Ever take a look at the 2010 Campus Plan? Hopefully you haven’t, because you have much better things to do than pore over a set of five-year-old zoning requirements. It’s more likely, however, that you’ve unknowingly seen the effects of the plan play out in front of you.

Take Georgetown’s most ironically named administrative apparatus, the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program. Chances are that you’ve been pushed out of an off-campus house in the early evening by hosts who are in the process of being written up for disorderly conduct by SNAP. But if you’ve ever stopped to wonder why you’re walking home even before Tombs stops serving dinner, it’s because of an intentionally ambiguous paragraph in the campus plan containing the eloquent policy that “if noise can be heard beyond the property line, it is probably too noisy.”

Of course, this would be a perfectly reasonable metric if every resident of the neighborhood were held to the same standard. Yet D.C.’s Noise at Night Law doesn’t even take effect until, well, night — specifically at 10 p.m. The requirements set forth in the campus plan, on the other hand, apply 24/7. This means that a student and non-student house can be listening to the exact same song at the exact same volume at 9:45 p.m. and only those in the student house will face repercussions.

In keeping with its anti-student tenor, the campus plan also provides for “rapidly accelerating and serious sanctions” to accompany the increased enforcement of conduct policies. Imagine playing music with 10 friends in your Burleith backyard at a volume that can be heard 30 feet away on the sidewalk. Setting aside the merits of considering this a violation of the Code of Student Conduct in the first place, according to the university it constitutes “disorderly conduct” instead of “noise.”

This distinction, in turn, provides a convenient backdoor for the university to sanction students with disciplinary probation. The plan itself outlines more severe sanctions as well, including giving the university the ability to move students back into on-campus housing in the middle of the year — sticking students with both a lease they need to pay and on-campus housing many of them can’t afford. The campus plan even grants the university the authority to ban certain students from living off campus outright, without even spending a day in non-university housing.

All of this is ostensibly done in the name of making on-campus student life more attractive and off-campus student life more restrained. Yet time and again the university has failed to live up to its side of the bargain, tightening off-campus conduct policy while maintaining current standards on campus. A recent decision by the Disciplinary Review Committee to reject a proposal to allow alcohol paraphernalia on campus is a particularly revealing example of this trend. The university is consistently willing to spend students’ tuition dollars on SNAP and reliably unwilling to make policy changes required by the campus plan.

Though the 2010 campus plan is already legally binding, it is worth remembering that the plan was written with virtually no student input. It is physical proof of what happens when students are locked out of negotiations — we are sold out, every time. Students understand the desire to ensure that Burleith and West Georgetown remain safe and inviting neighborhoods, but writing and enforcing policies that hold students to unreasonable standards is far from a solution.

With the drafting of the 2018 campus plan beginning this summer, student involvement will be essential to ensure that student life is not limited any further by oppressive conduct policies and unfair targeting of students. Let’s not get screwed again.

 

Ryan Shymansky is a junior in the College and Director of the Student Advocacy Office.

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