A Call for Commitment to a United Campus
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 08:09
Let’s start with a simple fact: the 2010 Campus Plan agreement — drafted and signed without any student input — does not require, or even encourage, the creation of an undergraduate satellite residential campus.
Administrators once presented the agreement as an opportunity for new on-campus housing, rather than apologizing for it as a burden to be shouldered by future undergraduates. In June 2012, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson wrote to students, “Making our campus a more comfortable and inviting place to live and socialize is a win both for students and for the local community. This agreement will allow us to provide more opportunities for students to live and socialize on our campus.”
Back then, the possibilities of the agreement seemed wide and promising. Yet for unclear reasons, this shared future has been put in jeopardy. Over the course of the summer, the administration introduced a new, deeply divisive and unpopular idea: moving hundreds of students to a satellite residential campus.
When we first heard about it, we were puzzled — among the other ideas on the table, this one seemed inappropriate and doomed to a swift exit from the stage. Yet as time went on, the administration began talking less and less about on-campus housing like the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center. Instead, they began talking more and more about which far-flung corner of the Washington, D.C. area would house this satellite community, rather than whether it would exist at all.
Students have participated in the Georgetown Community Partnership even when it was difficult to do so. GUSA Executives Clara and Vail, and Mike and Greg before them, worked closely with the university to surmount incredible challenges and create a new relationship with the surrounding community moving forward. If students are equal partners -— as we should be — the student voice must take priority on an issue that is so impactful to the very fiber of the undergraduate experience.
The satellite campus is the path of least resistance, but it is not the appropriate option for Georgetown. Too much work has gone into improving student life here, on this Hilltop, to give up on the idea of a better future. Students did not sign the Campus Plan, but we are bound by it now, and deserve ownership over its impact on our lives. We made the decision to take this conversation public because Georgetown undergraduates, alumni and community members were running out of time to have their voices heard. This is not the future the community was promised, nor is it the future Georgetown needs to succeed.High school students from around the world dream of Healy Hall because of what it represents. A common immersive experience — four years lived among friends, professors and Jesuits in a shared space that has been defined for more than two centuries. Late nights in Lau. Early mornings at More Uncommon Grounds. A post-class drink at The Tombs.
Running a university requires innovation. It requires working within constraints. But above all, it requires a commitment to what is shared and a tireless dedication to upholding what makes the institution great.
If the Georgetown community is to move forward, realize the promise of the Campus Plan and, yes, overcome its obstacles, we must work together.
Our message to the administration is simple: Please reconsider. Take the satellite residence option off the table to allow for the full and forthright discussion of the options — for all their financial and logistical complication — that keep Georgetown intact. Be honest about the deadlines and constraints Georgetown faces in addressing this challenge.
When the author Charles Dickens visited Washington, D.C., in 1842, he happened to glance upwards, to a group of beautiful buildings on a hill. Later, he wrote of the experience, “At George Town, in the suburbs, there is a Jesuit College; delightfully situated, and, so far as I had an opportunity of seeing, well managed.”
Let it continue to be managed well, by all who are lucky enough to pass it on to the next generation. And let the Georgetown experience remain there — situated, as it was in 1842, on a beautiful Hilltop.
Nate Tisa and Adam Ramadan are seniors in the School of Foreign Service. They are president and vice president, respectively, of the Georgetown University Student Association.