Students Shunned, Shorted in Campus Plan Negotiations
Published: Friday, June 22, 2012
Updated: Saturday, June 23, 2012 13:06
If sunlight is the best disinfectant, the 2010 Campus Plan process was doomed by darkness. After two months of closed negotiations with Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E and neighborhood groups, the university emerged with a proposal that reeks of defeat for Georgetown students.
In the 19 months after it was originally submitted, the plan was amended time and again by the university in deference to neighbors’ concerns — instituting successively lower caps on enrollment, implementing neighborhood trash pick-ups, relocating and then dropping plans for a loop road and other programs to address quality-of-life concerns.
But the decision announced earlier this month — which was the result of closed-door meetings in which no students were involved — leaves students disheartened after a marathon of painstakingly slow deliberations. Students deserved to have been consulted during negotiations involving social life, off-campus housing and the university’s opportunities for growth.
While the university should be commended for fighting on behalf of its plan, concessions to confine more parties on campus and drive students out of townhouses strike at the core of the student social experience. It’s unlikely that students will find on-campus dormitories to be an acceptable alternative venue for partying, and the new protocol will probably usher more students toward M Street bars.
We also worry that a desire to contain off-campus rowdiness will translate into a Department of Public Safety crackdown. As our Editorial Board has said before, the primary responsibility of DPS is to protect students, not the neighbors’ peace and quiet.
The announcement that the Magis Row townhouses will no longer be available for student housing by fall 2013 epitomizes the unfairness of the bargain. There’s a critical difference between reining in development proposals and ceding an existing element of Georgetown culture. Townhouses are an essential component of student life, and if nothing else, the demand to evict students from them will sour our relationship with the local community.
It’s important not to overlook Georgetown University’s significance as the largest private employer in the District. Development proposals enable the university to meet its economic and academic responsibilities. Campus plan modifications such as scrapping plans for the medical center’s reconstruction and lowering future enrollment will stunt growth at everyone’s expense.
It’s easy to dismiss student dissatisfaction with this and other elements of the revised plan as stemming from inexperience or naivete. But if students are in fact ignorant about the campus plan process, it is the negotiators who are to blame. Students were kept out of recent discussions, and we expect greater transparency and student participation with the Georgetown Community Partnership moving forward.
Burleith Citizens Association President Chris Clements was quoted in The Hoya as saying that in the new campus plan, “all parties came out a little ahead.” But from a student’s perspective, it is impossible to view this recent agreement as anything but a defeat.