For Georgetown University students, living off campus is often perceived as a privilege — an honor afforded only to seniors and graduate students. Yet many of the policies imposed on off-campus students are unfairly levied and unreasonably severe.

Under Georgetown’s current policy, students living off campus can face double penalties from both the university and the city of Washington, D.C., for their offenses. Students who incur infractions — for example, a citation for improper trash disposal — can be punished under District law and still be subjected to additional penalties from the Office of Neighborhood Life, for instance through work sanction hours or a fine. Despite the fact that it was codified in the 2017 Campus Plan, the additional policing of off-campus residents, who are already regulated by the city and the D.C. Department of Public Works, is an overstep on the part of the university.

This imposition of double jeopardy is just one way in which the university disadvantages students who choose to live off campus. Georgetown also lowers the burden of proof required to discipline an off-campus student. The Code of Student Conduct indicates that the school must provide “clear and convincing” evidence of guilt for incidents that occur on campus, while the burden of proof for incidents that occur off campus is merely “more likely than not.”

Along the same lines, students can face vastly differing punishments for nearly identical crimes, based solely on whether they live in university-owned housing. In the case of noise violations, for example, students who live on campus and are facing their third noise infraction can face 10 work sanction hours, $50 in fines and housing probation for one semester. Conversely, off-campus students who commit the same offense can face 15 to 20 work sanction hours, $150-200 in fines, disciplinary probation and possible relocation on campus.

This is not to say that off-campus students should face no consequences for their actions, but rather that they should not face disproportionate punishment simply because of where they choose to live. The university should either apply the same disciplinary standards to off-campus students as they do to on-campus students, or it should leave the discipline of these students to the city, so that they are treated as any other residents of the Georgetown neighborhood would be.

It is unreasonable to sanction students living off campus more harshly than those living on campus, particularly when the burden of proof for off-campus infractions is lower. The U.S. judicial system, in contrast, imposes higher levels of scrutiny for more severe punishments with the understanding that it is illogical to lower the burden of proof for those vulnerable to harsher penalties.

Moreover, using relocation as a punishment — effectively forcing students to move back onto campus and thus pay rent both to a private landlord and to the university — is not only financially unsustainable for students but is also counter to the university’s mission of caring for and supporting its students. While students who live off campus should undoubtedly face consequences for infractions, in particular for repeated offenses, a punishment that would be financially unfeasible for many students is both unreasonable and unnecessarily harsh.

It is not the university’s role to act as a parent to students who are adults. In fact, the university’s website specifically describes the experience of living off campus as “an opportunity for learning and personal growth.” If students are expected to act like responsible, adult members of the neighborhood community, they must be treated as such.

The university may argue that students who live off campus are representatives of Georgetown University and must act accordingly, and this is true. Yet this in no way justifies levying harsher punishments against these students than against students who live on campus. Punishing off-campus students twice does not benefit anyone, but rather contributes to the often-adversarial relationship between off-campus students, the university and the neighborhood.

Though students should face disciplinary action for their offenses, subjecting off-campus students to a harsher standard of punishment is simply unfair. If the university truly hopes to present the off-campus living experience as a transitional period to adulthood, it must start treating off-campus students like grown-ups.

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