Details of the Campus Plan Agreement

Yesterday evening, the details of the agreement between the ANC, the civic groups and Georgetown University were finally made public. The parties had announced a deal Wednesday, but were still hashing out the finer points through Thursday.

Before getting into the details, the highest level takeaway is that while the agreement is a genuine compromise whereby neither side got 100% of what it wanted, the respective parties are very happy with the outcome. That we could actually get to this point seemed impossible just a few months ago. So kodus to all the parties involved and the power of mediation!

Now to the details:

  • GU agrees to move 450 students from off-campus to on-campus. This is up from the 250 it had come up to in its most recent offer. This number will be met by moving 65 students out of Magis Row by the fall of 2013 (Magis Row is a row of university-owned townhouses on the 1400 block of 36th St.) and then constructing 385 new beds by the fall of 2015.
  • The bulk of those 450 new beds will be found by converting the Leavey Center hotel to dorm use.
  • A new Georgetown Community Partnership will be formed by reps of the ANC, civic groups, and GU. This committee will hopefully provide the sort of periodic pressure release that GM has supported before. It will serve as a forum for addressing issues without waiting for the next ten year plan.
  • Living off-campus will be a privilege not a right. If students don’t meet certain disciplinary or academic standards, they will not be permitted to live off campus the Junior or Senior years.
  • The university is promising to put a genuine effort into creating a more campus-oriented experience for students. The goal is to make the students want to live and hang out on campus. This is an idea that was espoused by ANC commissioner Jake Sticka and Kara Brandeisky, both GU students. One key element is the construction of a New South student center with a pub.
  • Another key element of this is to make having parties on-campus easier. The idea is to ease up on students who want to throw parties in dorms so that they won’t just go off-campus.
  • By 12/31/2013, the School of Continuing Studies will be moved to a new downtown campus (if GM had to bet, it would be Capitol Crossing next to GU law). This will free up 1,000 slots that GU will be permitted to reassign to other grad programs.
  • On top of those 1,000 slots, the school will add another 1,000 grad students. The undergrad headcount will be capped at 6,675. This will bring total campus enrollment to 14,106.
  • Georgetown will explore the construction or acquisition of housing units for grad students outside Georgetown and Burleith.
  • Georgetown will seek to obtain a new 100 acre campus, likely as the location of a new hospital. Which is still moving forward despite Medstar’s denials.

There are some more details you can find here.

The overall message here is that amazingly the recent negotiations have developed a sense of trust between the parties. Moreover, there appears to have been a sea-change among the senior leaders of the university who recognize that genuine campus planning is needed, particularly once the hospital leaves. GM’s still uneasy about the hospital leaving, but if and when it happens, it will give the school a huge new canvas to fill in. Just getting rid of the huge surface parking lot will be a significant improvement.

The best part of the whole agreement is that it is works towards rebuilding a genuinely good relationship between the school and its neighbors. In fact, if there is one idea central to the whole agreement, it’s that this framework has seven years to prove its worth. If it goes well, the neighbors have promised to support the school in drafting not a ten year plan in 2010, but a twenty year plan. This will give the school way more room to make truly transformative changes to the campus. The school is already off on a good foot by promising to hire a campus planner.

It’s crazy, but if the next seven years goes well, the campus plan process in 2020 might result in a plan that is in effect until 2040. GM’s infant daughter could grow up, go to Georgetown, graduate, go to Georgetown Med School, and graduate from that and it still wouldn’t be 2040 yet.

This is a result that all sides want. And in the short run, the fact that we are not about to face years of litigation and have a plan that both sides are behind is a fantastic accomplishment.

All along, GM has said he just wants this behind us. Now it is, but better still, the road forward is already being forged.



Filed under Town and Gown

15 responses to “Details of the Campus Plan Agreement

  1. DTR

    I think there are some positive elements to this plan, especially the promise to make it easier for students to eat, drink and party on campus. Some students might like the option of living in the Leavey Center. And GU can finally move forward on projects that benefit almost everyone.

    Still, there are some aspects of this agreement that are disturbing, especially the claim that students don’t have equal rights when it comes to living off campus. The biggest contention of the battle has been whether a neighborhood can be exempt from obeying DC civil rights laws. Many residents, both student and non-student, have maintained the there is no basis for allowing housing discrimination anywhere in the District of Columbia, regardless of whether the area is near a university. Many neighborhood activists, including Jennifer Altemus and Hazel Denton, have claimed that non-discrimination is not a right, and they should be able to decide who has the “privilege” of living there.

    I don’t see it as a breakthrough until the groups agree that everyone has the same rights and responsibilities while living in DC.

  2. Gregg

    I think Georgetown U. got rolled. They didn’t get much out of this deal.

  3. RNM

    A few thoughts…

    I wonder how this will impact real estate prices. Getting to 90% on campus living would have to be a blow to the rental market around here. Does that glut get filled up with just out of college folks who will live in group houses? If that happens…guess there will be no SNAP line to contact since they wouldn’t be GU students. If not that, then do a lot of “rental” properties suddenly go up for sale creating another type of glut in the real estate market and negatively impacting housing prices in the short term even if there is a good argument that less rentals creates a better long term market.

    I have to say, it feels like the University capitulated…and when one side that is not a fool gives that much there is generally some payback coming down the pike. Buyer beware, if it sounds too good to be true…

    On the living off campus issue…keep in mind that in effect the students are entering into a contract with Georgetown University one that stipulates certain conduct and sets consequences. If the University can bury rape cases then telling students where to live is just not that big of a deal. The whole reason SNAP works, is that the University has the cudgel of repercussions for behavior conducted behind private closed doors. When you are a student, you in essence surrender some of your rights to the University via contract…sort of like the military but with less guns.

    Not that most of you will remember, but the reason there is no student “Pub” on the campus anymore (closed early 90s) is that the finances were a mess, not to mention a rather lax policy on underage drinking. Sure that can be fixed by better management, but it is not a panacea as that better management will have the effect of pushing people off campus. Besides, as someone who remembers the early 1990s student behavior and issues…things are way better now.

  4. Dizzy


    I’m sure we’ll discuss the particulars in detail before too long, so I’ll limit my reply to just what’s in the post and the comments.

    I think the characterization that “the respective parties are very happy with the outcome” only holds if one excludes students from the equation. That’s not to say it’s wrong – it is true in both a literal sense, as students were not involved in the negotiations, and a philosophical sense, as both the neighbors and the University administration have a tendency to view students as a problem, rather than as fellow participants or community members.

    I am disappointed that there is no mention of transportation items in your lengthy bulleted summary, particularly the neighbor’s success in getting GU to reroute the Dupont GUTS bus to a much lengthier and more circuitous route in order to spare Q Street the indignity of having yucky buses traversing it. Well, aside from all the Metrobuses, but luckily for WMATA, they do not have to file a campus plan.


    Universities have an exceptional amount of leeway in imposing restrictions on their students thanks to freedom of association, which trumps all sorts of non-discrimination laws. Bob Jones University famously did not allow its students to date outside their race until the year 2000, and BYU’s Honor Code prohibits drinking alcohol or caffeine, wearing beards or strapless dresses, and “homosexual behavior.” Other examples abound. So, as long as a University can be convinced into incorporating a provision into its student code, it will most likely stand, no matter how unfair or discriminatory.


    The main thing the University gets is the ability to pursue its priorities ASAP, rather than having everything frozen in limbo while years of litigation run their course.


    I think your initial instinct is the correct one – the new units will be quickly snapped up by recent college graduates and grad students. As that happens, I expect the mandated “study” into the impact of graduate students will find that they are ruining the residential, family character of these quiescent urban villages and must be drastically reduced as soon as possible.

    Assuming you’re talking about the Kate Dieringer case, “bury rape cases” is not a fair or accurate characterization.

  5. Walter

    Is Georgetown Visitation not for sale at any price?

    Richer schools than Georgetown have sometimes solved their neighborhood ‘problem’ by buying out the neighborhood. For example, the University of Pennsylvania’s campus migrated into West Philadelphia, under the guise of urban renewal. If Georgetown had UPenn’s money, the campus gates would probably be at 34th now.

    Holy Cross buys the houses that students live in off-campus, and then tears them down, creating small swaths of ‘green space’.

    Harvard, ….well Harvard sometimes nibbles away with its land and building purchases, see Cambridge; and sometimes voraciously feasts on entire areas, creating large swaths of urban landscape, see the Allston section of Boston.

    When one considers that GW’s Mount Vernon campus is about 25 acres, one can appreciate how difficult it will be for Georgetown to find 100 acres.

  6. Maria F.

    Jack DeGioia and his lackeys did a great job selling out Georgetown University and his students. I can imagine campus tour guides saying to prospective students, “See this beautiful historic neighborhood? By attending Georgetown University you will give up your civil right to live there. And forget about bringing a car here. Oh, and while your friends at other universities are living in spacious apartments on or off campus, you will be forced to spend four years in a cramped dorm room.” That will be a HUGE incentive to attend.

    And given DeGioia’s financial mismanagement and pathetic fundraising abilities, I would LOVE to know where he’s coming up with the money to buy and build a whole new campus. Maybe he should just quit and move to Shanghai where he spends most of his time anyway.

    What a travesty this historic “compromise” is. Even Neville Chamberlain would be disgusted at this capitulation.

  7. RobRob

    Yes! We have it! Finally, after months of discussion, arguing, debate, and vilification, we have reached the all-important reference to Nazi Germany!

    We can now move on to other topics. Thank you, Maria F.


  8. Maria F.

    When referencing Neville Chamberlain (who is the poster child for surrender/capitulation while declaring victory in any context) I didn’t mean to compare any of the players in the campus plan to Nazis. But then again, earlier in the year I saw GU students protesting the ANC’s position carrying signs which read, “A University is not a concentration camp,”

    But the Georgetown community shouldn’t face any blowback from the students. They understood the community was doing their usual, “I voluntarily rent to students in my house but I don’t want them to live near me” song and dance. The students’ ire is directed at the University’s “leadership” which sold them out.

  9. Gregg

    Do I have this right? Most GU undergraduates will not be allowed to live in Georgetown/Burleith but undergraduates from GWU and American (and for that matter, undergraduates from UCLA, Cornell and NYU who are studying in DC at their schools’ satellite campuses) will be allowed to do so? Did anyone on either side of the debate really think this through?

  10. RNM

    The University has required 2 years of living on campus for over a decade up from one about 20 years ago, presumably to lessen the number of students living in the surrounding communities at the behest of the residents. Yet no one complained about being forced to be there or if they did it quickly vanished…keep in mind the great thing about policy shifts at a University is that four years later…nobody remembers what was since the student side of the institutional memory has all turned over and the new reality is just reality not new.

    Plus, it is always possible for the wealthy students to get around it…just buy or rent a house in the area…and pay the University for on campus accommodations. Last I checked, there wasn’t a bed check at night like a prison, but maybe things have changed since my undergrad years. I would also argue that some of the group apartments like Village A are a lot nicer than some of the hovels people call home in the rentals.

    Oh, and you don’t have a civil right to live somewhere. If I did, then I would be living at Evermay. It all comes down to cash. If you can afford it, then there will be ways around it. Sadly I seem to have left my winning Powerball ticket somewhere… 😉

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