The struggle to fit more than 4,000 students on Georgetown’s hundred acres: a concise history
Yesterday, the University filled a request with the D.C. Zoning Commission to renovate Ryan Hall, Mulledy Building, and Gervase Building, which served as the Jesuit Residence prior to 2003, for student housing. According to the University’s Master Planning blog, there has yet to be a firm decision on whether the buildings for be for residential or academic and administrative purposes, but the request would give University administrators more flexibility for them to fulfill the 2010 Campus Plan requirements, as was discussed in a student engagement session last week.
With Vice President of Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey extending a warm welcome to attend a forum on Georgetown’s Master Planning efforts tonight, let’s recap the housing soap opera thus far.
The satellite campus scandal
GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) announced on Sept. 8 that university administrators were considering a satellite residential campus, unleashing a frenzy of anger on the Hilltop.
Student leaders lined up one by one to denounce what a terrible idea this was. One Georgetown, One Campus flyers flew everywhere. GUSA even threw in a referendum for good measure to show that 93.27 percent of 2966 voters didn’t want a satellite campus.
Now, it turns out, the satellite dorm—not campus—would be a temporary option to fulfill the 2015 goal of the University providing 385 more beds, university administrators revealed in a student engagement session last week. By 2025, when the University has to house 90 percent of students, it is expected that other on-campus residences in addition to the Northeast Triangle will be built, and undergraduates will no longer need to be housed off-campus. So, all the noise about some buildings that don’t exist yet has kind of died down – for now.
Meanwhile, the buildings that do exist on campus are rotting away.
Over the summer and the beginning of the fall semester, a medley of upperclassmen residences have been suffering from an outbreak of mold in showers and living areas, as you’ve probably read in the print edition.
The best way to eradicate mold is to plan and finance renovations of these buildings as soon as possible, as logic would dicatate, and the Voice’s editorial board benevolently pointed out. The complication is that the students who are going to be displaced in such renovations will have nowhere else to stay on campus. Technically, they could move to the Northeast Triangle dorms after it is completed to kickstart the renovations, but wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of creating the building to put more students back onto the Hilltop?
Between a rock and a hard place
This recent housing controversy is caused by the limitations of the 2010 Campus Plan, which set a legal requirement for the University to cap its undergraduate enrolment as well as house an even higher percentage of students on campus – a tall order given that Georgetown is surrounded by a public park and private residences. According to the Washington Post, Georgetown already houses more of its undergraduates than most of the other universities in D.C.
Deliberations on the University’s original campus plans illustrated the incredibly strained relations with have on our neighbors, who are represented on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E and the Old Georgetown Board. They are concerned that off-campus students are creating too much noise, increasing traffic, and generally trashing the neighborhood.
“The university already has a site in Arlington for its continuing studies students and on Capitol Hill for its law school. If the university can find funding and campus sites for a business school, a science school and a new athletic center, surely it can build student dorms on campus or find good housing outside of the 20007 Zip code,” wrote Lenore Rubino and bitter alum Jennifer Altemus (COL ’88), respectively the presidents of the Burleith Citizens Association and the Citizens Association of Georgetown, in an op-ed to the Washington Post in Oct. 2011.
University administrators have put themselves in a difficult position, having suffered from backlash about the satellite dorms and the Northeast Triangle dorms’ design. Revising the campus plan would undoubtedly reopen town-gown strife, which, as the Washington City Paper helpfully points out, is so “especially nasty.”
Planning 201 will be held tonight at 7 p.m. at the Hariri Building’s Lohrfink Auditorium.
Photo: Katherine Landau/Georgetown Voice