The university is considering establishing a satellite undergraduate residence as distant as Clarendon,Va., in an attempt to meet its commitment to housing an additional 385 students by fall 2015, according to student leaders familiar with administrative discussions.

Areas under consideration include Clarendon, a town three miles away, as well as a site near Capitol Hill and a location north of campus on Wisconsin Avenue. No locations within the Georgetown neighborhood’s 20007 zip code can be considered, as moving students out of Georgetown residential areas is the impetus behind the initiative put in place in the 2010 Campus Plan agreement.

The satellite housing would not include any academic buildings, and students living there would be shuttled to the main campus for classes.

Student leaders familiar with university discussions shared details of these talks with THE HOYA, and many are concerned that the proposal would change the nature of housing and campus life at Georgetown.

Some discussions have centered on how to make satellite housing appealing to undergraduates. Megan Murday (SFS ’15), a member of the Georgetown University Student Association’s Campus Living Advisory Committee and Vice President for Facilities and Planning Robin Morey’s student advisory group, said that university officials have discussed making satellite housing higher quality than current campus housing by including a swimming pool for student use or situating the campus near a Metro stop. Though all current discussions have introduced satellite housing as optional,Murday said she is concerned with the risk of mandatory usage because of lacking student interest.

Murday and GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) both expressed concerns that financial incentives could be used to persuade students to live away from main campus, potentially leading to socio-economic segregation.

“We don’t want to force students that maybe need the financial assistance to live somewhere further away and separated from the rest of our community,” Murday said.

Morey, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and Associate Vice President of Community Engagement and Strategic Initiatives Lauralyn Lee were not available for comment Sunday.

The discussions of satellite housing come after a stalled effort to gain approval to begin construction on the Northeast Triangle Residence Hall, which was originally intended to be completed by fall 2015 and would add 225 beds to campus. The proposal still awaits the approval of the Old Georgetown Board, which must approve all construction projects within the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2Edistrict, and Tisa said that the dorm will likely not be finished by the 2015 deadline imposed by the campus plan agreement.

The 2015 commitment is only part of the university’s larger agreement to house 90 percent of students on campus by 2025. Georgetown currently houses more than 80 percent of undergraduates on campus, more than most other universities in Washington, D.C., Olson said at the Northeast Triangle dorm forum August 28.

Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh said that the decision to consider satellite housing stemmed partly from student input.

“We have heard from students that university housing outside of the immediate Georgetown neighborhood could be appealing,” Pugh wrote in an email to campus media outlets. “We are interested in exploring this option as one of many alternatives and want to ensure we are soliciting students’ input to learn what they would like and what they would not like at an off-campus housing location.”

Tisa emphasized that satellite housing is not the university’s only option, citing the possibility of working with neighbors to delay the fall 2015 deadline.

ANC 2E Commissioner Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14), however, said that changing the terms of the campus plan agreement would be infeasible because it is a legal agreement with the D.C. government, not solely with the neighbors.

Select student leaders were invited to two focus group sessions discussing satellite housing last week, though some had heard of the tentative proposal as early as last spring.

“It seemed a stronger option than it had in the spring when I first heard about it,” Murday said of the ideas presented at the focus groups. “I think it’s very likely if student opinion isn’t taken into consideration.”

Prindiville said that the method of presentation at the focus groups portrayed the serious consideration the university is giving to satellite housing.

“It was one of many different options they were considering,” Prindiville said. “But I think it was on the table enough that we talked about it for 45 minutes, and that’s telling. I think it was also telling that the master planners were there.”

Tisa said that focus groups with select students are not enough to make any decisions about the proposal.

“It was kind of a surprise that it was under consideration because it wasn’t in the campus plan,” Tisasaid. “It was such a poor option, I didn’t think anyone was in favor of it, but as the days go by and as the timeline becomes more and more compressed … the fact that this option is still on the table is very concerning to us.”

GUSA Chief of Staff Zach Singer (SFS ’15), who learned of the satellite housing proposal only last week, emphasized that a university focus on satellite housing would detract from attention to main campus and that if Georgetown must sign a lease within the next few months, students could be left out of the conversation.

“Fiscally, the amount of resources it takes to set up the leases and set up the GUTS buses is money that is not being invested on campus,” Singer said. “We’re running against a clock that we don’t quite know how much time is on it.”

Prindiville expressed the belief held by many that the Georgetown experience is defined by its residential setup.

“I understand the university’s interest in such an option. It seems like an easy way to fix an incredibly complex problem, but I have particularly strong concerns about such a proposal,” Prindiville said. “Establishing a satellite residential campus could change the very fabric of what it means to be a Georgetown undergraduate. I think the university needs to understand the seriousness of such a decision.”

A handful of concerned student leaders will hold a press conference at 6:30 p.m. on Monday by the front gates to announce their response to the satellite housing option.

 

If you would like to respond to this news, submit a reaction under 200 words to opinion@thehoya.com with your name, school and year by 8 p.m. Monday. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the satellite residential campus as a satellite campus. “Residential” has been added to clarify the nature of the potential off-campus housing.

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