Administrators dispute what constitutes a satellite “campus”
Update, 6:07 pm: Vox received statements from Nate Tisa and Zach Singer (SFS ’15), GUSA chief of staff.
Tisa didn’t take the accusation that he was mistaken lightly. “With all due respect, the university administration should stop playing word games and start working on options that will keep the Hilltop intact,” he wrote.
Singer took issue with Todd Olson’s characterization of what the opinion of “majority” of students would mean. “Dr. Olson should strongly consider apologizing for his indication that the majority of student voices don’t matter in this discussion,” Singer wrote.
Original Post: Three administrators held a press conference late this morning in response to last night’s news that an off-campus dorm site was being considered as an option to help fulfill the housing requirement mandated by the Campus Plan.
It was made clear to Vox before the conference began that the administration had a problem with the characterization of any potential developments as a satellite “campus”, as it was phrased by GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) yesterday. The administrators made the distinction between a “satellite campus” and a satellite dorm, or “off-campus housing,” in their words. “Nate Tisa is absolutely mistaken,” said Stacy Kerr, associate vice president for communications.
This difference in word choice makes all the difference for University officials—a remote group of academic buildings? Terrifying. Students having to cross state lines to sleep? Not so much.
Lauralyn Lee, associate vice president of community engagement and strategic initiatives, confirmed that there have been conversations regarding off-campus housing. Last week, a select group of student leaders met with administrators to discuss the option to create an off-campus dorm, but the discussion has been active among University officials for the past 18 months since the Campus Plan was passed.
The student response to an off-campus dorm was clear, even last week. “There was a majority feeling in the room that an off-campus solution is not preferable,” said Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey.
Despite the initial feedback, administrators are currently considering potential sites for off-campus housing, in locations such as Arlington, Rosslyn, and Capitol Hill. “Even if most students don’t like the option, to be crass about it, most students don’t need to live there,” said Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs.
Morey did confirm whether or not any off-campus site would include mandatory housing.
Otherwise, the administration absolutely refused to offer specifics. When pressed for details about which on-campus possibilities were still open for discussion, Olson said, “Just all the buildings. Just looking at all the facilities on campus and trying to ask the question creatively.”
“It’s really the early stages of thinking about a whole range of options,” Lee said.
The three administrators repeatedly stressed the importance of student engagement. Lee said, “The reason you guys have this information is because we told you. What I want to push back on … is the suggestion that we haven’t engaged students in the conversation. Because we have.”
And by “you,” Lee means “a handful of students in a closed meeting,” which isn’t to say that they would never bring it up at upcoming forums this semester.
The role of students in the decision-making process remains murky. Students’ voices are one of many clamoring for the University’s attention. There are many stakeholders involved in the planning process, including the Board of Directors. “If we’re being good stewards of our footprint and our campus infrastructure, we need to think about all those options. … These are all things that we have to do to really satisfy all of our constituents and stakeholders. Our Board of Directors is a constituent, we have to manage our financial resources in the right way,” said Morey.
As for student action on the matter, the University was clear: “I would encourage student leadership to think as to whether [a referendum] the best course of action,” Lee said.
Stick with Vox as we follow the bureaucratic throwdown of the year.
Photo: Kirill Makarenko/Georgetown Voice