The punchy propaganda of Campaign Georgetown sounds eerily militaristic these days, as if duty compels every student to pick up musket and join the battle raging on the cobbled streets of Georgetown.

Our would-be commanders brandish exclamation points like rapiers and lean on the shift key like they’re driving their keyboards STRAIGHT OUT OF TOWN, WITH THE POLICE IN HOT PURSUIT(!)

It’s a propaganda war targeting our own neighbors and it feels shallow and bitter. We’ve been saying for a month now that the “world will never be the same,” but that doesn’t give us an excuse to make our neighborhood a nasty place to live.

We’ll never see peace on our streets if we keep threatening to stage a Georgetown Tea Party, or some such thing. aybe it’s time to look at town-gown relations differently, or at least not so confrontationally, so that we can make our neighborhood better and stronger.

The divisive bombast issued, as a matter of habit, by Campaign Georgetown relies on legalistic arguments to ensure students’ rights are protected – and that is a critical goal.

But we’re so busy applying close readings of the D.C. Human Rights Act, the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act and the U.S. Constitution that we forget the common-sense definitions of citizenry and we forget that these issues aren’t as one sided as we may think.

Just consider our relationship to the area – it’s more of a home away from home than an actual home. The whole exercise is framed like transitional housing, we come here for four years, in nine-month increments, and we leave ready to join the real world.

We can be terrible, loud, dirty, obnoxious neighbors – a typical Saturday night is a chorus of yells, curses and sirens. When neighbors wake up – if they could sleep at all – they find their yards full of empty alcohol vessels and their gardens slick with urine.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some neighbors hate us, because some of us, apparently, couldn’t care less about them.

For their part, our neighbors would do well to remember what we add to the community. The university is a rich resource for research, continuing education and programming. The constant presence of students helps keep the streets of Georgetown among the city’s safest.

We use our community service experiences to demonstrate our ostensible commitment to the community. We would do far more good if we were to embrace the community as our own at all times. Instead, we tend to set aside specific times for goodwill activities at the exclusion of others – and we think that a weekend of service is a substitute for general civic responsibility. A weekend of service is good for a weekend of service, and we shouldn’t argue that our participation in such endeavors entitles us to anything.

We also shouldn’t forget that our place in the community, even for off-campus residents, is moderated through the university. It seems appropriate that the university would play some role in ensuring that we are good citizens – and instructing us when we are not.

Town-gown relations are fiendishly complex, and the polemics coming from both sides simplify nothing. They only reaffirm the attitude that has gotten us here, the one that urges us to work against each other, rather than with each other.

Maybe we would make some progress if campus leaders, community activists and area newspapers (including campus ones) didn’t frame the issue as a battle. That would mean there aren’t two sides, it would mean that being a student and being a resident aren’t mutually exclusive. It would mean we’re making progress, not picking another fight.

By All Accounts appears every Tuesday in The Hoya. The author can be reached at haggertythehoya.com.

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