Every frosh down in frosh-ville likes HOVA a lot, but the Advisory Neighborhood Commission who lived just north of frosh-ville most certainly did not. The ANC hated HOVA … no one quite knows the reason. They hated it, and the whole school-year season. It could be that their head wasn’t screwed on quite right, or perhaps GW’s building plans lacked community foresight. But I think the most likely reason of all, is none of them were invited to GW’s Inaugural Ball.
The latest battle between town and gown resulted in a TKO for town as the D.C. Zoning Commission upheld its past ruling stipulating that starting in 2006, HOVA could no longer house freshmen because the dorm is not within GW’s campus plan. As someone who remembers walking to class from HOVA on cold winter mornings, I would be hard pressed to argue that it is. Because of a 2000 agreement with the city, all underclassmen must live on campus. This incident further highlights the rift between our school and the community surrounding it. Instead of constant fighting, both sides need to realize it is in their best interests to cooperate with one another.
The loss of HOVA as a freshman dorm will to some extent be mitigated by the completion of a new freshman dorm on F Street. The building is slated to be finished for the fall of ’06. Perhaps not coincidently, this is when HOVA will no longer be allowed to house freshmen. Before the F Street dorm was approved by the city, the ANC voted to recommend GW not be allowed to build it. The new dorm is to be built toward the eastern side of campus, an area populated almost entirely by GW buildings. Still, the commission did not approve of it.
While this new dorm would not physically encroach upon Foggy Bottom residents, the ANC seems to feel any growth by the University will infringe upon their community. Given our sour relations with them in the past, it is also possible the ANC wants to make life difficult for GW. Their strategy does make tactical sense. By limiting where underclassmen can live, they can limit how many freshmen GW can admit, therefore limiting the size of the university.
In direct conflict to the ANC’s desire to keep GW small is President Trachtenberg’s goal of making GW bigger. Our University’s recent buying and building binge, coupled with our ever-increasing enrollment, strikes fear in the hearts of many in Foggy Bottom that their community is going to be overrun by GW.
For GW’s part, we have not done enough to discuss what growing our University really means. Encroaching into Foggy Bottom is not the only issue we should think about when adding more students. As we add more students we need to ask how that affects class sizes and the availability of classes. Beyond the classroom, adding more students puts a strain on services; from the mailroom to the weight room to the lunchroom. Matriculating at GW for four years as a student, it is hard to notice this change. By the time we’re out of here, GW won’t be that much more crowded.
Even though the ANC was successful in banishing freshmen from HOVA, their unwillingness to compromise may hurt them in the future. Surely, this has made GW officials no more willing to listen to their preferences as we continue to expand. The ANC’s desire to remove freshmen from HOVA is suspect. They complained of noise. I lived in HOVA last year. I had no problem getting a good night’s sleep and I was in the building. I highly doubt the community one access road, an on-ramp and a four-lane highway away was bothered either. They also complained of beer bottles being thrown from windows. Again, I don’t remember this as a problem, but even if it is, I don’t see how putting upperclassmen, some of whom are of drinking age, would fix the situation.
In the end, it is the future freshmen that will suffer. I have fond memories of my freshman year in HOVA. Perhaps the new dorm on F Street will be nicer. No matter how it looks inside, it will never have the same benefits as HOVA does. I spent my first year at college right across from the Watergate Hotel, for goodness sake!
Beyond its place in history, HOVA is in a great geographic location. It is just a short walk to the park to play catch in view of the Potomac, or to Georgetown to catch a movie and dinner. Granted, it’s the people I met, not just the building, that made my freshman year. Still, it is sad to see future Colonials Grinched out of a chance to live there because of our ongoing bickering with our neighbors.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.