A welcome shift came for off-campus student life in early August: the creation of the Office of Neighborhood Life.

Before this year, off-campus resources and Code of Student Conduct disciplinary proceedings were both managed by the Office of Off-Campus Life. However, grouping sanctions with resources in one office intimidated students and made it difficult to take full advantage of opportunities and assistance available off campus.

Now, the Office of Student Conduct will handle off-campus violations, leaving the newly renamed Office of Neighborhood Life to focus on student support.

The selection of former Residential Life Assistant Director Cory Peterson as interim director will be an asset to the new office, as Peterson has spent the last seven years working on behalf of students on campus.

The office can now market itself as a fear-free service provider, advising students in neighborhood conflicts, providing household utilities to borrow and — most importantly — providing information about tenant rights. The Office of Neighborhood Life is set to partner with the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate and the newly formed Georgetown Student Tenant Association. These partnerships will provide stronger advocacy power in addition to GSTA’s focus on assisting students in dealings with landlords, representing another step forward for student rights.

With respect to disciplinary procedures, the university’s harsher sanctions for off-campus housing — dictated almost entirely by the 2010 Campus Plan agreement — will remain identical to those of past years’. But by removing conduct procedures from the Office of Neighborhood Life, the administration has made the 1300 block of 36th Street inviting and — by extension — relevant.

In a climate where students often see the administration concede ground to the neighborhood instead of fighting on behalf of off-campus life, separating resource provision from disciplinary sanctions marks a bright spot amid a gloomier trend of town-gown relations.

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