Last night, the ANC held a special meeting to discuss one topic: Georgetown University’s Ten Year Plan. Labeled a factual inquiry meeting, the ANC invited input from the university, the four area citizens associations (Georgetown, Burleith, Foxhall, and Hillandale), and the public. Located in the expanded space of the Duke Ellington School theater, the meeting drew a large (although not packed) audience.
The lengthy meeting was separated into four topic sessions: residential living concerns, plans for the hospital, transportation, and student enrollment numbers.
Residential Living Concerns
This was truly the heart of the meeting, and the primary reason most people attended. After relatively perfunctory opening remarks, the session turned promptly over to public questions (and a good deal of public rhetorical questions too).
A steady stream of Georgetown and Burleith residents testified as to the negative impact students were having on their quality of life. Suffice it to say, it was pretty much what you’d except a bunch of Georgetowners and Burleithians to say if asked what they think of Georgetown students living in the neighborhood.
And, it should also be said, that a relatively small but determined group of G.U. students also testified. Perhaps recognizing that the deck is pretty much stacked against them, they didn’t so much offer a strong defense of the plan but rather a criticism of the criticism of the plan. Also, they offered a petition that was apparently signed by over 700 people, although it was followed by a discussion on IP addresses and whether the people that signed the petition are even really from Georgetown.
But setting aside the discussion of the qualitative impact students have had, the core of this portion of the debate surrounded whether Georgetown can and should build more on-campus housing. The short answer from the Georgetown representatives (Provost Jim O’Donnell, Senior VP of Administration Spiros Dimolitsas, and Dean of Student Affairs Todd Olson) is that the university rejects the notion that another dormitory could be built on campus. The neighbors think that’s wrong.
This led to a long discussion where the two sides were simply talking past each other. Georgetown is insistent that the plan is good because it caps the number of undergrad at 6,675 (GM will get to what that means later). They simply want to increase graduate enrollment by about 2,000 (which would bring the total main campus enrollment to 16,133, a 14% increase over today’s roughly 14,000 number.)
This led to a somewhat fractured response from the neighbors because: A) the plan doesn’t address the neighbor’s assertion that there are too many undergrads and not enough dorms and B) while you mention it, they don’t really want more graduate students either. By failing to address the two issues separately, the neighbors arguments occasionally got muddled.
While expansion of new metro-accessible locations for graduate programs would be desirable (one of the solutions mentioned), there’s no doubt that the be-all-end-all issue is the question of more dorms. The school says they looked and there’s no space. The neighbors say look harder, there is. Students say they wouldn’t want to live there anyway. Wash, rinse, repeat.
As this process moves forward, GM can’t help but think that this central question is all that will really matter. And both sides have made their respective cases. Ultimately it will be up to the Zoning Commission to determine the outcome. (By the way, the first Zoning Commission hearing on the plan is on April 14th). Continue reading