WEB EXCLUSIVE: Court lifts GW enrollment cap

Friday, June 15

A U.S. District Court today lifted a GW undergraduate enrollment cap imposed by the District, allowing the University to admit its full freshman class in the fall.

In the first victory of a larger legal fight between GW and the city, a judge also suspended restrictions on GW building projects for the 2001-02 school year.

A D.C. board imposed an enrollment freeze and limited GW constructions to undergraduate housing until the University houses 70 percent of its students when it passed GW’s campus plan in March. Those restrictions no longer apply for the coming school year.

The University requested an injunction on the enrollment freeze in May to keep its freshman class. GW exceeded the cap of 7,380 students when it enrolled 2,550 freshmen.

GW said it began admitting students before the Board of Zoning Adjustment officially issued the order March 29, about a week before admission letters were sent. BZA officials notified GW about an enrollment freeze and other restrictions when it passed the plan Feb. 13.

In a two-page decision, the Senior U.S. District Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer said the enrollment freeze would have “irreparably injured” GW. Oberdorfer ruled the University also proved a “substantial likelihood of success” in its claim that the rules violated the constitutional right of due process, Barber said.

The decision could give GW momentum in a suit filed April 25 in U.S. District Court. GW hopes to throw out the BZA restrictions for good, claiming they violate the University’s constitutional rights and academic freedom.

“We are pleased that the judge recognized the quandary the University is in,” Barber said. “We always felt we had a good claim.”

The U.S. District Court had no final decision when it reviewed the injunction request at a hearing Tuesday and asked GW counsel to draft an order to the judge, Barber said. The judge returned the order today, granting the injunction and asking GW for more complete data on the number of students who live off campus by Sept. 30.

Barber said he does not know what the judge plans to do with the data, but said he will comply.

“The judge agreed that having a freeze when you don’t know the numbers doesn’t make sense,” Barber said. During campus plan negotiations with Foggy Bottom residents last summer, GW was unable to provide them the number of students who live in Foggy Bottom.

Barber said he will also draft an order asking the D.C. Court of Appeals to immediately review the University’s lawsuit, which calls the campus plan restrictions arbitrary and unconstitutional.

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