GCP Aims to Foster Town-Gown Dialogue
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 02:09
In contrast to the hostility and tension that characterized the relationship between Georgetown and its neighbors during the 2010 Campus Plan negotiations, both parties are starting to express optimism that a new era of cooperation has begun.
According to Lauralyn Lee, who is set to become the university’s associate vice president for community engagement and strategic initiatives in early October, the university and the surrounding community have identified a series of common objectives that lend themselves to collaboration rather than combat.
Lee said that the Georgetown Community Partnership — an organization of university and neighborhood representatives that aims to provide a forum for the joint resolution of town-gown issues — will help enable this shift in attitude.
“One of the things we’ve agreed on going into the partnership is a common set of goals,” Lee said at a Wednesday meeting with campus press. “We’ve identified some strategic priorities that we share, and … we’re asking everybody who’s engaged in the partnership to work toward the kind of community in which we want to live.”
Ron Lewis, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E and neighborhood appointee to the GCP’s steering committee, also attended the meeting.
“[The GCP] is revolutionary for everybody,” he said.
The partnership will operate on a committee structure, with working groups designated to deal with specific issues related to Georgetown’s neighborhood relations. The groups will be overseen by a steering committee that includes Lewis, Georgetown University Student Association President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and a university appointee.
Tuesday’s announcement that Gustafson would be part of the GCP leadership came after months of GUSA’s lobbying to get a student representative named to the steering committee.
“Vail [Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13), vice president of GUSA,] and I over the summer have literally been saying in every meeting with every administrator, no matter who they are or if they’re related to the GCP, that having a student representative on the GCP is of the utmost importance and a symbolic step toward establishing the students as a legitimate party in our immediate and neighboring community,” Gustafson said.
Lee said that while students were excluded from the closed-door negotiations that led to the agreement between Georgetown and the community on the campus plan, there is now an opportunity for greater student involvement.
“We recognized that the nature of the particular negotiation process wasn’t conducive to having students at the table but that we would ultimately get to the partnership where we really think the rubber is going to hit the road in terms of the work of the real value of building our community and that will have student engagement,” she said.
Gustafson is hopeful that her spot on the GCP will allow her to channel student opinion in a meaningful and results-oriented way. She said that she and her team will gather feedback through office-hour conversations with students, special working groups and subcommittees of the GCP in which students will be more widely represented.
“It will be important that students who care about housing and transportation get involved as soon as [the GCP] starts,” she said.
Lee identified GUSA’s Feb. 27 Student Life Report and the Hoya Roundtables that have taken place on campus throughout the year as other ways of gathering student feedback.
Both Lee and Lewis stressed developing quality on-campus student life as a top priority of the GCP’s steering committee.
“In terms of campus student life [and] the idea of a true living and learning community on campus … there’s room for improvement,” Lewis said. “We need places where it can be made a lot more congenial for students and a lot more opportunities for students to socialize on campus and have a welcoming, safe and physically adequate building space that just doesn’t exist now.”
Gustafson agreed that on-campus student spaces should be a main focus, adding that she would also emphasize the need for a wider array of transportation options through her position on the GCP.
Lewis said that he and other community partners will ensure that the neighborhood voice is also effectively represented on the GCP. In addition to Lewis, representatives of the Burleith Citizens Association, the Citizens Association of Georgetown, ANC 3D and the Foxhall Community Citizens Association will serve on various GCP committees.
While the details of the structure of the GCP have yet to be ironed out, Lewis and Lee said that it will function on the basis of consensus.