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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

2010 Campus Plan Testimony

District of Columbia Zoning Commission
Washington, D.C.
April 14, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Commission, good evening. I am grateful for the opportunity to be with you here tonight to discuss Georgetown’s proposed ten-year campus plan. One of the goals of this plan is to reaffirm Georgetown’s commitment to citizenship and partnership with the city of Washington, DC: a commitment that has been strengthened each year since the University’s founding 222 years ago. Tonight, it is my pleasure to describe the ways we envision this partnership extending over the next ten years, as we continue to embody our values and identity as a Catholic and Jesuit university in the heart of our nation’s capital. I especially wish to recognize and thank all of our students who are here with us this evening to offer their support. 

Since the approval of our 2000 Campus Plan, we have strengthened our tradition of excellence, becoming one of the ten most selective universities in the nation for undergraduate admissions. Georgetown students also achieve the highest levels of academic excellence, with more than 160 students winning Marshall, Mitchell, Truman, Fulbright, and Rhodes Scholarships, among others, over the past decade. Our students are committed to service, with large numbers joining the Peace Corps and Teach for America upon graduation. Our alumni go on to lead distinguished careers in all sectors, whether as members of government, as humanitarians, or as leaders in the corporate sector.

Georgetown has been a significant contributor to the Washington, DC community in direct ways. Hundreds of our students tutor and mentor students in DC public schools, and we engage in extensive outreach in Ward 7, including the Promise Neighborhood Initiative. Members of our community also have provided thousands of hours of free legal advice and free medical care to D.C. residents who otherwise would not have access to these services.

Georgetown’s economic impact in the District also is significant. According to the Washington, DC Comprehensive Annual Financial report for fiscal year 2010, Georgetown is the city’s largest private employer. We pay approximately $127 million in wages and salaries to employees who live in the District and approximately $9 million in total taxes to the District. We also have 24,000 alumni who live within District boundaries and more than 42,000 who reside in the D.C. metro area. To summarize: We bring students to D.C. who then choose to stay and contribute to the economic vitality of the city.

There are few relationships we are more committed to than our relationship with our neighbors. Over the years, Georgetown has reached out to the communities immediately surrounding the University in significant ways. From in-person meetings, to electronic communications, to vigorous programs and services, we have worked to build sustainable and respectful relationships.

Since 1990, University representatives and student leaders have met on a quarterly basis with representatives of local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and eleven community groups. We also have created other, more frequent fora for discussion like our Alliance for Local Living (ALL), which meets monthly to discuss University impacts within the community. Through our Office of Off Campus Student Life, we have developed proactive and effective programs to provide a range of comprehensive services to address safety, noise, trash collection, and student-neighbor relations, in particular.

This attention to proactive engagement and constructive collaboration with our neighbors has guided the development of our current Campus Plan.  This Plan has been created with rigor and care, reflecting more than two years of planning and evaluation of the University’s forecasted needs and the shared concerns of our surrounding community.

The result is a modest Campus Plan with four mutually reinforcing goals: To allow Georgetown to maintain our role as a premier academic community; to support both the campus and neighborhood communities; to advance Georgetown’s mutually beneficial relationship with the District; and to continue and enhance sustainable environmental stewardship. There are many ways this Plan realizes these goals. Please allow me to mention just a few highlights.

Under the 2010 Campus Plan, the University will continue to improve academic, athletic, and student life facilities on campus. The Plan carries forward projects from the 2000 Plan, all within current campus boundaries. It focuses on additions to Lauinger Library, new academic facilities at the Medical Center, and the construction of both a student center in the New South building and a new athletic training facility.  In addition, we have agreed to allow MedStar to study a range of options on our campus, including North Kehoe Field, for the construction of a new hospital to adequately meet future healthcare needs.

Georgetown also is committed to advancing sustainability on our campus. All new facilities and major renovations to existing facilities will be designed to a minimum of LEED Silver certification. We have adopted a goal of reducing our carbon footprint by half by 2020.

Taken together, the elements of our Campus Plan demonstrate Georgetown’s fundamental commitments to being a good citizen. It is within this context that I would like to directly address the major concerns voiced by our neighbors in the City pertaining to the Plan, as a way to demonstrate the seriousness of Georgetown’s desire to work with our neighbors and the District.

The first area of concern is the volume of students on campus. To address this issue, we are making substantial commitments. We will adopt, for the first time in our history, a voluntary maximum on enrollment on the Georgetown Campus of 15,000 students and will continue current limits on undergraduate and medical student enrollment. We will also locate at least 1,000 Continuing Studies students to an off-campus location by December 31, 2013.

These commitments have been made in direct response to community concerns pertaining to the already very modest level of growth projected in the 2010 Campus Plan, since it will shift growth in those programs most associated with parking and traffic impacts to alternate locations. It also will better serve residents of the District by placing excellent programs in metro-accessible locations, allowing for greater enrollment opportunities for our local adult students. Additionally, this limits the amount of growth on campus over the next ten years to our traditional graduate students, the vast majority of whom choose not to live in the adjacent neighborhoods and who average thirty years of age.

The second area of concern is undergraduate student housing. Based on dialogue with the city and community, and our deeper understanding of the best and most strategic course of action for the University and our neighbors, we commit to creating 250 more beds for undergraduates. By the fall of 2014, we will either file a further processing application for a location in the heart of campus or locate these beds off-campus, out of residential neighborhoods. Since 1989, we will have committed to 1,083 new undergraduate beds.  One of the most promising sites we have identified on campus is to convert the Leavey Center hotel into a residence hall. Our first priority is coming to a point of resolution on this issue.

While I understand that many in the community would like us to house 100% of our undergraduates on campus, there are three primary reasons why a 100% commitment is not feasible. One, we simply do not have the space on campus to make this a viable option. Two, it is not a responsible financial decision for the University. Over the past decade we have spent $180 million on constructing the Southwest Quadrangle and another $60 million on renovations to existing residence halls. Based on our commitment to a voluntary maximum enrollment on campus, in combination with our tuition dependency, housing 100% of students is not possible from a financial perspective. And three, we must take into account the fact that some of our juniors and seniors will choose to live off-campus. It is their right to do so and for some of our students, a significant part of their undergraduate experience. 

The third area of concern is parking and traffic. After further transportation analysis, discussions with MedStar Health, and conversations with the community, we are rescinding any request for more parking on campus at this time. This topic may be taken up at a later date in collaboration with MedStar as they continue to develop their physical plan for the hospital. Until then, we are asking for no new parking spaces.

We will also strengthen our commitment to sustainable transportation solutions. Building on the success of our Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle—we call it GUTS—we are prepared to fund the construction of an internal loop road that will improve GUTS service to and from our campus. The internal loop road will permit us to reorient GUTS buses away from the neighborhood streets, alleviating community concerns pertaining to traffic. We will do this in consultation with the National Park Service, mindful of the need to protect adjacent parkland. 

These commitments are significant and have been made specifically in response to dialogue with our neighbors. Let me summarize:

  • We will adopt a voluntary maximum on enrollment on the Georgetown Campus of 15,000 students and continue current limits on undergraduate and medical student enrollment;
  • We will locate at least 1,000 Continuing Studies students to an off-campus location by December 31, 2013.
  • We will commit to creating 250 more beds for undergraduates by either filing a further processing application for a location in the heart of our campus or by locating these beds off-campus by the fall of 2014;
  • We will build an internal loop road to alleviate the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS) bus traffic in the neighborhoods surrounding campus.

I hope that this list conveys our deep and enduring commitment to working with our neighbors and the City as a thoughtful and reasonable partner, as we have over the past 222 years and as we will for the next 222 years.

As a University community, we understand that our location in Georgetown is one of our greatest assets. We also understand that as a Catholic and Jesuit university committed to service and the education of “women and men for others,” we have the responsibility to act as a model citizen and as a friend to our neighbors, even to those who do not always share our perspective.  This way of being is embodied in our Jesuit tradition, which places dialogue at the center of the educational experience, and reflects the characteristic spirit that enlivens our approach to learning, to teaching, and to service to our city, our nation and the world. We intend to pursue this tradition in everything we do, including this Campus Plan process. I am grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to your questions and comments.

Thank you.

Closing

Mr. Chairman, and members of the Commission, I have just a few closing remarks.

Based on the testimony you have heard from our expert witnesses and University representatives, in addition to all the materials we have filed in the record, I hope you agree that our Campus Plan merits your support. This is a modest and reasonable plan for the university’s future with substantial commitments that respond to community and city concerns in an open and transparent manner. In the context of our mission and our financial realities, and from the perspective of our Board, we sincerely believe we have demonstrated good faith and significant initiative in addressing these concerns. The end result is a plan we believe will not have objectionable impacts on our surrounding communities.

Let me also say that we believe we have gone more than halfway in reaching a reasonable accommodation with our neighbors. The plan before you today is one that I am confident we can live with - one that will not harm our strategic academic objectives over the next ten years and still allow us to continue to be good neighbors and make important contributions to the city.

I hope you agree and I look forward to your questions.

Georgetown University37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057(202) 687.0100

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