Neighbors: responder program a ‘step in the right direction’

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Neighbors are concerned about student noise levels off-campus, especially on I Street in the Historic Foggy Bottom area.

Neighbors are willing to give the University’s new neighborhood response program a try.

Foggy Bottom residents expressed their concerns — and hopes — for the new program at a GW Community Advisory Committee meeting this week, saying that it represents the latest of the “incremental progress” GW has made in solving the problem of noisy students off campus over the years.

The new program asks for community members and GW staff to investigate noise complaints about students in off-campus houses. But as some neighbors say that off-campus students are increasingly loud, the Foggy Bottom residents want the University to do more to keep tabs on students.

At the meeting, Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine described the new program and said that the University has already had applications for community responders.

He added that the program was “well-received” by students that helped to create the program.

“We think it will benefit both the community and the students as well, to get an extra set of eyes and ears to hear what’s going on,” Levine said.

At the meeting, Foggy Bottom Association President Marina Streznewski said that she is glad that the new program will give GW staff and community members a chance to see the neighbors’ noise complaints firsthand. And as the program begins, she said she will continue to provide feedback on the program’s effectiveness.

“I am of the opinion that we need to give this program a little bit of a chance to work,” said Streznewski, who has lived in the area for more than a decade.

Streznewski said she has talked to neighbors who would like the community responders to patrol the area on predictably noisy nights, like during holidays, fraternity rush events and weekend nights when the weather is nice.

“You can predict which days will be problematic,” she said.

Streznewski added that parties in the area have become noisier recently. Last Saturday — before classes began — many intoxicated students were yelling and taking up space on the sidewalk as they hopped between off-campus parties, she said. She counted between 80 and 100 people going inside one townhouse on I Street that night.

“You don’t really hear the music so much as you hear the yelling,” she said. “People don’t think they’re being loud but the noise carries and it can be bothersome.”

Kenneth Durham, a long-time resident of Foggy Bottom, said he met with officials like Center for Student Engagement Director Tim Miller and Director of Community Relations Britany Waddell in the beginning of August with his wife and Streznewski to push for a model in which GW employees and community members patrol the neighborhood. Still, Durham was critical of the responder program.

“It’s a step in the right direction but it’s still insufficient to solve the problem,” Durham said.

Last Saturday, neighbors posted in a Foggy Bottom Alert, a listserv neighbors use to communicate, asking local residents to call the University Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department to document complaints about students violating D.C. noise laws.

In an effort to crack down on behavior off campus, two years ago officials attempted to expand UPD’s jurisdiction to include off-campus areas, but never built up lasting support for the idea, which would have required a D.C. Council vote.

Bob Vogt, who has lived on I Street since the 1970s, said he has dealt with loud students keeping him up at night since he moved to the neighborhood and has given up on trying to find a fix. He said more information about student parties in the hands of GW officials will not be able to solve what he called a “no-win situation.”

“GW already has enough information. Getting more information won’t change anything,” Vogt said. “What will they do? Kick students out?”

Patrick Kennedy, an alumnus and the chairman of the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said he heard complaints from neighbors about students being noisy last weekend and that the community responder program could be good for students because it could hold them accountable while protecting their rights by documenting the facts.

“GW has been open and the proof will be in evaluating how the program goes,” Kennedy said. “I think at the least we can achieve an uneasy balance.”

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