Column: Amicus brief supports students

Over the last several days, we have had a very tough issue to examine and an even tougher decision to make. As you may already know, GW is preparing a case against the city to repeal the Board of Zoning Adjustment orders concerning campus housing. This weekend, University officials approached the SA to file an amicus brief in support of the GW’s petition in this case. We wrestled with this issue first because the brief would need to be filed by Wednesday (yesterday) and was being written by the University’s own lawyers.

Besides questioning GW’s timeline and tactics, we also wrestled with the fundamental question of which was better for students: to have an outside body be able to restrict GW’s building projects until it could house more students on campus, or to side with the University in saying that the BZA’s order was discriminatory toward students since it stipulated that 70 percent of them would have to live either on campus or outside Foggy Bottom?

As the Hatchet article today will state, we decided to adopt the University’s position. While we do agree that housing 70 percent of students on or near campus is in students’ best interest, we do not necessarily agree that the four dorms currently considered outside of campus bounds by the BZA should not count towards that 70 percent total. We also do not agree with the BZA’s decision that all other University building projects should be held up until GW complies with the order. This requirement and the BZA’s refusal to allow GW to go on with such projects as the new School of Business and Public Management, could result in the funds for the school being taken back, leaving students without this needed facility. The BZA also requires GW to meet the 70 percent requirement by this August, which we believe is an impossible deadline, currently causing the administration to consider housing students in a Northern Virginia facility.

What I would like students to take from this is the knowledge that this decision was not handled lightly by your student leaders. A number of us met with representatives on both sides of the issue to hear both arguments before deciding. My executive vice president and I were able to give final approval on the brief itself before it was submitted to the court. We were able to make changes as we saw fit to more accurately reflect the student body’s sentiment on this issue.

What I would like our neighbors in Foggy Bottom to take away from this is the sense that we as a student body are doing everything we can to contribute to the vibrant culture and vitality of the Foggy Bottom community. We are here to get an education, not to impede upon your long-standing neighborhood. Records indicate that students are no more likely than non-students to be involved in criminal activity in the Foggy Bottom community. I can only hope that our positive relations continue to grow and that our communities, though different, can continue to work together for a better Foggy Bottom.

I also invite students to read a copy of the brief itself to decide whether or not you agree with our action. Don’t take our word for it; come by the SA office to read a copy.

I thank you all for your input, time and concern for this issue. If you have any questions, please contact me at pjlaw@gwu.edu.

-The writer, a senior majoring in business, is Student Association president.

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