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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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GW makes late housing change

GW told Residence Hall Association members Wednesday it will require all sophomores to live on campus starting next year. The announcement comes late in the game for the RHA , which will now be unable to achieve its goal to eliminate the housing waiting list.

“For (the University) to announce this in December is not acceptable on so many levels,” said sophomore Steve Sobel, RHA vice chair of housing. Sobel meets with Housing Director Andrew Sonn weekly and said Sonn has been equally surprised by the recent announcement.

Citing gross miscommunication with University officials, RHA President Noel Frame said she found out about the new policy at the end of a regularly scheduled meeting with Dean of Students Linda Donnels Dec. 5.

A D.C. zoning board ruled in March that GW must house all sophomores by 2003.

“I seriously thought (GW officials) said we can’t do it this year; it’s impossible,” Frame said. She said the RHA plans to pass legislation in January “condemning the type of behavior that disregards students.”

“We’re sick of this,” Frame said.

The new policy presents a mathematical challenge for housing officials who say they will keep GW’s promise to guarantee housing for all students who want a bed on campus. This year’s freshman class will be the first required to live in a residence hall their second year, and it is also 450 students bigger than last year’s record class.

With about 2,200 future sophomores (adjusted for retention and housing exceptions) added to a loosely predicted 2,500 freshmen class and an estimated 1,600 upperclassmen returning to campus housing, GW could need 6,650 beds next year, said junior David Johnson, RHA Housing Committee chair.

If liberal predictions for upperclassmen wanting beds and another year of over-enrollment are correct, the University would fall short 650 beds.

Johnson said with all freshmen and sophomores on campus, RHA will lower their expectation of upperclassmen returning to campus housing to about 1,350, closer to last year’s number of 1,204. He said RHA originally inflated the estimate to create a “buffer” and eliminate the housing waiting list.

Depending how many juniors and seniors plan to return, “it may mean we’re going to have to acquire yet another building,” Frame said. “RHA is so publicly against that; it’s not even funny.”

Donnels said the University “is not looking to buy any new properties.”

Counting 200 new beds in the new Elliott School of International Affairs, there is a possibility that GW could house all students who want to live on campus. But keeping all sophomores on campus “most likely will create a waiting list,” Johnson said.

This year’s waiting list included 358 students and forced GW to add two more buildings over the summer along with converting Thurston Hall study lounges to student rooms and turning some Hall on Virginia Avenue doubles into triples.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said GW is simply obeying a D.C. mandate. As a condition to passing GW’s eight-year campus plan, the Board of Zoning Adjustment ruled in March that GW would have to house all freshmen and sophomores by 2003.

While the University has not appealed this condition (condition 10), it has appealed another one requiring GW to house 70 percent of undergraduates in residence halls on campus, excluding halls outside campus boundaries such as the Hall on Virginia Avenue and Aston Hall.

There are a few exceptions to the policy. According to the campus plan, “students who commute, are married or have children, or have disabilities or religious beliefs inconsistent with residence hall life” are exempt from living on campus. Johnson said those students account for about 13 percent of freshmen who move off campus their sophomore year.

Condition nine, the requirement to house 70 percent of undergraduates on campus, is suspended because of an injunction imposed by a D.C. judge in June. The BZA will hand down a ruling on the campus plan Tuesday.

RHA members said they thought both conditions were suspended until the 2003-04 academic year because RHA was not notified of the change.

“I was led to believe that the University wasn’t planning to enforce condition 10 this year either, because the ruling came too late to have notified the incoming freshmen class, prior to them accepting their offer of admission,” Frame said.

The RHA, an entirely student-run organization, creates the housing selection process each year based on predictions of how many students will return to campus housing.

RHA members said GW will house all students as promised.

“We are not making a recommendation for juniors and seniors to look off campus,” Sobel said. “One good thing about the University is that they make good on their word … if you are guaranteed housing, you will get housing.”

–Kate Stepan contributed to this report

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