Drunken Georgetown Students

Someone in Burleith, the neighborhood just north of the Georgetown campus, has had enough with all the drunken rager parties that students are throwing at their shared rental houses, so he’s put up a site called DrunkenGeorgetownStudents.com.  He’s tired of having sleepless nights because of the hordes of Dionysian wild-eyed drunkards wandering his sleepy community until the wee hours.

Evidently the guy, Stephen R. Brown (LinkedIn, professional site, personal knol), lives on T Street and 37th, nearby where I used to live (at T Street and 38th) when I was a student there for 2 years.

Here’s the situation:  Georgetown is a small campus and it has little room to expand or to provide all of its students housing.  So many students live east and north of the campus in rowhouses, often with 4-7 students sharing the house.  A ton of grad students and medical students also live there, since the university provides no housing for them either.  As a grad student, I lived in Burleith with 3 other MSFS students and the landlord’s son, a medical student.

So, running the math:  Parties = Students + shared living + school full of students learning society and networking + proximity to campus + private residences.  Pretty straight-forward.

My house held several large parties for my program.  We would invite everyone over on a Friday or Saturday night.  We would inform our neighbors so they would know about it beforehand.  They were always cool with it.

What we quickly learned was that Burleith and Georgetown are filled with nosy neighbors.  Our first year was mostly okay, but the second year, the DC MPD (metro police) was wrangled into stepping up its patrolling efforts in the neighborhood for loud parties because the local residents were complaining.  As you can imagine, the police are strong-armed into doing with the residents want because they have far more power than the Georgetown students, who are sloughed off under the campus’s administrative sway.  And Georgetown usually rolls over for the local neighborhood, even though the Burleith and Georgetown areas would be completely dead without the campus.  I saw the same thing in Austin at UT (the top party school in the country).  Locals would act as though they had no use for UT Austin even though it is the lifeblood of the city.

One day in my second year, I was shocked to see flyers posted on campus and in the neighborhood anonymously posted by someone warning students not to be loud.  It had photos of houses, including the one I lived in.  I don’t know how the person targeted my house or if it was intentional, but it’s kind of worrisome, even to a guy, to see a photo of one’s own residence posted publicly without any knowledge of it.

The last party we ever threw, the neighborhood was under the full watch of a joint MPD/campus liaison program.  So liaisons were forced to drive around and warn party hosts that the cops might come.  I can only imagine how much this cost the school.  Liaisons came to our house and I stopped to talk to them.  I told them I’d talked to cops just prior to that, who warned me about the liaisons!  So everyone was stopping by to warn us about everyone else!

The next week, we received a notice from the school that we were cited for being loud and had to talk to the campus school conduct director.  Again, a great use of resources.  The woman we spoke to was highly professional and very understanding.  She warned us about future incidents and we promised we’d stop (which we did), but I thought it was completely absurd to be a 30+ year old person being told not to be loud at a party.

But you know, it gets better.  Now that I think about this guy’s blog (he’s a 60ish year old photographer), he’s probably the one who put up the flyer…anonymously.

And the neighborhood itself is pretty sketchy.  As a safe haven for wealthy, proper dignitaries (Joe Lieberman and other famous politicians live nearby), the emphasis is on property value and on high standards of decorum.  This probably explains why the neighborhood flyer is produced by, wouldn’t you know it, a Coldwell Banker real estate broker, Lenore Rubino!

Lenore Rubino, then, is also president of the Burleith community’s organizing group.  Do you see a conflict of interest where the “public interest” may have been hijacked by real estate interests?

The Georgetown campus community has several blogs, covering this new drunkard site, including Vox Populi and Saxa Speak.

Some (probably student) comments from Vox Populi’s post:

“YOUR NEXT PARTY PHOTOG says: April 28th, 2010 at 12:42 am

Hire me and Stephen to shoot your next party!!!! Whoever said Stephen is the Cobrasnake of Georgetown is right– professional party photography is the next big thing for Burleith. Hire us to capture the special moments of your party like making animal noises in a pool, broing out with officer crist, or reaching the point in the party where there are like 8 people in your backyard/porch.

We’ll be cross-posting the photos for your Monday morning viewing pleasure on spectacular table-based nightlife websites including drunkengeorgetownstudents.com, http://www.srbphoto.com, and srbphoto.zenfolio.com

Rates are highly competitive as we’re stuck in the past. We can also shoot video if we can ever get those videos to decompress!!!!!!!gahhhhh”

And:

“So, to recap: Neighbors called the cops 117 times in a four month period, which resulted in only 9 citations. That’s 7%, for those of you counting at home.

“I’d be interested in knowing the number of robberies that took place in the same amount of time while police were responding to the 93% of college students watching Netflix too loudly after 11.”

And:

“The Neighbors are completely unreasonable and they need to be stopped. They need to stop calling the cops for noise violations. College students are going to be loud. Nothing is ever going to change. If they don’t like noise they should move to a quieter neighborhood. Anyone calling the cops for noise before midnight is unreasonable. The power the CAG and the ANC has is ridiculous. The rerouting of the GUTS buses is completely ridiculous. Metro buses use the exact same routes that GUTS buses are now banned from running. The neighborhood really holds the university back from offering the best for it’s students. And if they don’t want students in houses off campus maybe they shouldn’t have blocked all attempts to use the wormley school. The Neighbors are completely ridiculous and won’t be satisfied until the school doesn’t exist anymore. They should have no rights to influence what the University does unless they can prove dramatic impact it would have on the neighborhood. None of their complaints have been close to justified.”

These blogs have also been covering the Georgetown community’s vehement rejection of Georgetown University’s proposed 10-year plan (which, if you read it, is pretty sane compared to what the neighbors think of it).  You can read the Burleith community’s April newsletter here, which complains about how the Georgetown plan will hurt Burleith (read, property values), and which, coincidentally, has an advertisement from Stephen R. Brown (the drunk student blog’s author) for his photography gigs.

Want some more insider baseball?  The local community has also been reducing the access that the free Georgetown University shuttles have to the neighborhood.  There are 2 main shuttles (and some smaller ones) that run students and campus members out to Dupont Circle and to Rosslyn in Virginia.  Since Georgetown can’t have a metro station for whatever reason (a subject of some debate, but probably because of zoning, property, and geography, but certainly something the locals would prefer never happened), these shuttles are really the only way for people to GET to campus, since parking is restricted and the city buses, while wonderful, cost money and aren’t always reliable.

The local residents, however, managed to shut out the shuttles from passing THROUGH the neighborhood.  So what was a 15-20 minute commute to and from Dupont Circle has turned into an epic bus ride up to the National Cathedral and down Embassy Row, usually a 30-minute trek.  The reasons cited?  Residents thought the buses rattled their houses.  Oh no!  Future knowledge workers and politicians trying to get to school are rattling houses!

In case you lost track, then, the residents 1) don’t want students living in their neighborhood, 2) don’t want to make it easy for students to live elsewhere and commute to campus instead of living in their neighborhood, and 3) harass the students who live in their neighborhood.

The complaints from residents have caused the campus to have to spend money on liaisons, to spend time on administering “problem” students, and to expend resources on bus drivers, shuttle schedules, etc.

Even more insider baseball:  this has all happened while the neighborhood continues to fall victim to criminals who prey on the population.  We have the infamous Georgetown Cuddler, who must have over like a dozen incidents of sneaking into girls’ homes and getting in bed with them while they sleep.  We have Prospect and other streets near M Street that continually have incidents of armed robbery and sexual attacks IN the streets.  I have friends and fellow alumni who were MUGGED in the street.  One was pistol-whipped.  Another was choked out until she passed out and her bag was taken.  All while the local residents complain about noise from parties (in controlled environments which probably make things safer for young students).  Police manpower is being diverted for THIS?

Do you see a mismatch of interests here?  Look, a local community’s interests are going to be to shut out drunkenness, loudness, whatever.  But they hold Georgetown University by the shorthairs and it’s not going to change that students drink and party.  The power is set up so that the neighborhood has far too much influence, and it’s not helped by the fact that the local association is run by a real estate broker and other interests who don’t have any compelling need to listen to Georgetown University’s interests.

Just check out this recap (and another) of the recent Burleith Citizens Association meeting, in which Rubino closed with:

“At risk is not only our quality of life, but the value of one of our biggest investments, our homes. Many real estate agents and buyers see Burelith as a student party town. If just ten more houses turn rental, that turns into 6 0more students, and 60 more cars looking for parking,” she said. “Georgetown will hire the best attorneys and experts their money can buy. Your money will hire a zoning expert and urban planner. We have done a lot of work ourselves, but we need the experts to fine-tune our case.”

Said another speaker, Glen Harrison:

“Burleith will no longer be a diverse neighborhood where children, parents, families, seniors, single renters, and even students live together, but will become a student village.”

REALLY?

I’m not making any grand pronouncements here.  If anything, the MPD seems to be juggling all this well, and I’ve always had good relations with them.  They’re doing their job as best they can.  The Georgetown administrators have been pretty fair about the whole thing, as best they can.  The students I saw were not violent or disrespectful.  They were just being young.  My neighbors too were also very understanding and always welcomed us over and wanted to talk to us.

It’s just a few people who are being completely unreasonable and who, through their own personal issues, are causing organizations around them to expend considerable manpower and financial resources to make them happy.  How fair is that?