GW administrators, Foggy Bottom residents and District officials have been haggling over GW’s campus plan for more than a year. The Board of Zoning Adjustment is set to issue its verdict on the plan Tuesday. Despite the plan’s omission of a hard cap on undergraduate enrollment, the BZA should approve GW’s campus plan. The University, though, should institute some workable, effective mechanism to hold enrollment to levels in line with the University’s capacity to house, feed, educate and otherwise accommodate its students.
An approved campus plan is essential for GW to improve the quality of student life. No new facilities can be constructed, including much-needed residence halls and classroom space, until D.C. grants its approval. Ample time has been allotted for public comment and revisions, and GW has incorporated several compromises to address the concerns of area residents. Among these are requirements for freshmen and sophomores to live in University housing and plans to expand residential facilities by more than 1,300 beds.
Rejection of the campus plan, which some Foggy Bottom residents advocate, could negate these concessions and put involved parties back to the drawing board. Such a situation would perpetuate the state of limbo that GW and the Foggy Bottom community are currently mired in.
Some residents’ concerns with the campus plan stem not from provisions included in the plan itself but from other issues – beyond what the law and approval process requires – they want the University to address. Residents want a check on University acquisitions of property off campus and stronger measures to keep GW within its official boundaries. Rejecting the campus plan would not answer these concerns.
Residents should direct these complaints at the D.C. government. Mayor Anthony Williams proposed changes to switch campus plan approval from the BZA to the D.C. Zoning Commission, which would be able to hold universities more accountable to the concessions they make in their campus plans. But GW’s campus plan should not be impeded simply because the law under which it is drafted needs adjustment.
Approving the campus plan is the best mechanism for the University to strike the right balance between facilities and enrollment. While GW should limit the number of undergraduate students it enrolls, the University cannot accommodate the students already here without the go-ahead to build more facilities.