After two years of grueling campus plan negotiations, it’s clear that Georgetown’s relationship with the neighborhood is, at best, strained. Unfortunately, the appointment of ANC 2E Chair Ron Lewis on Tuesday as co-chair of the Georgetown Community Partnership dims hopes that this new body can change the course of town-gown relations.

The partnership was created this summer to oversee execution of the 2010 Campus Plan and future issues between the university and its neighbors.

But granting Lewis a commanding seat at the table promises to make the GCP an extension of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E — in short, more of the same.

The GCP, at least as we envisioned it, could have provided a fresh start for neighborhood relations by providing an opportunity to conduct negotiations outside of the often combative environments of ANC meetings and D.C. Zoning Commission hearings. But this move gives Lewis too much authority as spokesperson for the community. He was deeply involved in the gridlock during campus plan talks, and it’s naive to think that giving new titles to the same characters can change the dynamics of future negotiations.

We would like to see leadership of the GCP extended to include new members of the surrounding community, allowing fresh voices to be part of the discussion. We’d also appreciate greater student inclusion, especially after students were shut out of the final campus plan negotiations. It’s worrisome that organizers of the initiative have yet to suggest any kind of formal leadership positions for students in the GCP.

It’s time to make progress with town-gown relations. But if the creation of the GCP was one step forward, the Lewis appointment is two steps back.

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