E-mails between CAG and the ANC reveal neighbors’ involvement in creating Magis Row


When Georgetown announced plans to establish Magis Row, the block of 16 townhouses designated for living and learning communities that sit on the only strip of University property facing residential homes, the Voice editorial board and many students instantly suspected that Magis Row was appeasement for neighbors frustrated by student trash and noise.

A set of e-mails that the Voice obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Magis Row’s establishment followed months of meetings between University administrators and community leaders in which the leaders tried to effect changes in student housing.  They also show that neighbors hope the University will turn more student housing outside the front gates into LLCs, too.

The FOIA request, which the Voice filed in March, obtained e-mails sent between Citizens’ Association of Georgetown directors and officers and members of Georgetown’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E. Before submitting the results, the ANC redacted some street names and the names of the CAG members and ANC commissioners who sent and received the e-mails. Ron Lewis, the chair of ANC 2E, wrote in a letter accompanying the FOIA requests that redactions were made according to advice from the D.C. government.

Although it is unclear when the University or neighbors conceived of Magis Row, a September 1 e-mail indicates that neighborhood had long been trying to influence the makeup of student housing outside Georgetown’s gates, and the Georgetown had been attentive to their complaints.

“We have been in monthly meetings to discuss numerous student issues that effect the whole of Georgetown,” the sender wrote. The sender added that with regards to an unspecified block of academic housing which had been designated as normal student housing for that year, “We have solid commitments that that will change in the 2009 academic year.”

A September 11 e-mail, whose subject line reads “Student housing and adult supervision – 36th Street area,” discusses suggestions that community representatives had made regarding University townhouses in August, which included the suggestion that the University turn some of its housing into residences for “staff to oversee the student housing.”

The ANC redacted the names of the streets on which these University houses were located from the body of the e-mail. 36th Street, mentioned in the e-mail’s subject line, is home to the 16 townhouses that eventually became Magis Row.

The sender wrote:

We all have the goal of a harmonious relationship among students and full-time community residents, and the plans being considered for special-purpose orientation and a more selective application process for the [REDACTED] Street houses are constructive and encouraging.

At the same time, candidly, I and other community representatives in our discussion groups believe it is crucial in making this arrangement that some housing in the area be reserved—on the Residence Life model—for young professional staff to oversee the student housing. Just as in the Residence Life program, these students need the calming presence of live-in adults.

At the minimum, this area needs to have the same type of adult live-in supervision that the University provides, for good reason, for on-campus housing generally.

After the University announced the creation of Magis Row in mid-September, some CAG and ANC members were dismayed that it had done so without finalizing its plans for Magis Row with the community, having initially included them in discussions of the plan.

“I read the flyer about the new special housing designation for the houses on 36th Street between P & O Streets. Apparently, these will neither be graduate students nor faculty, as we requested, but rather juniors and seniors. I would like to fully understand why this will be an improvement over the status quo,” one sender wrote on September 20.

Other e-mails suggest that the University had kept community leaders well informed of its plans.

“I didn’t know students were already being recruited for it, but [the finalization of the plan is] consistent with what [REDACTED] has been saying about the timetable and I’m not surprised. [REDACTED] still needs to get back to us about putting a young professional in one of the houses to keep an eye on the students,” another wrote on September 24.

Leaders’ concerns about the details of Magis Row culminated in an October 30 meeting with University administrators, which seems to have encouraged attending members. According to notes of the meeting circulated by some of the leaders, some residents wondered if the University would consider expanding the model to other streets.

In reaction to that meeting, one sender leader wrote, “I am sure that we all share the hope that the Magus [sic] Row project will be successful and will be a prototype will work for other off-campus housing that is adjacent to resident/owners.”

Photo from Flickr user dclock.

20 Comments on “E-mails between CAG and the ANC reveal neighbors’ involvement in creating Magis Row

  1. It was obvious from the very beginning that this was the University bowing down to the neighbors.

    The whole program has been bungled since the very beginning, with ResLife having loose ends untied all over the place, under their excuse that “it’s a new program.”

    Frankly, I don’t understand why the University continues to kneel before CAG. Townhouse living is a part of the Georgetown experience, the basis for much of the school’s social scene, and provides additional beds for students who cannot afford off campus housing, when there is no more space within the traditional limits of campus for housing.

    I’d be in favor of the University buying any property that comes on the market within 3 blocks of the Gates. Maybe we can eventually just buy the self-important neighbors out.

  2. Eh, this only confirms the suspicions that we all had a year ago. It doesn’t take a FOIA request to show that a lot of the Magis Row rules were influenced by people not from the university community (read: neighbors).

  3. — A September 11 e-mail, whose subject line reads “Student housing and adult supervision – 36th Street area,” discusses suggestions that community representatives had made regarding University townhouses in August, which included the suggestion that the University turn some of its housing into residences for “staff to oversee the student housing.” —

    ADULT SUPERVISION?! I honestly hope that really bad things happen to the Georgetown neighbors. There’s no way around it. They’re bad people.

  4. And I don’t mean “bad things” in any kind of threatening way. I just hope that they’re as unhappy in their lives as their relationship w/ the University indicates that they are.

  5. Both how long it took to fill this request (7 months!) and the unjustified redaction of names show that the ANC doesn’t know its FOIA law.

  6. GU struggles to house all of its students already. Students are no long guaranteed a 3rd year of on-campus housing. Many students can not afford off-campus living. There is not room for the University to give housing to staff and “young professionals.”

    Also most Georgetown students are over 18 which means we already ARE adults and we can supervise ourselves.

  7. I love how everyone claims how shoddily reported this blog is one day, then mocks the FOIA requests the next.

  8. I don’t think 1 person constitutes “everyone”. For the record though, did we really need a FOIA request to tell us what we already knew?

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  10. The comments above from townhouse resident and Tim perfectly illustrate why longtime Georgetown residents hold GU students in such contempt.

    (It is a small consolation, however, that virtually none of them will be able to afford to live here once they’ve graduated.)

  11. @Old Georgetowner, I think you’re coming at it from one side of the argument and fail to see why a georgetown student would wish unhappiness on a georgetown neighbor.

    In logical terms your argument is flawed because you confuse cause with effect. Your argument follows that:

    Georgetown neighbor takes steps that concretely influence GU student’s quality of life for the worse.

    Georgetown student is upset about this and takes pleasure in hypothesizing a reciprocal ill-event to befall the neighbors.

    Conclusion: Georgetown neighbor’s “holding GU students in such contempt” is justified because GU student says bad things about Georgetown neighbor.

    Now, what IS true is that if the neighbors didn’t treat the students so poorly and so disrespectfully (even though they are intelligent adults attending one the most prestigious schools in the country) then comments like Tim’s wouldn’t exist.

    Your argument is flawed because you don’t see how the initial action of the neighbors would affect the GU student’s perception of them.

    Secondly, wishing unhappiness on someone is abstract and in this country completely legal. The actions of the neighbors are concrete and their long history is tantamount to harassment.

    The comments above from “Old Georgetowner” illustrate that longtime Georgetown residents should be respectful of their neighbors and realize the effect of their own actions.

  12. @ Old Georgetowner

    I never once had a problem with the Georgetown neighborhood. I lived off campus for years and never had Metro show up. DPS broke up one or two parties junior year, but never very late and never with any kind of incident. Senior year, my house was as well behaved as neighbors could have asked for. In return for that, you and your kind talk about students like we’re 10 year olds in need of parental supervision. So in keeping with the example you set, I will talk to and about you like you’re an angry old man with nothing better to do than count money, complain about nonsense, and call the cops on some young adults having the same sort of fun you should have in college.

    And I promise you, sir, that I will be able to live wherever I want. Give me a few years, and I’ll be looking to buy your house, I promise it.

  13. Tim, especially for you, read the last four words of this quote:

    “For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
    – Gen. George C. Patton

  14. “Give me a few years, and I’ll be looking to buy your house, I promise it.”

    I think these might be the most epic words spoken in town-gown relations.

  15. @Tim. Your quotation is from the movie “Patton” not actually a quote from General Patton, nor do I think you really address what Tim was getting at. In my opinion Tim wouldn’t hold on to the house forever, but rather rent it out for a time to a group of juniors then turn it over to a skeezy landlord. When I was at Georgetown my neighbor had a child that would cry at all hours of the day and night when I was trying to study or write my thesis. The rest of the time he would be arguing with his wife but I accept that because sometimes neighbors make noise. If you want to live in quiet don’t buy your house next to a university, md and va are full of suburbs that you may find much more accommodating.

  16. Has it occurred to the students and the neighbors that not all fights have one side that’s right and one side that’s wrong? And, that the University itself is caught in the middle? The students think the University caves. The neighbors think the University doesn’t do anywhere near enough to control students (as if it’s remotely possible to “control” people. Parents can’t control their kids when they live in the same house!). The fact is, some students behave poorly (yes, you do…you piss on people’s lawns, you discard trash improperly, you are too loud at very late hours). It is also a fact that some neighbors are not at all tolerant and will call the police for the slightest noise, assume that a few misbehaved students represent all students, and have a ridiculous expectation that 6500 young people (no matter how smart) will simultaneously behave perfectly and that if they don’t, the University or the police can deal with it instantaneously.

    Oh, and to Chester: How did creating Magis Row (regardless of who had influence on the creation) “concretely influence GU student’s quality of life for the worse?” There are just as many students living in those townhouses now as were last year. Magis Row only had an impact on the lives of students who wanted to live there but didn’t get to. And, those students were never entitled to live there in the first place. It was all a matter of whether they got a decent lottery number. So, consider the Magis Row “winners” the ones who got the good housing lottery number. Big f-in deal!

  17. I agree with what you say Steve, good summary.

    It concretely affects students’ lives because those townhouses were taken out of the lottery for the general student population and as a ripple effect demands that a student have an even higher lottery number to get better housing.

    But my quality of life comment I meant as speaking to the other examples not limited to Magis Row, for instance off the top of my head, the felony class noise violations enacted last year. Someone with a better memory can call up the specific name of it.

    Big f-in deal you say as to where you live but yeah, it is a big deal. Whether you can live in an apartment, a house, or a have to settle for a dorm it changes your social and study life. I agree with your take on both sides of the argument but this blog covers it and people care about it because it is a big deal.

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  19. Pingback: Vox Populi » Magis Row houses announced for 2010 – 2011

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