West Georgetown, Burleith/Foxhall and other new staff. This welcome increase allows for our office to expand it ability to assist students and non-student residents alike.

Our office plays an important role in the Georgetown Community Partnership (GCP). The GCP is truly a partnership with students, community members and the University. Each of the GCP’s five working groups collaborates on many issues facing the University and the surrounding community including safety, communication, and environmental issues. The GCP has also worked to enhance social life on campus.

And through tremendous student leadership, the GCP was a driving force behind policy changes on campus including the lifting of the keg policy, removing party registration and opening locations in Village A and Henle Village to socialize outside with an open container. To encourage students living off campus to participate in this process, our office has formed the Neighborhood Advisory Board. This board meets monthly to help advise our office on ways we can improve the neighborhood and the quality of life for our students. All are welcome — and encouraged to attend —these meetings.

It is my belief that the Office of Neighborhood Life has a valuable role at the University to ensure students are able to reside in our community safely and act as good neighbors. If you feel the same, I invite you to stop by and visit us at the corner of 36th & N Street.

Cory Peterson is the director of the Office of Neighborhood Life.

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