By Arianne AryanpurHoya Staff Writer

In an unprecedented attempt to end discrimination against students in the Washington university student leaders proposed a Student Bill of Rights to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Tuesday. The resolution, according to its proponents, is a positive affirmation of student rights intended to open the door for future discussion regarding the reality of student discrimination.

Speaking on behalf of all seven Washington area colleges and universities, ANC district 2E04 and 2E05 representatives Justin Kopa (COL ’03) and Justin Wagner (COL ’03) called attention to several instances of discrimination and asked the ANC to protect fundamental student rights.

“We are deeply troubled that some community activists are promoting policies that make special laws for people in one particular class,” Wagner said in a release.

According to D.C. Students United, an association of university students in the District, recent actions by the BZA and by community activists indicate a violation of students’ basic liberties.

In the past four years area residents filed a lawsuit challenging students’ rights to vote and have attempted to limit the number of students living in particular zip codes.

Last year the Board of Zoning Adjustment proposed a minor “amendment” to the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 which would have allowed D.C. to cap the number of Georgetown students living in local off-campus housing at 700 people. It would have also allowed the District to coerce all other students wishing to live in the area into either on-campus housing or residences in other areas of the city, Virginia or Maryland.

Tuesday’s proposal was prompted largely by a recent controversial ruling made by the BZA that many students feel infringes on rights protected under the United States Constitution.

The ruling requires that Georgetown students make parts of their academic and disciplinary records accessible to district officials, area activists and parents.

It also mandates that the university report housing and motor vehicle violations by students to agencies and area residents for sanctions.

Many feel the ruling violates the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act of 1978 which grants students the right to information in their individual educational records but restricts the university in what information it can disclose from one’s educational records.

“Despite the fact that both district and federal regulations prohibit discrimination against university students, students increasingly feel discriminated against and feel like second class citizens in their own community,” Wagner said.

“What if you tried to limit the number of people who lived in a particular zip code based on their race? Or asked for privacy disclosure based on people’s sexuality or religion?” he added, emphasizing students’ desires to be treated as equal citizens.

Malekah Roberts, a resident of 34th Street, said Georgetown students should not be granted equal rights when they don’t act in a deserving manner. “[Students] can’t expect to be treated like adults when they don’t act like adults.”

Roberts cited instances of public urination, vomiting and disruptive behavior by students near her home.

According to former co-chair of Campaign Georgetown Brian McCabe (SFS ’02),”Poor student behavior is not a reason to discriminate against a class of people – it’s a reason to work harder.”

According to Wagner, Georgetown students are making a concerted effort to improve student conduct in the area.

For instance, Kopa led off-campus orientation, a program that teaches new students living off-campus their responsibilities and obligations to the community.

Wagner said he would talk to students about the problems of noise, disruptive conduct and trash in the near future.

McCabe said that while student conduct is not perfect, “[The] important thing is students are working very hard to improve student behavior.”

Wagner said the actions of a few irresponsible students should not overshadow the positive contributions made by the majority of the student body.

“Other than having a $4 billion impact on the District economy and providing a continual diversity of ideas and culture, students of area universities organize over 400 educational enrichment programs at D.C. public and private schools,” Wagner said.

“Twenty-five percent, or 1,500 [Georgetown students] are involved in weekly service projects in the District.”

Former President of the Burleith Citizen’s Association Pat Scolaro said she felt the bill was accusing area communities. “You are making serious allegations,” she said.

“This is really just a stepping stone, just a beginning and we’re not looking to make any allegations,” Kopa said.

Philippa Sparg (SFS ’03), who attended the meeting to support the Bill of Rights, agreed. “We didn’t come in an antagonistic fashion.”

Scolaro and other ANC members still questioned Kopa and Wagner’s approach to the issue, suggesting they should have initially spoken to the community associations before presenting it to the ANC.

Several residents agreed that first proposing the resolution to other smaller organizations is needed.

While the ANC voted to postpone taking any action on the resolution, the proposal itself has made public the need for increased dialogue between students and the community.

“[This] dialogue started long before Justin Wagner and I came on the scene and it continues very vigorously in the community every day,” Kopa said.

Tuesday night’s presentation commenced a seven-week student campaign aimed at highlighting university students’ positive contributions to the community.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.