Tag: Georgetown University

How Dare the Federal Government Set Minimal Standards for a Consumer Product!

When elements of the Republican noise machine decided to call Sandra Fluke a slutty naughty sex fiend for suggesting–in public, no less–that all health-insurance plans ought to cover hormonal birth control… so that women wouldn’t suffer from ovarian cysts, here’s what I thought: “this is such a bunch of obviously crazystupidinsanemisogynistselfimmolating craziness that it has got to go away soon.”

But left-ish groups smell a fundraising winner. And we can always count on some members of the American right to double down on the stupid. Which means that we’re stuck with this for a while. So then I thinks to myself all “‘I’m a Georgetown University employee. dangnabbit. Heck, I’m like a professor and stuff. Maybe that means I should comment!”

(Did I mention the crazy crazy, crazy stupidness? Seriously, take a look at this. But don’t say that I didn’t warn you that it makes this look tame. And the second “this” is a big heaping plate of offensive.)

So, while I probably shouldn’t comment, I guess I will.

1. The President’s office at Georgetown is all kinds of awesome for producing such a magisterial letter in defense of one of our own. Yeah, I know everyone has already seen it. But its just way cool.

2. This controversy is all kind of weird for me, because I am pretty darn sure that at least one of Georgetown’s employee health-insurance plans covers hormonal birth control; our bill for it looks an awful like a copayment rather than a full-blown out-of-pocket expense. Of course, Georgetown also has domestic-partner coverage provisions for faculty and staff. This sort of stuff makes us, if I understand contemporary Church doctrine, very bad Catholics. Apparently at Notre Dame they point to us as examples of what happens when you let Jesuits build a top-ranked school. Of course, I have it on good authority that Catholic University looks at Notre Dame as a bunch of apostates, so perchance Notre Dame should lay off with the holier-than-thou stuff. And that’s holier-than-thou in the literal, not figurative, sense. Which is kind of neat.

3. I’ve been reading comment threads that involve both conservatives and liberals, and I’m starting to notice a pattern. A lot of the comments I see are all about the evil hypocrisy of the American left for being upset with Limbaugh but putting up with nasty personal attacks from the likes of Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, etc. etc. Most of the liberal commentators–myself included–don’t even know what attacks our right-wing brethren are talking about (Maher apparently has said some disgusting things about Palin, but who knew?). I must say that this makes it pretty hard to feel hypocritical.

Anyway, as I was getting to, I’ve started to figure something out (I think). I used to believe that conservative handwaving about MSNBC commentators and similar types amounted to a cynical attempt at false equivalency. After all, Maddow gets about half the viewers that O’Reilly does in their respective peak slots, and the rest of Fox’s conservatainment lineup basically trounces MSNBC.

Yes, this wasn’t very charitable of me, but I couldn’t think of another explanation.

Now, however, I realize that many conservatives aren’t being at all cynical and misleading: they just assume that politically engaged liberals relate to their commentariat the same way that politically engaged conservatives do. But many of us simply find our blowhards irritating. I just don’t think we have the kind of close tribal affiliation with our self-appointed spokespeople that many conservatives have with their own (recall that Air America failed). It simply wouldn’t occur to me to aggressively defend idiocy from any of “my side’s” media personalities the way that the aforementioned commentators range far and wide to support Limbaugh–albeit largely by attacking left-wing hypocrisy.

The closest thing for liberals, I believe, is the relationship many of us have with Jon Stewart. But Stewart’s sort of odd to compare to O’Reilly or Hannity insofar as the core of his show involves making fun of “news” media. Really, most of the liberals I hang with smugly listen to NPR. We congratulate ourselves on our “intellectualness,” still act like “This American Life” is pretty fresh, and think we’re staying hip because we occasionally buy music reviewed on “All Things Considered” or promoted on “All Songs Considered.”

(Keep in mind that I’m talking about liberals, not the American left, those who still spend lots of time on DailyKos, and/or people who call themselves “progressives” because they don’t realize Teddy Roosevelt irreparably tarnished that label back in the nineteen-teens. I don’t really understand most of these people either.)

Well, I hope I’ve made my case that I probably shouldn’t comment. So I’ll stop.

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The DC Government’s Priorities

Last year I mentioned an editorial in the Washington Post decrying the District’s decision–prodded by a small number of wealthy Georgetown residents–to force the University to meet unrealistic targets. A refresher:

A recommendation by the city’s office of planning would require the university to provide housing for 100 percent of its undergraduate students by 2016; failure to do so would force cuts in enrollment starting in 2015. Georgetown houses a higher percentage (84 percent) of undergraduates on its campus than most of the other universities in the city. Not only is it unfair to hold Georgetown to this new standard, but it’s unrealistic to expect the school to raise the money or find appropriate sites. The city’s suggestion that the university consider an off-campus site outside the university’s Zip code (Arlington?) is laughable. 

What’s most troubling about the city’s posture is the notion that an increase in young people, particularly those in search of an education, is somehow undesirable. What happened to the idea that these are the very kind of people that should be lured to make the District their home? Here’s how Sally Kram of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area put it in testimony supporting Georgetown: “Given that students are one of the District’s most assured conduits for new residents — a lifeline for any urban community — it seems particularly odd that the District’s Office of Planning seems committed to restricting student growth, particularly graduate and continuing education students.” 

There is no question that the neighborhoods surrounding Georgetown have some legitimate complaints. There have been issues of noise and litter and other problems by students living off-campus. But the solution isn’t to banish students or punish the university. Georgetown has increased police, provided additional garbage pickup and disciplined chronic troublemakers. Besides, for all the complaints, the neighborhoods — which, it must be pointed out, came long after the university — still are desirable places with steady demographics and increased home prices.

The editorial, predictably, caused one influential neighbor to accuse Georgetown of underhandedly influencing the Washington Post. Lydia DePillis of the City Paper, though, gets it right:

Can’t disagree with the ed board here. Requiring a university to house all of its students on campus is unrealistic and unreasonable, not to mention counterproductive to the goal of getting them involved in District affairs, which Mayor Vince Gray has explicitly pushed. At the same time, Gray says he “supports the community” against the “creeping presence” of universities into neighborhoods. But does the administration really want those jobs to be housed at satellite campuses in Arlington? If so, it’s done a pretty good job so far.

Well, not content with going after undergraduate enrollment, the community has been gunning for graduate students as well.

This might be simply in retaliation for their failure to recognize that moving into a neighborhood that has housed a university for over three hundred years might entail dealing with drunken students and traffic. It might stem from the belief that the only drunk young people in Georgetown must be students at the college. It might also stem from their refusal to believe studies that show adding graduate students won’t, with proper mitigation, seriously impact commuting in and around Georgetown.

But, whatever the reason, they are seeking a cap-and-reduce policy towards post-graduate students that treats full-time and part-time graduate students as equivalent. The zoning board appears to be siding with them, and Georgetown is taking voluntary action.

If you watch the zoning board hearing  from November of 201, you’ll soon realize what a joke this is. The community representatives have trouble distinguishing between “trips” and “students,” accuse the studies of being improper because they didn’t consider the possibility that some students and/or faculty might park in a neighborhood about about a mile away, and so forth.

The net result? People will lose their jobs. Less funding will be available for the graduate school–and hence for fellowships for PhD and MA students. There will be enormous pressure for MA programs to cease to admit part-time students, thus preventing Georgetown from serving the career needs of DC and US government employees.

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A Rare Georgetown Post

My University’s relationship with the neighborhood’s oligarchy really, really sucks.

Although our neighbors have some legitimate grievances, I find it hard to sympathize with the Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s  particular brand of crazy. According to the City Paper:

Basically, the neighbors want to seal all evidence of student presence either on M Street or inside the campus gates, protecting quiet streets from noise and unsightly student rentals. The problems of cacophony and crowding have gotten intolerable, they say, as a result of Georgetown’s failure to keep a lid on its student population since the last 10-year campus plan. And the stakes are high! “If these problems continue unrelieved,” the report reads, “the stable, engaged community we cherish–and that the D.C. zoning rules are designed to encourage–is at serious risk of being lost and becoming a rental student enclave because of what GU is doing.”

In order to avoid that dark future, the Commission recommends sanctions:

  • New enrollment caps should be set lower than the current student population, in order to remedy past injustices.
  • Limits must be imposed on the number of students living off-campus, with further enrollment decreases if those limits are not met.
  • Magis Row on 36th Street should revert from undergraduate housing to accommodations for older faculty.
  • The University should not be permitted to acquire more property in zip code 20007 without approval from the Board of Zoning Adjustment.
  • University and Hospital buses should not be allowed to go through the neighborhoods, but rather enter and exit the campus via Canal Road only.
  • Students who commute to Georgetown by car should not be allowed to park in the surrounding neighborhood.
  • Georgetown should create a shuttle system to ferry students from M Street bars back to campus on weekend nights.
  • Georgetown must develop strong measures to address off-campus student conduct, treating parties outside the university gates, for example, as strictly as those inside it.

My favorite comment (although I thought the racism insinuations I redacted were gratuitous):

Look, I don’t like Georgetown kids either (really, who does?). But these people bought houses in GEORGETOWN! I’m gonna take a risk here and guess that GEORGETOWN was probably in the neighborhood before they were. If they don’t like living in GEORGETOWN, because of the students who go to GEORGETOWN, than maybe they should just live somewhere else.

Via Yglesias.

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