District students reach out to ANCs
While students at the Catholic University of America continue their bitter dispute with their neighbors, student leaders at AU are promising several proactive steps to improve community relations with the school's neighbors.
Student Confederation President Ken Biberaj said the SC intends to expand their sphere of influence to include an activist agenda in the D.C. community by actively engaging in D.C.'s local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
Biberaj said he believes it is important for the ANCs to pay more attention to students because they provide large amounts of revenue for local businesses and are part of institutions that are many times older than the community itself.
ANCs are the residents' closest outlets to voice community concerns and make recommendations to D.C. agencies and the city council about the rules that govern the District.
Over the summer, Biberaj and other SC members began meeting with student government leaders from fellow D.C. universities including Georgetown University, George Washington University and Howard University to discuss the current problems facing their universities.
"The most exciting part of the meeting was when we focused on issues on a whole that effect us," Biberaj said.
The D.C. University Committee decided it would focus on voter registration, community relations and approval of university building plans as their three priority issues for this academic year.
All of the priorities will require greater influence for AU in the neighborhoods surrounding the community, especially since AU, Georgetown and GW are all trying to pass their 10-year building plan before the ANCs in Wards 2 and 3.
Currently, AU has a representative in Ward 3's ANC, but there are still three vacant seats in Ward 3 ANCs, according to information from the D.C. Board of Elections. Both seats are in the same ANC where AU is represented.
Biberaj said he is interested in recruiting more students to serve as ANC liaisons. In order to do so, students must register to vote as District residents and must live in the ANC area for 60 days prior to filing as a candidate in the November election.
Biberaj said he will try to coordinate efforts with the administration's community relations efforts in order to positively portray AU to its neighbors.
"Our main focus [is] we want to make sure work with administration that nothing bad is said about students," he said.
This has become a problem for Georgetown and GW students who are often times engaged in bitter debates with ANC commissioners over student issues in Ward 2.
Though AU does have complaints from neighbors about off-campus parties, "[AU] has not had nearly the level of complaint as, say, Georgetown," David Taylor, chief of staff for AU President Benjamin Ladner, said.
Tawan Davis, the Georgetown Student Association president, told The Eagle that Georgetown has created two positions to handle community relations: an off-campus housing committee and a special student community relations adviser.
Most of the community in the Georgetown area is sympathetic to the needs of the students, Dais said. Some student initiatives, such as community-student mixers, make it difficult to for the community and the students to become adversaries, Davis said.
"There are many people in the Georgetown area who three years ago were in our position," Davis said.
Students there have also organized to develop a campaign they call Project Georgetown to register students in Washington, D.C. for ANC elections. The entire campus supports the campaign, Davis said. Matt Payne serves as the student representative to the ANC.
"He is [a] very active and effective representative of the community issues at large," he said.