In response to rising complaints from Foggy Bottom residents, University officials are invoking new procedures next week to more proactively address student disturbances in the surrounding community.
These measures include reforming rules for how the University Police Department responds to noise complaints and organizing extensive visits between University President Steven Knapp and neighborhood organizations.
Michael Akin, executive director of government and community relations for the University, said the new procedure will encourage UPD officers to respond, investigate and attempt to resolve noise complaints in the area rather than merely documenting the offense. In the past, officers generally responded only to noise violations on campus.
Officers will be more likely to knock on a townhouse door and ask a resident to lower their volume if a complaint has been filed, Akin said.
UPD is not allowed to enter privately owned apartment buildings, but they are able to work with building management to get the names of students causing a disturbance. Student Judicial Services will still initiate judicial processes if a student repeatedly ignores requests to lower their volume.
The months of September to October are when the University receives most of its complaints from Foggy Bottom neighbors, followed by March and April, according to the Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs.
Knapp, who recently moved into the Alumni House on 20th and F streets, addressed neighbors’ concerns at several neighborhood meetings this month.
“The change in presidents has made a noticeable difference in the community, but he still faces a formidable task,” Foggy Bottom resident Scott Wayne said.
Over the past decade, the number of students living off campus has doubled to nearly 4,700, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Planning. The influx of students has caused increased animosity from the neighbors who complain about disorderly partying, late-night noise, illegal parking and property damage.
Some students who live off campus argue they should be able to live as they would like. But many residents, some of whom have lived in Foggy Bottom for over 50 years, say students living in a residential neighborhood need to act accordingly.
“If (residents) choose to live on a college campus in a big city, they can’t expect the noise levels of a suburb,” said Angie Bliumis, a GW senior living in the Statesmen apartments.
Lisa Farrell, a resident of Queen Anne’s Court, has a different perspective.
“(Students) swear like sailors, they do not put their trash out on the right day, and there is a genuine fear of retaliation if we say something,” she said. “Students moving into a residential neighborhood should adopt the mores of that neighborhood.”
Several weeks ago, one of Farrell’s neighbors filed a noise complaint against a group of students holding a house party at a townhouse on 911 26th St. The neighbor reported that people from the party jumped his fence into his property, something that he has not seen in his 46 years living in Foggy Bottom. The students from the townhouse said they did receive a noise complaint and ended the party soon after.
Akin said that while issues between neighbors and students will be nearly impossible to solve completely, they can be managed in order to prevent future incidents.
Akin said, “As a new crop of students move into a house, we send them a letter both to inform the students of their responsibility as a neighbor but also to give them a heads up about the opinions that neighbors might have of them.”
This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: (September 25, 2008):
The Hatchet erroneously reported that officers will be more likely to knock on a townhouse door, as long as the townhouse is within UPD’s jurisdiction. Since they are not exercising police authority, UPD’s jurisdiction is irrelevant.