Marissa Fretes: Culture beyond campus borders

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Marissa Fretes

When Scip Barnhart worked at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, he once invited his art students to meet GW students at his home in The West End. They spent the evening conversing as jazz played in the background.

As Barnhart prepares to leave his apartment in The West End, the community is losing a part of its culture that will be difficult to reclaim. Barnhart is an example of the already established culture that exists in Foggy Bottom and the significant group of residents that often goes overlooked.

As GW changes physically over the next few years, the University should not drive out permanent residents who are an integral part of the community.

After all, how many students really know Foggy Bottom? We call the neighborhood home for four years, but afterward, few students end up staying.

Under the 2007 Campus Plan, the University is set to “Grow Up, Not Out,” focusing on increasing density within its current borders, which puts the culture of Foggy Bottom at risk. Like with all things, there must be a balance.

GW should find ways to welcome residents who are not part of the University but are still part of the community. We should not isolate our neighbors if they are not directly connected to the University.

The University may be trying to preserve Foggy Bottom’s culture while giving back to the community in the form of investments, jobs and new buildings.

But the culture that the University brings to the neighborhood is just that – its own culture. Student and University events, music, art and performances are mostly student-created and catered toward students. We forget about the world outside the University, and we forget about the rest of the residents in Foggy Bottom.

Great strides have been made since former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s administration – a period marked by strained neighborhood relations.

Events that the University sponsors, like the FRIENDS Neighborhood Block Party, help bring the two groups together. But the University can do more to make sure that Foggy Bottom residents are not lost in favor of development.

The University should establish some incentive for students to get to know the neighborhood and its residents. Instead of traveling across town to volunteer during the upcoming Freshman Day of Service, students could volunteer at GW Hospital, help serve the homeless at Miriam’s Kitchen or work for the day at the St. Mary’s Court nursing home. They could interact with members of the community who they wouldn’t interact with otherwise.

While the University has come to dominate the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, we are not alone in this community. Foggy Bottom is more than just GW.

Marissa Fretes, a sophomore majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.