The Post surveys the D.C. area’s town- gown tiffs

Town-GownThe eternal conflict: curmudgeonly neighbors v. rowdy co-eds

With new neighbors’ groups popping up left and right, it looks like we’re in for another year of fights between residents and the University.  But Georgetown’s not the only school dealing with a seemingly perpetual town-gown rift—as an article in yesterday’s Washington Post makes clear, other local colleges are also plagued by conflicts over students living off-campus.

So what exactly are our nearby peers dealing with?

At Catholic, neighbors are pressuring the Metropolitan Police Department to enact a zero tolerance policy for disorderly conduct.  For UMD-College Park, a recent debate about whether to maintain rent control for single-family houses turned into a fight over whether or not students should be living off-campus.

Permanent residents can make trouble for administrators as well as students, the article points out, by leveraging their power over zoning and construction issues to pressure schools.  For example, in 2001, GWU was not allowed to increase enrollment or begin new construction projects until it started housing at least 70% of its students on-campus.

The article also provides some good background about what’s been going on in Georgetown, with mentions of the stymied 2000 Campus Plan and the tragic 2004 fire that killed Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05), as well as quotes from current Citizens Association of Georgetown president Jennifer Altemus.

Perhaps the most interesting Georgetown tidbit in the article, though, is the discussion of the soon-to-be-inaugurated Magis Row.  The article implies that the program may have been conceived of in hopes of appeasing neighbors as the University tries to pass its 2010 Campus Plan (emphasis mine):

Each house will have four students, a faculty or staff adviser and a theme, such as living green or redefining the hip-hop movement. The houses are meant to be “the best of both worlds” for students who want to live in a house but still have ties to campus, said Jeanne Lord, associate vice president for student affairs.

Students must have high grades and clean records to live in the “coveted houses,” so Lord expects that they will be tame, role-model neighbors—just what the university needs as it prepares to again submit a 10-year plan to the zoning board.

Unfortunately, the last time the University tried to present Magis Row to the neighbors that way, it didn’t quite work out

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