Columbia Plaza liable for GW student code

GW students living in the Columbia Plaza apartment complex were informed before spring break that their actions are now subject to the University’s Student Code of Conduct.

I was very upset, said senior Kaitlin Donahue, who lives in Columbia Plaza’s C building. I didn’t sign my lease with GW. I felt that I shouldn’t be subject to anything that any other 21-year-old in an apartment building wouldn’t be subject to.

The University purchased a 28.55 percent share of the Columbia Plaza complex last month, after several partners wanted to liquidate their share of the 800-unit complex. GW estimates that about one-quarter of the tenants are students.

I moved off campus to move away from the GW bureaucracy in the dorms, Donahue said.

University administrators said they hope putting the students under the Student Code of Conduct will help alleviate tension between students and other residents in Columbia Plaza.

This is not really the University trying to butt into the private lives of students and trying to implore them to act differently, said Mike Walker, senior associate dean of students.

He likened the University’s new policy to any new landlord taking over a property and bringing in a new approach.

We don’t expect or want the University to have an environment similar to the residence halls, and I don’t think it’s going to be, Walker said.

The University has the right of first refusal of any apartments that become open in the complex, said Walter Bortz, vice president for Administrative and Information Services.

A person who is occupying an apartment there right now will have an opportunity to renew, Bortz said.

The University and the property management company, Polinger, Shannon and Luchs Co., have created the Columbia Plaza Housing Program to recommend students, faculty and staff for the vacant apartments. Walker said students who want to live in Columbia Plaza will have to meet several requirements, including a disciplinary background check from the University.

However, GW students will not have to meet income requirements to rent an apartment, like most other apartment buildings in the area, Walker said.

We plan on having a couple of staff members who live there and can work with the management on issues that arise, Bortz said.

Donahue said she is upset GW is getting involved in the property’s management.

I feel badly for the people who are trying to live in Columbia Plaza next year and have to go through the University, she said.

Marilyn Rubin, president of the Columbia Plaza Tenants Association, said she is glad the University wants to have jurisdiction over the student tenants, but is not sure whether it will make a difference.

If they want to live in a residential building without supervision, and they want to be treated like an adult, they should be acting that way, she said. If they behave like adults, there is no problem. It’s the ones who want to get away with murder that will have problems.

Rubin said the A and B buildings in Columbia Plaza have gotten particularly bad because of the large numbers of students having parties on their patios and slamming doors.

I love having the students here, she said. It’s nice to have a blend. But I also think it shouldn’t become a residence hall, but stay a rental property.

Bortz said, in the end, most students will not notice that GW is involved in the property, but the University will be involved in keeping it up to standard, just as they do with other real estate projects.

Their lives should be better, not worse, and should not be changed dramatically, he said.

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