Students Fight for Campus Plan

MICHELLE CASSIDY FOR THE HOYA Georgetown neighbors made buttons opposing the official campus plan in an attempt to squelch the project.

MICHELLE CASSIDY FOR THE HOYA
Georgetown neighbors made buttons opposing the official campus plan in an attempt to squelch the project.

The two-year battle over the university’s campus plan came to a head Thursday night, as students joined administrators and neighbors for a public meeting held by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission-2E.

Attendees sparred over certain clauses in the 2010-2020 Campus Plan, which has colored town-gown ties since the university began drafting the proposal in 2009. The administration submitted its final version to the D.C. Zoning Commission on Dec. 30.

The meeting and discussion were meant to gauge community response to the plan, according to representatives of the ANC, which plans to draft a resolution by Jan. 31 outlining its stance. From there, the neighborhood body plans to take its case to the Zoning Commission and the D.C. Office of Planning.

“We’re not here to win a debate,” said ANC Commissioner Ed Solomon, who led the meeting.

The forum opened with general statements from University Provost James O’Donnell and Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, as well as a coalition of representatives from local neighborhood associations, followed by questioning of both parties by the ANC commissioners and attendees.

Not only O’Donnell and Olson spoke in favor of the plan, however — about 30 to 40 undergraduate students showed up to voice their support.

“It is definitely possible to understand [the neighbors’] concerns to some degree, but at times [they are] almost irrational,” said Ricky Garza (SFS ’13), a student in attendance.

Underlying tensions between university interests and neighborhood grievances bubbled to the surface during the presentation of a petition drafted by DC Students Speak, a blog and network of D.C. undergraduates active in local politics.

At press time, the document had received 747  online signatures in favor of the campus plan. However, an opposition document put forth by the Citizens Association of Georgetown had received only 167 online signatures, a comparatively low count that CAG President Jennifer Altemus attributed to the smaller number of local residents.

Representatives of DC Students Speak said they were pleased to see their peers mobilize behind the campus plan.

“This is a part of the heart of D.C. politics,” Alykhan Merali (SFS ’13) said.

For many residents, no mention in the plan of on-campus student housing construction or new safety measures was a cause for concern.

“[The students] cannot follow basic rules of living,” ANC Commissioner Tom Birch said.

Several members of the community brought up the possibility of building additional dormitories on campus and creating a satellite campus to prevent students’ encroachment into off-campus areas.

In response, Olson said the university had exhausted all possible on-campus housing options after a thorough review.

Georgetown residents in attendance said they were particularly unhappy about the rowdiness of their student neighbors. Members of CAG and the Burleith Citizens Association argued that the latest measures implemented by the university, including more Student Neighborhood Assistance Program and Department of Public Safety patrols, did not eradicate the two neighborhoods’ problems.

“What’s next? The National Guard?” BCA President Lenore Rubino asked.

Despite the tense discussion, ANC-2E Commissioner Jake Sticka (COL ’13) was pleased with student turnout and hopes it will continue. He emphasized the importance of student participation in the next stages of the campus plan discussions.

“We’re going to need that presence continuing, in the ANC meetings and to testify to the Zoning Committee,” he said.

The D.C. Zoning Commission will review the plan on April 14.

Correction: The original version of the article stated that Ricky Garza is in the class of 2014, however, he is in the class of 2013.

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