Georgetown University’s Office of Neighborhood Life is designed to assist students living off-campus. Yet in imposing arbitrary penalties and issuing unclear guidelines, the office fails to serve the needs of students.

The stated mission of the Office of Neighborhood Life is to “support all students, non-students, and permanent residents” and “create a positive quality of life for everyone living in the neighborhood.” However, the office’s extraneous sanctions, vague appeal processes and outdated policies make it more difficult for students to live off campus.

Georgetown should hold students living off campus to the same standards as on-campus students when it comes to residential life issues. Too often, the Office of Neighborhood Life’s trivial sanctions and unclear guidelines financially burden students living off campus. The university should instead provide students with assistance and support in navigating off-campus life.

While the ONL organizes an orientation to guide students at the beginning of the year and arranges chaplains for emotional support, these superficial initiatives fail to address extraneous penalties.

Under current regulations, students living off campus can be cited for trash disposal, property maintenance and parking violations. Though it is understandable that the ONL and the Office of Student Conduct monitor student compliance with Washington, D.C. laws, penalties are often more severe than the violation warrants.

For example, three minor trash violations can lead to fines of $300 for off-campus students. Additionally, off-campus students face up to $200 in fines, disciplinary probation and likely relocation for noise violations. For the same noise violation, on-campus students are only fined $50 and subject to housing probation.

Sanctions can quickly become overwhelming and lead to outrageous costs, especially as students living off campus can face double penalties: for the same violation, students can be fined by the D.C. police as well as by the ONL. The university’s additional policing of students is unnecessary and an overstep.

To truly support students as it claims, the Office of Neighborhood Life must implement reasonable policies that align more closely with on-campus sanctions.

Currently, citation severity and policy discrepancy between on- and off-campus students is significant and inequitable. As a Sep. 2017 editorial in The Hoya notes, the Code of Student Conduct specifies that the university must provide “clear and convincing” evidence of guilt for on-campus incidents, while the burden of proof is only “more likely than not” for off-campus incidents.

Although living off campus is considered a privilege and can be cheaper for some students, the Office of Neighborhood Life’s arbitrary and harsh sanctioning presents an excessive financial burden.

While the ONL allows students to substitute monetary fines with work sanction hours, fines are converted to sanction hours at a rate of 1 hour for every $10. This arbitrary conversion is far below the D.C. minimum wage of $13.25 per hour and should be updated to match it.

In addition to arbitrary penalties and policies, the ONL’s adjudication process is often unclear. The lack of a timeline set by the ONL or the Office of Student Conduct in outlined policies leads to further confusion and hostility between students and university administrators.

To better support those living off campus, the Office of Neighborhood Life should clarify to students why specific sanctions are imposed and how to appeal them. In doing so, the university could decrease perceived arbitrariness in its current policies.

While it is important that the university uphold neighborhood rules, arbitrary sanctions and unclear guidelines fail to meet the needs of off-campus students. Though students should face penalties for offenses, the university should work with students to provide the assistance they need in understanding the process.

If the Office of Neighborhood Life genuinely seeks to support students, it must reduce the excessive burden it places on those living off campus.

The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.

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