Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

ANC Student Representation Critical

Six years ago, the District’s Board of Zoning and Adjustments (BZA) decided to limit the number of unrelated individuals who could live together in a single home. The ramifications for the University community were clear – more students would be forced to live in distant neighborhoods such as Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, and those who remained would face substantially higher per-person rents. The BZA’s legislation, spurred by activist neighbors unhappy with loud students and the perceived encroachment of our University, rang of discrimination and divisiveness. A turning point on University-neighborhood relations had been reached, and it was clear that something must be done.

A group of students, later to become Campaign Georgetown, quickly decided that the city’s proposal demanded a grassroots response that would not only defeat the legislation itself but also assure a lasting student voice in local politics and the governance of our community. Their approach would serve two goals: to safeguard student rights against challenges by activist neighbors and to prove to our neighbors beyond Healy Gates that the University and neighbors could work together constructively towards common goals. Campaign Georgetown would show that students had a genuine interest in the well being of the larger Georgetown community – not just over parties and rent but also over public safety, economic and commercial improvement, schools and other matters that affected the whole neighborhood.

In every election since the BZA’s failed attempt at a housing overlay, Georgetown University students have been elected to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a local government body that makes policy recommendations to the city government. The key to the success of these student commissioners has been the willingness of their fellow students to register and vote in Washington D.C. Thousands of students have acknowledged Washington D.C. as their primary place of residence and claimed their right for representation in local government, even in the face of a lawsuit brought by some of our neighbors who claimed students lacked the right to vote in the District. These neighbors have lost their case in multiple courts and in public opinion as well. In sum, the experiment has been a dramatic success, as student commissioners have gained the respect of their colleagues through dedication and a professional attitude.

As November’s ANC elections draw near, we are reminded why student representation is critical. Recently, the Board of Zoning and Adjustment passed Georgetown University’s ten-year campus plan, but it added a number of discriminatory conditions that threaten student quality of life. Among these is a requirement that the University report conduct violations of off campus students directly to parents. Moreover, the BZA required that the school act as an overarching landlord for off campus students by forwarding housing and sanitation violations to city authorities. One condition summarizes the Board’s view of students: living off campus is a privilege and not a right.

A number of other issues demand student representation on the ANC. The University has ambitious plans for new facilities and services, including a new business center, performing arts center, and athletic complex. These proposals will undoubtedly irk some neighbors, who seek to limit the size and influence of the school. oreover, the numerous robberies and assaults of the past academic year have raised serious concerns over the safety of students traveling outside the gates. An integrated solution involving Metro and campus police ought be proposed by the Commission. Historical concerns over parking and landlords have not waned and will not be eliminated by the opening of the Southwest Quad next fall.

The first step towards ensuring a student voice in local politics is voter registration. Campaign Georgetown plans to launch registration drives throughout campus, including public spaces such as Red Square and Leavey, as well as in dormitories. Redistricting has left one all-student ANC district and another two with large populations of students living in dorms and off campus housing. Yet registering in Washington is not just a point of political strategy but a determined decision by students to acknowledge the District as their primary home for the next four years. This is the city where we learn, shop, volunteer, work and relax. Welcome home, and make it official by registering to vote.

Matt Ingham is a junior in the College and is chair of Campaign Georgetown.

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya