Yesterday evening, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E held a special meeting to consider proposed revisions to the Georgetown Campus Plan. The ANC commissioners in attendance voted unanimously, 6-0, to endorse the revised plan. Then the floor opened up to residents (to complain more about student behavior) and students (to attempt to maintain our dignity).
“The university is very encouraged – the members of the community and the students here echoed a lot of sentiments that were expressed in the negotiations and through this process,” university spokesperson Stacy Kerr said to Vox. “This isn’t a victory for one side or the other, but for everybody, and it’s a path to move forward.”
The next step entails filing the plan with the DC Zoning Commission by June 18. According to ANC Chair Ron Lewis, the Zoning Commission should have a decision by July, setting off a series of processing deadlines for both the University and ANC. But, as Lewis noted during the meeting, “If the Zoning Commission says ‘OK’, this [remainder of the process] becomes a formality.”
After Lewis’ opening, Vice President for Public Affairs and Senior Advisor to the President Erik Smulson delivered a prepared statement where he lauded both sides for coming to a mutual understanding. He thanked Lewis and the rest of the ANC for their cooperation, while stressing the benefits of the Georgetown University Community Partnership’s potential for positive future relations with the neighbors.
After a few more statements from Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, and Chris Clements, president of the Burleith Citizens Association, Lewis turned the floor over to residents and students in the audience.
Residents brought up a series of concerns, mostly built around their perception that the plan did not address what they characterized as rampant unruly behavior on the part of students. One couple residing on 36th Street even sent their attorney (to be fair, they were out of town), urging the ANC to house administrators around them rather than students, singling out lacrosse players that lived in the neighboring house during the past school year. To that end, Georgetown’s Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson stressed the university’s emphasis on tracking unruly behavior in the neighborhoods and made a commitment to extend this data to the neighbors on a collaborative basis.
Before long, Georgetown students began to turn the tide of the meeting – one that had turned into a bit of a roast on student behavior – by stressing that the unruly students were representative of a small minority of the student population. “Students are also people,” Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) said before noting that there needs to be more of a connection between students and the surrounding communities where they reside. Another resident chimed in echoing the same sentiment, saying the neighbors had to do more to attain the student perspective.
Tisa later told Vox that he was disconcerted with the direction of residential input during the meeting, to the point where the term “buffer zone” came up to describe the increased barrier between students and neighbors with the change in Magis Row housing. “I thought to myself, ‘What makes me different than them?’”, he said.
ANC Commissioner Jake Sticka (COL ’13) acknowledged the positives in the plan, but also said the language of the plan’s housing stipulations did not sit well with him or his fellow students. Still, Sticka maintained support, especially with the collaborative hopes he has for students with the GCP.
Kerr stressed the integral role the university hopes students will play from this point forward. “What Dr. Olson has said previously on that is we will have a very serious role for students to play, both in the Georgetown Community Partnership, but also in helping to formulate some of the details of how these plans and policies will be specifically formulated and implemented.”
Additional reporting by Heather Regen