GW creates neighbor complaint plan

Seeking to improve its relationship with Foggy Bottom residents, the University recently revamped mechanisms for dealing with complaints about off-campus student behavior.

In addition to improving its ability to track, record and respond to residents’ grievances, GW also stepped up its efforts to inform them about ways to register their complaints.

Under the new system, adopted last month, multiple GW departments – including University Police and the Office of Government, International and Corporate Affairs – will have the ability to respond to complaints. Previously, only UPD looked into complaints that rowdy students generated excessive garbage and noise, disrupting the quiet character of Foggy Bottom.

While UPD and Student Judicial Services would initially handle most disturbances, the government affairs office would work with residents and students to ensure that problems did not reoccur. Since officials implemented the new procedure last month, they have received four complaints, all of which they characterized as being “relatively minor.”

“This is not really a new system,” said Matt Nehmer, assistant director of Media Relations. “The University has simply refined existing systems to improve the University’s ability to track and respond to allegations of misconduct.”

“Community residents will not see many of the changes to the University’s internal procedures directly, but hopefully they will get an enhanced sense of responsiveness by University staff,” he added.

Nehmer said GW officials decided to introduce the initiative because of an increased awareness about some of the disturbances created by off-campus students.

“In general, GW students are well-behaved, but we recognize that from time to time there are allegations of misconduct that need to be addressed,” he said.

Nehmer said many residents were previously unaware that they could call UPD at (202) 994-6110 or GW’s anonymous tip line at (202) 994-TIPS to report complaints.

He said the University has begun spreading the word about the new initiative through the FRIENDS group, a University organization seeking to foster better relations among GW officials, residents and students. GW has also worked with local D.C. City Council member Jack Evans to promote the numbers, which have been published in several area publications.

While officials said they are optimistic about the new system, some residents expressed doubts about its efficacy.

“I’ve never seen them come up with anything that really worked,” said Dorothy Miller, a commissioner on the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which advises the city on community issues.

Miller said the University would not improve its relationship with residents until it stops buying property in Foggy Bottom.

Mel Maeda, who lives on 25th and I streets, said he would never call UPD to handle a problem that occurred off campus and is outside of its jurisdiction.

“If there’s a disturbance I would definitely call MPD, why would I call the University security guards?” he said.

Some community members said they are hopeful the new complaint system would build on recent University initiatives to improve relations with residents, such as the FRIENDS group. ANC member David Lehrman said the plan would be well-received by residents.

“Most people would welcome this initiative by the University since most of the time students don’t realize there’s anyone living here besides students,” Lehrman said.

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