Staff Editorial: Bursting the bubble

The average college student doesn’t expect his neighbor to be an 80-year-old who wakes up when he is just crawling into bed for the night. But in Foggy Bottom, where a significant percentage of the population is non-student, a “clash of lifestyles” between the two groups is definitely apparent. The University has been under fire numerous times for a perceived disregard of its neighbors, and students continue to have loud parties without thinking about their older neighbors. If GW is to continue to grow, students and the administration need a little help remembering members of Foggy Bottom who are often ignored.

A recent incident exemplifies the need to improve the relationship between GW and Foggy Bottom residents. A student leasing a townhouse on 25th Street alleged that his tires were slashed and a taunting note was left on his window when he parked his car on a piece of property clearly marked as private. The note read, “You’re enjoying the typical GW student arrogance: like parking on private property.” The student filed a report with MPD and shared the note with The Hatchet.

It is impossible to know what the actual motives of the “slasher”were – assuming the event happened as alleged – but it is fair to conclude that many residents agree with the slasher’s words. It can be assumed that several neighbors feel GW’s aggressive expansion tactics and students’ behavior in local neighborhoods shows great arrogance and disregard for the people who have called Foggy Bottom home for years.

And, to some extent, the perceived claim is true – the University is arrogant in its acquisitions and expansion projects. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said in a recent interview that GW was here when the residents moved to the area, and they “liked GW when it was smaller, more quiet, when it wasn’t so robust.”

This institutional arrogance is exemplified by Trachtenberg’s repeated statements conveying that he has no intention of letting the community hold back University expansion.

“Nobody ever promised them that we would fail or be less successful just to make them happy,” Trachtenberg said recently.

Students also maintain a certain level of disregard. They tend to presume that GW is in its own little bubble, like many larger, more rural schools. As the University’s enrollment and physical size increases, it is easy to forget that GW is in the middle of a living and working city inhabited by residents who do not think GW is the center of the universe, or even the city. GW students are quick to utilize the benefits of going to school in the middle of the District by getting internships and frequenting the hundreds of bars, restaurants and historical sites nearby, but they often ignore the responsibilities of sharing the space with those unaffiliated with the University.

But at the same time, the University gives back to the community. Prominent figures such as Colin Powell – who spoke at Lisner Auditorium on Friday – would never have visited the area if not for GW. Further, the University is going to expand, and residents need to realize there are certain realities about living near a college campus that will not change. Many residents are very understanding of this and actually appreciate the positive contributions GW offers to the community. But a few residents have vilified the University as the ultimate evil and spend far too much of their time attempting to delay and falter University improvements.

Like Trachtenberg said, “There is a small handful of (residents) who are committed to being disgruntled, and no matter what we do to gruntle them, they’re unhappy.”

Foggy Bottom residents and GW will have to coexist for the inevitable future and the two warring communities need to come to a mutual understanding. If students living near older residents can end their parties a few hours earlier, then residents can surely understand students’ desire to have a 24-hour 7-Eleven.

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