Thursday’s ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals affirms what the University administration, The Hatchet and sensible community members have been saying for years – the August 2002 Board of Zoning Adjustment housing deadline for the University is “arbitrary and capricious.”
The BZA order initially required GW to house 70 percent of all undergraduate students – including all freshmen and sophomores – within city-defined campus boundaries by August 2002. The order also mandates GW to provide an on-campus bed for every student after enrollment reaches 8,000. The court’s ruling labeled the BZA’s deadline “arbitrary and capricious” as it “constitutes an impermissible exercise of the Board’s authority” and went on to give the University until the fall of 2006 to come into compliance.
But the ruling was only a partial victory for GW, as the court struck down the University’s argument against the ruling as a whole, which was that the BZA’s housing requirement violated students’ rights under the D.C. Human Rights Act. The act disallows discrimination based on race, gender or matriculation.
So while the ruling is a logistical victory for GW, it is a moral victory for the BZA and other community members opposed to the University’s growth. GW can now go ahead with plans for the business school and feel safe that they can meet the housing requirement by 2006 with the addition of Ivory Towers and the proposed dorm next to Francis Scott Key hall, but the BZA now has court-authorized dominion over the future growth of GW.
GW always planned on complying with the order, but the deadline was unreachable – construction teams can only work so fast. The D.C. Court of Appeals commendably recognized the University’s good-faith intentions, but it is still questionable as to whether the BZA still maintains unreasonable control over the academic decisions of the University and housing decisions of students. The University should be thankful for the short-term bailout, but the long-term issue still deserves fighting. The University will find out in October if the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the University’s appeal that the BZA infringes upon GW’s academic freedom.