With the last of the 2010 Census data in, D.C. is set to redraw its districts beginning next month.

This year, the process has become even more contentious than usual because of a push to ensure that D.C.’s 100,000 graduate and undergraduate students are fairly represented.

Justin Wagner (COL ’03) was one of two student Advisory Neighborhood Commission representatives in 2001 when the current ANC districts were drawn. He and Justin Kopa (COL ’03), the other student representative from 2001, drew up a plan that would have divided districts more equally among students and residents.

“We were really concerned with making sure that students and residents had an opportunity to interact, and we thought having more mixed districts facilitated a conversation that was very helpful,” Wagner said. “We thought it would be better for people to be in a district and work together and find a candidate that would appeal to both sides, as opposed to packing all the students in one district and all the neighbors in another.”

According to Wagner, the proposal gained a great deal of support among students and residents. But the need for a consensus required that Kopa and Wagner compromise some aspects of their plan, resulting in the ANC districts as they are today.

“I don’t think it was the perfect plan and at the time I advocated for a different approach,” Wagner said of the current organization of districts. “But ultimately I don’t think it was unfair.”

Current students, however, say that the way the districts were arranged in 2001 was unfair, purposefully excluding students.

DC Students Speak, a student group with representatives from five of the city’s seven major universities, is trying to get more students engaged in the process of reorganizing districts. According to the group’s co-chair Scott Stirrett (SFS ’13), the seven districts of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E are drawn in a way that limits student voices.

Georgetown has 6,000 undergraduates and each of the seven single-member districts in ANC 2E consists of 2,000 people. Students are spread out among four single-member districts, only one of which is represented by a student.

“There could easily be three Georgetown ANC representatives, but there aren’t,” Stirrett said. “That largely has to do with redistricting. That’s the fundamental factor … Throughout D.C., the ANCs are gerrymandered in a way that minimizes student involvement.”

Currently, Jake Sticka (COL ’13) is the only Georgetown student representative serving in ANC 2E. He represents a single-member district that includes New South, Village A, Village C and the Southwest Quadrangle. The remainder of campus is divided among three other single-member districts that also include swaths of the Georgetown neighborhood, making it difficult for any of those districts to elect a student representative.

“I would agree that the boundaries as they currently are do inhibit more than one Georgetown University student from being elected,” Sticka said. “I think it is fair to say that the current system has led to underrepresentation for Georgetown students. It’s definitely a problem.”

Stirrett said that the current ANCs could be detrimental to the student voice.

“[A lack of students elected to ANCs] will cause a decline in student activism in D.C. It’s really important that we draw seats that are competitive, that are fair, and that’s not how things are now,” he said.

In an effort to ensure students are better represented, DC Students Speak is planning a drive to get students more involved in the redistricting process. Stirrett said that he is hoping to get students on the Ward Task Force, a body appointed by city council members that is responsible for redrawing the districts. He eventually hopes to help draft a student proposal for how the districts should be mapped out.

“If we’re looking at the endgame of making sure student interests are represented in the District of Columbia, students need to be involved in redistricting,” Stirrett said.

Sticka also stressed the importance of student involvement in the process.

“Students being aware of the prospect, being vocal about the prospect and showing that they do know about what’s happening and they do care will ensure that [the districts] are drawn fairly. If students make it clear that this is something that is important to them, then that’s something that has to be responded to,” he said.

Representatives of ANC 2E declined to comment. D.C. Councilman Jack Evans could not be reached for comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*