Staff Editorial: Open the doors to the community

Our View: The Foggy Bottom Association’s decision to close their meetings to non-residents will only harm their interests

The Foggy Bottom Association is in the midst of a losing battle.

Their latest attack against GW comes in the form of a letter to the city with a request to stop development on Square 54 until the University complies with its Campus Plan. The letter may gather some attention for the FBA and slightly impede GW’s development efforts, but it is unlikely that it will accomplish much else.

Sure to have a larger impact, however, is the FBA’s recent decision to close its meetings to non-residents. Such a decision will only further alienate the group from University officials and guarantee that none of the FBA’s demands are taken seriously – exactly the opposite of what the group wants.

Traditionally, the University and the neighborhood group have had strained relations over construction projects, student noise and GW expansion into the neighborhood. While the residents of Foggy Bottom often have valid claims, the legitimacy of their position is undermined by their behavior.

It seems that almost every proposal put forward by the University is evaluated by the FBA based solely on its origin rather than on its merits. By closing off their meetings, the FBA is ensuring that GW will approach their group in a similar fashion.

In recent years the University has made some substantive efforts to reach out to the community, most notably through the creation of the Office of Foggy Bottom/West End Affairs, headed by Michael Akin. By shutting non-residents out of the meetings, the FBA is choosing to sever its formal ties with Akin, their only direct lifeline to the University bureaucracy.

The FBA does have a right to be skeptical of University intentions. The sour relationship is built on years of mistrust. GW, however, is making a concerted effort to achieve its responsibilities in the Campus Plan by building new residence halls.

Any lawsuit the FBA may try to bring against the University concerning Square 54 will inevitably fail. The University simply has deeper pockets. The money for the lawsuit could be better spent on community building programs to mitigate neighborhood tensions.

D.C.’s Mayor Anthony Williams got it right when he noted that the area residents have been too tough on the University. Because the FBA has shown that they are unwilling to compromise, they cut themselves off from serious consideration by University officials.

Only through compromise will the FBA see any of their demands realized. The group should immediately reopen their meetings to University employees to provide a forum for discussion. In addition, the FBA must be realistic with their demands and attempt to cooperate with GW officials rather than antagonize them.

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