GW sees uptick in neighbor complaints

The number of complaints community members logged against students saw a 16 percent jump last school year, an increase administrators attribute to a push for local residents to voice their concerns to University officials.

But alumnus and president of the Foggy Bottom Association Asher Corson said the increased number of complaints reflects ongoing issues with noise and trash, problems he said have gotten so bad that some neighbors think the city should step in.

“It’s not just whiny neighbors – it’s people whose lives are seriously impacted,” Corson said. With such a high student population in the area, Corson said the city should take a different approach to the neighborhood’s needs.

“I would hope that the city would take a more proactive role,” he said.

Corson said that neighbors notifying the University is not enough, and that D.C. agencies should be contacted in certain situations – Metropolitan Police for noise issues, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for license and permit issues at properties, and the Department of Public Works for trash problems.

“The University can only do so much,” Corson said.

GW Community Relations Director Britany Waddell said the University “coordinates with the Department of Public Works, the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services and Councilmember Jack Evans’ office.” Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira said while the incident number increased slightly, “the overall trend has remained fairly consistent.” The most common complaint is for noise violations, followed by issues with trash and disorderly conduct.

Between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years, noise complaints jumped 23.5 percent, from 115 incidents to 142. The majority of complaints result in immediate resolution – where the offending activities are stopped – or an undetermined cause for the complaint.

MPD was contacted for about 13 percent of the incidents recorded last school year, and about 7.5 percent of the cases were determined to be unaffiliated with GW. The Code of Student Conduct applies to students living off-campus, and punishments for reported incidents can range from a warning letter to charges through Student Judicial Services.

Pereira said the increase in complaints can be attributed in part to GW’s efforts to make neighbors more aware of the Community Concern Policy.

GW also has a “quiet zone” campaign to educate students about being good neighbors when it comes to noise, and “neighborhood walk-throughs” are used to identify resident concerns.

Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Rebecca Coder said addressing these issues is an ongoing process due to the turnover of the student population, adding that there has been discussion about tightening penalties.

She said in the past two years, the majority of complaints handled by ANC commissioners had to do with properties with absentee landlords.

GW’s Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs meets with residents and property managers of properties with four or more verified complaints.

Pereira said this Repetitive Concern Policy is in its third year, and the list posted online continues to shorten, with just five properties listed from last academic year, compared to 16 in the 2007-2008 school year.

While complaints in apartment buildings have decreased from previous years, more incidents are now reported in townhouses and GW buildings, according to the report.

Pereira said GW has quarterly meetings with building managers, and the University believes new initiatives focused on the townhouse community “will address the increased number of concerns within these properties.”

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