GW administrators have refused to listen to the concerns of students and the complaints of the University’s Foggy Bottom neighbors in the past. But now the D.C. government may force the issue by finally taking a stand against GW’s voracious appetite for purchasing District property.
The mayor’s Office of Planning recommended the Board of Zoning Adjustment deny GW’s application for approval of its campus plan, which is supposed to serve as a 10-year blueprint for the University’s future development in the surrounding neighborhood. But as the current campus plan – which expires this year – clearly shows, GW has never strictly adhered to the promises made in the document. GW owns property that falls outside the restrictions placed on the campus boundaries and even houses students beyond its borders, as residents of Aston Hall certainly know.
The current dispute over GW’s future leaves administrators with difficult decisions to make – ones that will largely affect students. The mayor’s office recommends GW increase the number of on-campus beds while restricting the number of students enrolled. Without the additional revenue those new students would provide, however, administrators say they would need to raise tuition and fees to fund an expansion of its residential capacity. An increase in the number of beds is sorely needed, but not at the expense of raising the already astronomical cost of attendance.
The issues at stake are obviously larger than which property will become a residence hall. Beyond students’ financial concerns, Foggy Bottom neighbors see the coming demise of their way of life with every construction project that proceeds despite their protests. As the largest private employer and land owner in the District, GW has incredible influence over the decisions that affect its fate and that of everyone indelibly linked to it.
In light of this power, GW must do more to co-exist peacefully with the residents of Foggy Bottom and D.C. GW is not an island; what happens here does have an effect outside the campus.
The current bitter political divide is simply untenable, but the specter of an even higher cost of attendance is indefensible as well. GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s comment that previous concessions to the mayor’s office and Foggy Bottom residents are all off the table is counterproductive and does not help solve the problems GW faces. The mayor’s office handed down a decision that protects the interests of Foggy Bottom residents, but may leave students with the burden of paying for new construction costs.
Hopefully, the University and the District government can reach some compromise. Otherwise, everyone in Foggy Bottom will suffer.