As the incoming and outgoing presidents of the student body, we find ourselves in parallel states of reflection: one looking at past accomplishments and the other looking to future plans for making Georgetown a better place. As we prepare for transition in the GUSA executive, one of the biggest issues on the table is community relations.
There has been a fairly hostile relationship between students and neighbors in the past. Anyone who is currently a senior remembers walking by the “Our Homes, Not GU’s Dorm” signs in the neighborhoods near campus freshman year. We have also all heard the stories of neighbors calling the police on someone having a glass of wine on their front porch so many times that he no longer uses his front porch. However, have you also heard about the vomiting contest that took place in a neighbor’s backyard during a student party? Have you heard about the neighbor that works for the State Department who sees Georgetown students peeing in her bushes every weekend? There has undeniably been disrespectful behavior on both sides.
While the relationship between students and neighbors has been contentious in the past, the Georgetown Community Partnership, which formed as part of the final agreement of the 2010 Campus Plan, presents a new opportunity to explore the many issues on which our interests are aligned. Students, administrators and neighborhood leaders are coming together to talk about the biggest issues facing both parties. We have discussed safety with the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, drawn and launched new shuttle routes with university administrators and even explained flip cup to Dr. Olson while discussing alcohol policy. All of this is possible because of a real shift in the philosophy around student engagement at the higher levels of the Georgetown administration brought about by student involvement in the GCP.
This shift is due in large part to students working with our neighbors and sharing our experiences as individual students and student organizations. Solutions to the problems the student body has faced for decades — and the goals GUSA has pursued for years — have been pushed up the agenda and made attainable for the first time. The free shuttle to Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle on Friday and Saturday nights is not a new idea, but it is now a reality; we cannot wait to make use of it. This new relationship with the neighbors enables us to have two parties at the table outlining the critical need for reforms and new services, like the free shuttles, in order to improve social life on campus.
There will be challenges this semester. The increase in enforcement off campus is nothing new, and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect student rights and make sure the disciplinary process is fair for all involved — including extending the Clear and Convincing evidentiary standard off campus. GUSA will continue to advocate for individual students through the Student Advocacy Office and the Disciplinary Review Committee by ensuring that the DRC puts forth a legitimate plan to implement the review of the Student Conduct Office.
The time is now to ensure that our on-campus social life is improved. There are, as any student knows, huge obstacles to truly living out Georgetown’s motto of cura personalis on-campus for individual students and student organizations. Now, more than ever — in part because of new attitudes brought about by the campus plan — there has been movement on solving many of these bureaucratic and policy problems. Students must continue to interact with the highest levels of the Georgetown administration on a daily basis in order to keep up the momentum of positive change. As long as students keep pushing administrators to engage in productive conversations about the problems we face, we will not fail, and we will keep moving forward.
Because there are so many students with creative ideas, we hope you will help us come up with innovative solutions and make campus the best it can be. It is our hope that the work of GUSA and many others on conduct reform, the alcohol policy, student safety, access to benefits and student life policies will make next fall and the coming years even better, easier and more vibrant for the generations of students to come.
Nate Tisa is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and GUSA president-elect. Clara Gustafson is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and GUSA president.