On ANC, Students Strive to Define Role
Published: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 02:11
As Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14) and Craig Cassey (COL ’15) prepare to become the likely student representatives on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, it is apparent that they will confront many of the same challenges faced by decades of student commissioners before them.
Justin Kopa (COL ’03) served as commissioner from 2001 to 2003 alongside Justin Wagner (COL ’03), marking the last term during which there were two student representatives on the commission. This year, after a recent redistricting of ANC 2E’s jurisdiction, two single-member districts are allotted to areas almost entirely occupied by students.
Both seats are likely to be occupied by students, as Cassey and Prindiville are each running uncontested.
According to Kopa, the biggest challenge he and Wagner faced as new commissioners was trying to establish themselves on the committee.
“We had to work hard to gain credibility,” he said. “It took a lot of time and work to do that.”
Several past commissioners said that the most substantial ongoing challenge during their terms involved forging productive and friendly relationships with fellow commissioners while remaining focused on representing students.
Brett Clements (COL ’07), who served as an ANC commissioner from 2005 until 2007, highlighted this dilemma.
“It’s easy to get swept up in the relationships with the other commissioners, but it’s important not to forget that your goal is [to make] the university better,” he said.
For Michael Glick (COL ’05), who served on the ANC from 2003 until 2005, it was his obligations to students that dominated his agenda.
“I think that there is a tendency to make it students versus the community — and there was certainly some of that — but by and large [for] most of the issues we tackled, we were one big community working together,” Glick said. “But one of the bigger challenges was prioritizing and compromising and trying to work with my fellow commissioners to make sure the student voice and perspective [were] heard.”
Outgoing student commissioner Jake Sticka (COL ’13) said that building strong relationships with fellow commissioners was particularly challenging during his term because he served amid the often-toxic negotiations related to the 2010 Campus Plan and area redistricting.
“The personal relationships I was able to build [differ] from commissioner to commissioner, and some of them will tell you that given the constraints of the Campus Plan period, that was difficult,” Sticka said. “But I feel as though they respect me and I respect them. Our interactions have always been professional and some of them … have been very helpful as mentors [whom] I think I will be able to speak to for years to come.”
Sticka added that his successors are set to join the commission amid a new era of cooperation — facilitated by the newly established Georgetown Community Partnership — and should therefore have a less difficult time forging relationships with fellow commissioners.
Apart from this overarching challenge, past commissioners dealt with issues unique to their terms.
Kopa recalled a fight over a district-wide moratorium on issuing new liquor licenses that took place during his time on the ANC.
“To get [a license], you had to buy one from someone who already had one,” Kopa said.
“In Georgetown, we leveraged that to limit local bars and the types of drink specials aimed at college students and young people.”
Clements used his position on the commission to lobby the university about its proposal to ban kegs from campus.
“I was able to get the other commissioners to support my opposition to the keg ban. Neighbors realized that banning kegs in on-campus housing would push parties off campus,” he said.
And when Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05) perished in a townhouse fire in 2004, Clements joined with the other commissioners in calling for more housing inspections.
“Basically, a lot of the off-campus housing was not up to code and was not properly inspected to rent to a large number of people. We tried to make a big effort to get those inspections done at all of the houses,” Clements said.
Sticka added that while he made the most of his status as the lone student commissioner during his term, he is enthusiastic about the possibilities available to Prindiville and Cassey.
“Throughout my term, I did my best to voice student opinion in a respectful manner. On the commission where there’s one student and six non-students, my ability to … win votes by myself was limited,” he said. “In terms of redistricting, we ultimately got a compromise plan where there’s going to be two students elected just about every year … and that’s certainly a better one than we’ve had in the past 10 years.”