One Georgetown Student’s View of His Neighbors
I will remember my graduation day as one of the happiest of my life. Receiving my diploma onstage in front of classmates, family and faculty was one of my proudest moments ever. Saturday, May 19, was a beautiful day that will not be topped anytime soon. There was, though, one group absent from Healy Lawn that played an important role during my four years on the Hilltop. Besides faculty and fellow students, my neighbors in Georgetown had a big part in molding my undergraduate experience, for better or for worse.
One thing guides do not tell aspiring students during Georgetown University’s campus tour is that most neighbors are not fans of the university or its students. During my first few weeks as a freshman, I would be disheartened as a party was stopped by the university’s Department of Public Safety or the Metropolitan Police Department. By my senior year, it felt like almost any gathering inevitably ended in flashlights and firm words from a staffer of the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program, better known as S.N.A.P. Students cannot even be sure if they’re not on camera, thanks to Stephen R. Brown’s DrunkenGeorgetownStudents.com, Burleith’s version of TMZ.
Besides dipping their fingers in students’ private activities, neighbors have also effected the university’s relationship with its own students. Georgetown’s 10-year campus plan has been a point of contention since my sophomore year. I have sat in on numerous advisory neighborhood commission meetings and one D.C. Zoning Commission hearing to listen to horror stories about my classmates from exasperated neighbors.
This firm resistance to the university’s growth has affected student life as administrators scramble to appeal to the neighbors, while protecting their own interests. This was clearest in the university’s scaling back of this year’s Georgetown Day celebration on April 27, three days before what could have been the Zoning Commission’s final hearing on the 2010-2020 Campus Plan. Held at the end of the spring semester, Georgetown Day was legendary and fun, even if in the words of Georgetown’s associate vice president for student affairs, Jeanne Lord — for being a “celebration by the campus community,” rather than a “celebration of the campus community.” Inflatables and a beer garden were cut from the day’s programs, and this year’s celebration was a shadow of what it used to be. There has been a lot of squabbling over four years, but I will say that my personal interactions with my Georgetown neighbors have been nothing but gracious and courteous. Whether in Volta Park or at an ANC meeting, Georgetown residents were always interested in who I was and what I was doing as a student at the nearby university. Georgetown is a beautiful neighborhood, and I am grateful to have been able to share it with neighbors who care deeply about it.
It is a shame that students and Georgetown residents can rarely reach common ground. Georgetown is a lot of things, and — whether the neighbors like it not — it is also a college town. Although many residents fear that unbridled growth by the university will lower the quality of life in the surrounding area, they could work more directly with students to ensure that it is maintained.
Nico Dodd, who earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from Georgetown College, was an editorial intern at the Georgetowner in the summer of 2011.