The opening of the Southwest Quadrangle brought 907 students onto campus who would otherwise have been living outside Healy Gates. This increase in the on-campus population has resulted in noticeable changes in campus traffic patterns.

Darryl Harrison, acting director of the Department of Public Safety, said the major change has been in the area immediately around the new facility.

“Any time you bring an additional 900-plus students on campus it changes the entire traffic pattern. It has affected the overall area because you have students that will be traveling to get to this area. Students that would normally stay on [the other] side of campus come down to visit friends and the dining hall,” Harrison said. “All in all I would say it has increased our traffic pattern and concentrated it down on our southern end of campus.”

Because of these changes in the on-campus pedestrian traffic dynamic, DPS officers have been shifted toward the southwest corner of campus. Harrison has also created what he calls a “power shift,” a group of officers who patrol campus from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. on certain nights.

Though he declined to give specifics, Harrison said, “I will say that those officers are mainly concentrated on the times that we anticipate we would get the greatest increase in traffic, so one can assume that would be toward the weekend. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, those type of hours along that way.”

The opening of the Southwest Quad has not encouraged students to remain on campus during weekend nights, Chuck VanSant, director of off campus student life, said.

“Our students will continue to go outside the gates. The new building is not going to keep them in,” he said. “It does shift the population center significantly, both onto campus and then down into the Southwest Quad. We do have fewer students living off campus, but we continue to have issues with the traffic between campus and M Street. Those issues are noise and traffic and trash.”

Issues such as trash came up at last week’s monthly ANC meeting as well. Commissioner Bill Skelsey expressed hopes that the trash problems the Georgetown community has combated for years will decline as a result of fewer students living off campus. He also said that the university committed in July to take responsibility for the student street traffic.

Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson said that the university is mindful of the problems associated with students venturing off campus, especially on weekend nights. He said the university does not want to replace one problem – that of noise and trash from students living off campus – with the problems associated with weekly inundations of the neighborhoods by students living on campus.

“We’re working to make changes in the way that SafeRides operates, so that it will be frequently responsive on Prospect Street,” he said. “Second, we’re working hard to plan programming and events that will create some draws here on campus. The first of these planned events was the `Welcome Back Jack’ event in the courtyard at the Southwest Quad.”

Jeanne Lord, director of off campus life, said that students tend to see the Georgetown community outside Healy Gates as an extension of campus. “We want to remind students that they have to pay attention to safety off campus,” she said. “We want to keep in mind the quality of life issues for our students as well as neighbors.”

Lord and Harrison both said it is still too early in the school year to say whether the Southwest Quad will affect student misconduct off campus. Harrison said DPS receives a progress report every Monday from the Metropolitan Police Department detailing issues impacting or involving Georgetown students.

“We have had a number of arrests and they are the usual type of arrests that occur on Friday and Saturday as far as alcohol violations,” he said. “So it’s hard to say. I don’t know if [those numbers] would even change. I don’t know if having students back on campus would impact that because students still socialize off campus and still socialize as far as the Wisconsin Avenue, M Street line.”

Olson said the Office of Student Affairs will also work with local police to determine what steps need to be taken to keep the Georgetown community safe and pleasant for both students and residents. Harrison added that his department continues to work with Metro to monitor students on and off campus, though he emphasized that on-campus changes will be made over an extended time period.

“We have not had major problems, aside from the increase in pedestrian traffic itself, and we are still responding to those changes and still evaluating and assessing them, and trying to get some type of idea to be able to better deploy based on those time changes,” he said.

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

Comments are closed.