We should be angry.

We should be angry at neighborhood leaders for forcing the university into a series of costly and prohibitive agreements that are not only bad for students but also bad for the community itself.

We should be angry at university administrators for acquiescing to major neighborhood demands around housing, transportation and student conduct, instead of standing up for the students they are supposed to serve.

Most importantly, we should be angry at ourselves for failing to effectively organize on behalf of student interests, instead watching helplessly as the university-negotiated agreements that restricted our rights reallocated our tuition dollars and reshaped our future. With no meaningful student engagement, it’s clear why we ended up with a 2010 Campus Plan that consistently placed neighborhood interests over those of students.

This pattern has played out in dozens of ways, but the most egregious example is in housing. Concerned about the negative impacts of students living off-campus, neighborhood leaders pushed in 2010 for 100 percent of undergraduate students to live on campus.

Facing political pressure from the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown, the Burleith Citizen’s Association and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission without significant student opposition, university administrators compromised at 90 percent. This new benchmark would require restricting student rights to live off-campus and spending enormous sums of money to build additional on-campus housing for 629 students over the next several years.

Neighborhood concerns about housing were reasonable, but they made excessive and politically charged demands instead of engaging the university in meaningful dialogue or constructive solutions. As a result, we’re now faced with a third-year on-campus housing requirement, delayed renovations and more than $70 million in new construction projects. Angry yet?

The 2018 Campus Plan is approaching, and the responsibility falls squarely on our shoulders to make this time different than the last. Everything is at stake — housing, transportation, dining, accessibility, green space and the future of student life are all on the table.

And when everything is at stake, we have no choice but to speak up loudly, clearly and with a unified student voice. Let’s not get screwed again.

First, we must demand that administrators not commit to any additional on-campus housing requirements. The right to live off-campus is a fundamental part of the Georgetown experience, and attempts by administrators or neighborhood leaders to restrict that right are both unprecedented and unreasonable.

Administrators frequently tout the importance of “swing space” as justification for additional on-campus housing, but this narrative is disingenuous. We must build even more new residence halls, they say, in order to provide swing space to allow us to complete the necessary renovations that we ignored while we were building other new residence halls, circuitous logic that leads to conclusions echoing the problems of the 2010 Plan.

The Northeast Triangle and the Former Jesuit Residence will surely be positive additions to campus life, but we cannot confuse improved quality of on-campus housing with the right to live off-campus. Let us not spend millions of dollars to build more residence halls nobody wants in order to comply with a self-imposed requirement nobody likes.

Second, we must demand that administrators prioritize renovations over the construction of new buildings. Henle is in disrepair, Village A is rapidly deteriorating and the quality of Kehoe Field is outrageous for a university that prides itself on a strong athletics program — not to mention less important but still necessary renovations to Walsh, Lau, Reiss, Yates and the Leavey Center.

Administrators understandably face challenges in confronting infrastructure problems across campus, but they will never be able to adequately solve these problems as long as we are spending exorbitant sums of money constructing new residence halls.

And third, we must demand that administrators and neighborhood leaders give students a real seat at the table by adding additional student representatives to the Georgetown Community Partnership Steering Committee.

The GCP Steering Committee and the associated Master Planning Working Group will be crucial in drafting the next campus plan, but currently allow only one student representative out of 17 community leaders. The 2010 Plan was an indication of what happens when student voices are not effectively represented, so adding students to the Steering Committee is a clear next step in making the 2018 Plan more inclusive and equitable.

The next few months won’t be easy — students will need to speak louder than ever before. But if the last few days are any indication, we’re up to the task. We gathered over 800 signatures on a petition laying out these demands in just a few days, and we expect significantly more in the coming weeks.

So speak up. Sign the petition. Reach out to your representatives. Learn more at www.ourgeorgetown.com. And most importantly, be angry — because the opportunity couldn’t be greater, the time couldn’t be better and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

 

Ari Goldstein is a freshman in the College and co-chair of the Georgetown University Student Alliance Campus Plan Subcommittee.

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