District students form coalition

GW’s Student Association has joined a new effort to increase communication among five District schools.

Representatives of students governments from GW, American, Howard, Georgetown and Marymount universities plan to meet regularly to discuss shared concerns about issues that affect all college students in the District.

The informal group agreed to focus on three main issue areas – electoral politics, university-community relations and the universities’ 10-year campus plans.

The first meeting, held at American Aug. 16, was sponsored by the student governments of American and Howard universities.

Rick Hink, director of communications for American’s student government, said the meetings will serve as a forum among the area schools, in which members of each school’s student government could share useful ideas and policies and ask for assistance with any problems.

Ben Getto, GW’s representative, said the group was also coming up with ideas for inter-university events, such as a collegiate concert at the MCI Center, which could be sponsored and attended by students from area universities.

The new group will coordinate efforts to register students to vote not only in national elections but in local ones, so we as college students could have a solid electoral voice in the area, Hink said.

Hink said the focus on university-community relations will be helpful for representatives from universities such as American, Georgetown and GW, which are working on campus plans that will be presented this year.

GW and Georgetown’s plans were criticized recently by local residents concerned with the increasing numbers of students living off campus.

Getto said there is currently a proposal to cap off-campus student housing near Georgetown. Under the cap, private apartments and houses surrounding the Georgetown campus would be forced to deny housing to otherwise qualified Georgetown students.

This issue effects all area universities, including GW, Getto said.

Ken Biberaj, American’s student government president, said the group will target Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings to show neighbors that students are an important part of communities that surround universities, according to a press release from American’s student government.

While area residents sometimes see college students in an unfavorable light, it is important to note that the universities and their students have an important economic impact, from apartment rentals and land purchases to the personal expenditures of each student, Hink said.

Getto said the unnamed group is actually a revival of a similar group called the District of Columbia Collegiate Consortium.

Getto and Hink said the new group would be helpful to advocate for the concerns of students in the D.C. area.

I am excited about working with different schools to accomplish good things for all of our students, Getto said.

The group’s next meeting will be at Howard University in September. Representatives from American, Howard, GW, George Mason, Georgetown and Marymount universities are expected to attend. Hink said he hopes representatives from the University of Maryland will also attend.

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