A week and half after the university finalized the 2017-2036 campus plan, the Georgetown University Student Association will launch an informational campaign to increase student awareness about the plan’s implications on student housing.
GUSA released a memorandum of understanding on its website signed with the university in May that prevents a four-year housing requirement and requires the university to abide by a series of other agreements around the usage of campus space. The MOU had not been previously announced.
According to GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17), GUSA will begin to publicize the achievements of the campus plan and MOU prior to Homecoming Weekend and the GUSA senate elections.
The MOU — signed by Khan and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augustini — requires the university to utilize the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center and other existing on-campus residential spaces to house students during renovations and establish a timeline for renovations of residential facilities based on the results of the university’s ongoing housing survey.
The document also prohibits future construction of residential space on Harbin Patio and clarifies its use for academics or student life.
The MOU followed uproar over the proposal to convert 3616 N St. NW — popularly known as Brown House — into an administrative building in April. The university withdrew the conversion plan after over 1,000 students signed a petition in protest of the move.
GUSA will also begin work on a possible second MOU with the university to limit townhouse conversions to preserve off-campus senior housing and prevent the sudden conversion of townhouses into administrative space, according to GUSA Chief of Staff Ari Goldstein (COL ’18).
Goldstein said the MOU is the result of two years of GUSA’s advocacy on behalf of students.
“There was very little infrastructure within GUSA for engagement in the campus planning process,” Goldstein said. “Trevor Tezel [(SFS ’15)] was president and had a few students he called his working group on it, but there wasn’t that much. There was no formal process.”
During the March 2015 GUSA executive transition to former GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16) and former GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16), GUSA organized the “Let’s Not Get Screwed Again” campaign to pressure the university to include students in the master planning process.
The petition, which eventually amassed more than 3,000 signatures, specified three priorities: The university should not increase the number of students required to live on-campus, should prioritize renovations and maintenance of existing buildings before beginning new construction and should increase the number of student representatives on the Georgetown Community Partnership Steering Committee. The GCP is a forum for consensus-based decision-making among university administrators, students and members of the community who developed the framework for the 20-year plan.
Following the campaign’s success, GUSA created a student master planning consortium in April 2015 tasked with providing students and administrators a forum to discuss master-planning concerns.
“It started off with a vague mandate but the goal was to have a forum that meets regularly with all the right administrators in the room so that students can actually engage them and bring forward issues,” Goldstein said. “For the first several months, the work of the consortium was to focus on those three issues. Over the last few years, we’ve accomplished all those goals, so it proves that when we coordinate, we can be successful.”
The consortium then developed a list of objectives for GUSA leadership to use in future advocacy. The “Student Priorities for the 2018 Campus Plan” classified priorities based on housing, transportation, neighborhood and campus life and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital expansion. Those goals developed into the first draft of the MOU on housing and the campus plan which was submitted in August.
Khan said the MOU represents a huge victory for students.
“One of the big priorities in the MOU was to ensure that the fourth-year student right to live off campus remained. That was big. For the next 20 years there will not be a fourth-year requirement,” Khan said. “While the campus plan really addresses the commitment to improving housing, what we students want is to see the university work towards a renovation timeline. We got the university to agree to work with us in the master-planning consortium to establish a mutually-agreed-upon timeline.”
While the MOU was not made public prior to the completion of campus plan negotiations, Goldstein emphasized the secrecy was meant to not disrupt negotiations.
“This MOU is a great deal and it is a great part of a larger process which was generally a good deal,” Goldstein said. “Part of the reason it wasn’t public was that we weren’t sure how it would upset the campus planning process that was wrapping up outside the front gates, in the interest of making sure the campus planning process went smoothly.”
Former Advisory Neighborhood Council 2E Commissioner Kendyl Clausen (SFS ’16) said the consortium carried out the unique task of bringing students and administrators together to collaborate on the university’s master-planning vision.
“More than simply giving students a venue to voice concerns or goals, the consortium gives students and administrators a venue to talk about how to achieve those goals or alleviate those concerns about the university’s future,” Clausen wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Clausen said that the consortium showed students the inner workings of the campus plan and contributed to a final draft that benefitted students.
“In last semester’s meetings, we were able to discuss the moving pieces behind the campus plan to ensure the final picture was ideal for students. We worked through the complexities together, thereby giving students agency in the planning process,” Clausen wrote.
Goldstein said GUSA’s next steps include advocacy to protect townhouses from conversion into administrative space by the Provost’s Office.
“We learned that they have a long term goal of bringing several faculty to live in several more townhouses which presents a serious issue. We saved Brown House for a year, but we still don’t have any framework for figuring out which townhouses are going to be converted long-term,” Goldstein said. “We went ahead and invited a representative of the Provost’s Office to join the consortium permanently to erase some of the miscommunication.”
Correction: This article previously stated Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson signed the MOU; Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augustini signed the MOU.