Having an alumnus as mayor will probably not alter GW’s relationship with the District, according to experts on urban politics.
D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who ousted current Mayor Adrian Fenty last week during the D.C. primary election, is running unopposed during the Nov. 2 general election, virtually guaranteeing himself a spot as the District’s next mayor. Gray earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from GW in the 1960s.
Gray declined to comment for this article.
Steven Taylor, an associate professor of government at American University and a noted author on urban politics, said the University might see a “little more support” from the city because of Gray’s alumni status, but said overall the support would not be a significant change. Legal experts from GW agreed that the University should see little, if any, benefits from Gray’s potential position.
“I don’t know how much he can bring the resources of the city to George Washington,” Taylor said, adding that typically the city can do very little to support local universities.
GW has been at the mercy of the D.C. government – especially in the past decade and a half – with the University’s desire to expand. The University has had to work extensively with the D.C. Zoning Commission in order to pass its 10- and 20-year campus plans on both the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, as well as to obtain permits for the multiple building expansion and remodeling projects the University has undertaken.
During Gray’s administration, the University could potentially seek permits from the city for the construction of the $275 million Science and Engineering Complex, which would be built in a busy area of Foggy Bottom near the Foggy Bottom Metro station. Beyond the SEC, GW has expressed interest in building a School of Public Health and Health Services, and adding a new Law Learning Center on G Street.
Similarly, the University may need to seek the help of the D.C. government as GW inches closer to exceeding its full-time equivalent cap – or the maximum amount of students able to live and attend school at GW set in the 20-year Foggy Bottom Campus Plan. As the majority of GW’s operating budget is funded by tuition money, reaching the enrollment cap may cause GW’s income to plateau.
Foggy Bottom neighbors are also wary of GW’s expanding reach into the neighborhood. The relationship with the Foggy Bottom community was strained during President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s tenure, and the former President once famously told residents, “We were here first.”
When asked about what the new relationship with Gray may produce, GW’s top lobbyist to the mayor’s office Bernard Demczuk skirted questions to a University spokesperson.
Michael Akin, the assistant vice president of the Office of Government, International and Community Relations, said GW is excited to work with whomever the next mayor will be.
“As with all new administrations, we look forward to working together on a whole host of issues, including our partnerships with D.C. public schools,” Akin said in a statement to The Hatchet.
Akin did not disclose whether GW expects the University’s relationship with D.C. to improve or if GW’s dreams of expansion will be easier to secure.
A positive for GW is the University’s close relationship to Gray. Demczuk, the official who works to advance GW’s interests in the mayor’s office, has voiced support for the alumnus.
“I’ve known Vincent for 25 years,” Demczuk said after Gray’s primary win. “I’m happy for the city, I’m happy for Vincent and I’m happy for GW.”
Another positive is Gray’s warm feelings toward his alma mater. In a previous interview with The Hatchet, Gray said he is a better man because of his time at GW.