If you ask just about anybody who’s been following the campus plan debacle (if you read this blog, we’re willing to bet that you’re one of them) to sum up the process in a word, you’re going to get a variety of not-so-nice answers. So when Georgetown resident and University alum Jacques Arsenault (COL ’01, GPPI ’07) posted yesterday on Greater Greater Washington saying that planning between the school and its neighbors can be more constructive, we all thought that was a pretty gross understatement.
But Arsenault’s post goes deeper than just pointing out the glaringly obvious. He takes a position about students in the area that we haven’t really heard from those neighbors who have vocalized their opinions about the campus plan—that, for the most part, having us around makes Georgetown better.
“The opponents’ position suggests that the very presence of students in the neighborhood is an insurmountable problem,” Arsenault writes. “This ignores the many positives that students bring to the community … My wife and I feel safe walking home at night knowing there are other people walking about. Without the presence of so many students in the neighborhood the streets would be emptier, and would feel darker and less safe.”
Arsenault says that the main problem is the structure of the campus plan argument, citing the every-10-years cycle and the extremism of demands like “move 100% of students on-campus!” as problematic and counterproductive. Instead, he offers some ideas that might make the process a little more effective for both sides of the argument.
These aren’t small changes. One is to abolish the 10-year cycle, and one involves changing the District’s zoning codes to make the rules about schools more specific. His other ideas include expanding the debate and the involvement beyond just the University and its various neighboring citizens’ associations.
Arsenault ends his article by saying that, as a double Hoya and a Georgetown resident, “we can do better. We deserve better.” Amen.