Responsibility seems to be the name of the game these days. Between our parents trusting us to not screw up too badly as we left for college to the state giving us permission to vote and enlist in the military, we have been assuming more and more responsibility since we turned 18. However, recent changes to the Student Conduct Code’s off-campus policies and procedures has us wondering whether AU thinks we need a babysitter.
We realize that the driving factor behind these changes is the need to improve University-neighbor relations. With more students being forced to live off campus, the need to work with the surrounding community moves higher on the priority list. Say as much as you want about the passage of the campus plan, good neighbor relations go far beyond currying favor on one occasion. We do represent the University when we are off campus, even without “wonk” T-shirts or AU bumper stickers. It is important for students to act with this in mind.
Georgetown University and George Washington University already have similar policies in place, and these changes to the Student Conduct Code are actually bringing us more in line with these “best practice” standards. But that doesn’t make it right. AU students are known for utilizing the resources available to us in the city, and AU is known for promoting this culture. If this University wants to continue to market itself as a “lab for learning,” it should continue to treat its students as adults capable of independently exploring and living in this city.
When students move off our cloistered campus and into the District, they are charged with finding their own housing and figuring out their own meal plans. Living as adults in the community, AU students lived under the same rules as our neighbors. Students were directly responsible for their actions. The Metropolitan Police Department acted as the final arbiter. Now, students’ ability to learn how to live among our neighbors is being curtailed.
AU says the new regulations will not affect most students, and we trust that to be true. However, we question the need to use such a broad new policy to squelch out the few troublemakers in the community. Last year there were only 27 complaints. Of those, 15 complaints came from the same neighbor. AU needs to continue doing what it already has been doing: educating students about the responsibilities of living off campus and continuing to pressure those who are being nuisances to stop.
Most off-campus students are juniors and seniors. A few months down the road we will graduate and cease being AU students. However, many of us will continue to be D.C. residents. In the past, AU has encouraged students to be independent from the University. We’ve been encouraged to really embrace the District, explore faraway neighborhoods and exploit the city’s resources. This policy — no matter how little it will actually affect students’ lives — sets this trend backwards. It indicates that the University trusts us less, not more. It shows we are more dependent, not less.
We are asking for a little faith and a little backbone from the University. Let students handle their own living situations and the pitfalls that come with them. Do not cave to those neighbors who will always believe, no matter what, that college students are trash-throwing, party-having hooligans. These changes to the conduct code might help relations in the short-term, but will harm AU students overall in the end.