Off-campus housing policies criticized

A Foggy Bottom resident is blasting GW for lax off-campus housing policies that he says are failing to preserve peace in the neighborhood.

Kenneth Durham called the University’s police presence, trash pick-up and disciplinary policies for students living off-campus inadequate compared to neighboring Georgetown University, outlining differences between about a dozen Georgetown and GW policies in a community email thread last week.

Pointing to mandatory housing contracts, an off-campus orientation program and weekend evening police patrols, Durham wrote that Georgetown, which has a long history of strife between students and neighbors, “does more to prevent problems before they occur.”

GW began cracking down on rowdy student behavior in the last few years as neighbor complaints escalated. For the past two years, GW has distributed “welcome bags,” which include information about student conduct policies, to students living off-campus.

Last year, the University Police Department responded to about 75 concerns from neighbors, mostly noise-related – down from 86 incidences the year before.

But tensions flared last fall, when neighbors compiled a list of noisy student-rented townhouses along New Hampshire Avenue.

“These students would not shout and yell in the Kennedy Center or at [Kinkead’s], but for some reason, they are left with the impression that they can disturb people in a residential neighborhood,” Durham said. “Foggy Bottom consists of children, people who have to go to work early in the morning, people who are sick and need their rest.”

Durham studied both GW and Georgetown policies on concerns like noise, vandalism, litter and trash, and mainly criticized GW’s lack of patrols.

While UPD runs a 24-hour hotline fielding neighbor complaints, Georgetown hires private security officers to patrol neighborhoods between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. weekend nights, according to a school website.

Georgetown also takes harsher action against students violating off-campus rules.

If officials see excessive trash, improper recycling or students putting out trash too early for pickup, the house will be fined and residents given community service hours. The fines start at $150 per house for the first violation, according to the Off-Campus Student Life website.

Students can also be fined for improper lawn care or for failing to remove snow and ice from sidewalks.

Durham said he has met with the University’s community relations office several times each year for the past six years. He added that while most students do not cause friction with neighbors, there are still late-night parties that appear to host up to 100 guests.

Some students also throw objects off balconies, vandalize private property or fail to properly dispose of trash.

In October, other neighbors helped Durham replant flowers after students tore them off his fence, destroyed a sculpture and flipped over a picnic table. The plants were stolen later in the day.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said GW’s community team takes the issue of rowdy students seriously, and added that the number of complaints is down.

“While the university recognizes that even one off-campus incident can be disruptive to our neighbors, the university’s annual report shows notable decreases in recent years in these types of disruptive behavior,” Sherrard wrote in an email.

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