Top officials announce tougher rules for students living off-campus

by Cory Weinberg

Updated July 31 at 11:55 p.m.

GW will crack down on loud off-campus parties this fall with quicker disciplinary action for students and a new online complaint system for neighbors, University officials announced at a meeting with Foggy Bottom residents Wednesday.

The changes were some of the most dramatic steps the University has taken to calm its relationship with Foggy Bottom neighbors, who for years have called on GW to tighten its rules for students living off campus, particularly members of Greek life who are living in off-campus townhouses not registered with the University.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
The University is taking action to enforce stronger disciplinary actions for students who misbehave off campus.

The University now will collect addresses for all Greek life members living off campus, create an online complaint form for neighbors and take disciplinary action against students after a second verified report of disruptive behavior instead of a third. GW could also consider video footage from neighbors as verification that misbehavior occurred.

"We're going to take a more proactive and aggressive role with fraternities and sororities, but we want to engage them in the conversation," Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said. "This is a series of attempts to address behavior in some different ways. It won't be perfect and I'll assure you we'll probably make some mistakes along the way."

Neighbors have long criticized students' off-campus behavior in email listservs and community meetings, recounting stories about students throwing beer bottles at them and playing loud music in the middle of the night.

Students could also see fines for neighborhood misconduct, like failing to pick up trash during move-out, though Konwerski said that plan will be in a pilot phase. "If students and the community members were interested in [other] types of fines, as a way to diminish certain behaviors, we certainly would consider them and try to test them out," Konwerski added in an email.

Students will also need to take part in a mandatory online orientation in August that lays out issues of underage drinking and objectionable noise.

If students do not attend meetings with staff outlining the changes this fall, they will face a course registration hold. The Greek life office will meet with fraternity and sorority members living off campus on Aug. 21 and 25. Other student organizations will begin reporting member addresses next spring and meet with advisers about the changes this fall.

"Really our goal is to discuss what we expect and what the community expects, and kind of how we can live in peace," Konwerski said.

The University officials said they will also consider increasing the amount of time staff members monitor the neighborhood on weekend nights. University Police officers had been the ones knocking on townhouse doors during noise complaints until this spring when it changed its off-campus response protocol that violates D.C. law.

GW will try to change that law, officials announced Wednesday, by backing a potential D.C. Council bill that would allow campus police officers to break up parties in off-campus residences.

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said GW was moving toward addressing neighbor complaints of student rowdiness. Hatchet File Photo

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said GW was moving toward addressing neighbor complaints of student rowdiness.

Konwerski was joined at the meeting by some of GW's top officials from the offices of general counsel, Greek life, and safety and security. He said in an email after the meeting that he would begin deeper discussions with Student Association leaders this week on how to put the policies into effect.

The moves come after the University announced it would mandate that students live on-campus through their junior year, beginning with the Class of 2018. That step was also listed as a way to appease neighbors, but has faced strong opposition from students for cutting down on cheaper living options.

The crackdown also follows Georgetown University, which reached an extensive agreement with neighbors last year during its campus plan negotiations that quieted complaints about student partying off campus.

At the meeting, Foggy Bottom, neighbors complained that GW is not doing enough to "play hardball" with students misbehaving off campus. Complaints mostly surrounded townhouses rented by students in the western part of the neighborhood – between 24th and 26th streets and down I Street and New Hampshire Avenue.

"I've invested all my savings in my home here, and I won't let that go away because some kid wants to have a kegger," said Daniel Gage, a Foggy Bottom resident, who described repeated problems with student partying near his house.

Some of the dozen Foggy Bottom residents at the meeting said they were pleased with the changes, and resident Marina Streznewski said she was even surprised GW moved with a comprehensive strategy so quickly.

"They know we're angry," she said after the meeting. "We're civil, but we won't be nice."

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