A New Era Begins For Georgetown

The setting was dramatic and unexpected. Mayor Vincent Gray with neighborhood and Georgetown University leaders next to him announcing that peace was at hand in the on-going G.U. Campus Plan debate. They stood on P Street, a block from the campus. After two months of negotiations, the plan was revised with agreement from all sides. The fight was over. Again, unexpected.

“I firmly believe that we have developed a proposal that will go a long way towards alleviating many of the adverse impacts we experience living in such close proximity to the university,” said Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown. “This is a genuine compromise whereby neither side got 100 percent of what it wanted, but we are all pleased with the outcome.”

Key details include moving more students onto the main campus (at least 450 students); a new Georgetown Community Partnership, comprised of neighborhood and university representatives; a push to make the campus more attractive to students with a new student center or pub and a policy to make it easier for in-dorm parties; moving the School of Continuing Studies to a new downtown campus (not yet found); capping the undergrad headcount at 6,675.

Also on the list for the future: a new 100-acre campus, supposedly for most of the university’s graduate programs. Ditto: Finding housing graduate students outside Georgetown, Burleith and Foxhall.

For some students, the phrase used by CAG -- “Living off-campus will be a privilege not a right” -- is troublesome. They should be aware that it is up to the university to enforce such a restriction and not the city.

As for the dramatic, it came from an unexpected source, Ron Lewis, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, who said: “This is an extraordinary event in the life of our community, and it’s very promising. We have found a way -- the community and the university, together -- that offers a new cooperative spirit and real results on issues that have divided us for years.”

Mayor Gray added to the dramatic and to what will now be expected: “What they have done is developed a prototype and set a precedent for how these issues are to be dealt with in the future.”

Something dramatic clicked in the heads of those involved, and we have yet to sit down with the expert in “alternative dispute resolution.” But it is also gratifying to see that some of the advice issued on this matter in these pages over the last year have been taken to heart. Whether it was that the university think beyond its own bubble as well as the neighborhood appreciating the college presence and its benefits and drop the demand for all undergraduates to live on the campus, we cannot be sure.

We do know that a line of cooperation has been joined and should not be cut and that the university’s motto -- “Utraque Unum” -- translated as “both and one” moves in the background as a guide to this new relationship between town and gown.★

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Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:23:19 -0400

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