Staff Editorial: Student voice restricted in Spring Valley

When arsenic is involved, everyone deserves to have their say.

The Spring Valley Restoration Advisory Board recently announced that students cannot participate in board discussions on the basis that they are not permanent D.C. residents. Usually, this would be passed off as an AU neighborhood complaint and soon be forgotten, but high levels of arsenic left from World War I-era testing have been found in the area surrounding AU. This is a health concern and students have the right to voice their opinion.

Many students live in the Spring Valley area. Although they may only be there for two or three years (maybe more if they stay after graduation), they still are exposed to the residual chemical from the former defense site. On the 5100 block of Tilden Street, arsenic at levels of 22.8 parts per million (ppm) were removed. Arsenic levels above 20 ppm are not considered safe, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Students deserve to know about this and to have a say on what actions are taken. But because students live here temporarily, board regulations are denying students this chance. Yes, individual students are only temporary residents, but that does not dismiss student concern about such issues.

The Eagle would like to point out a few factors:

First, although each individual student at AU only lives in D.C. for about four years, AU is not moving and the Spring Valley community will always have a student presence in the area. The AU student body is a permanent resident and therefore deserves a say.

Second, D.C. is a transient city. Every four years (or more often than that), new rotations of politicians move into the D.C. metropolitan area. Members of the House of Representatives are potentially only here for two years. As populations other than students come and go, it seems that the board’s members are targeting students specifically.

Third, AU students do their research. When students become involved with something, they study it. We are “wonks,” after all. Board members may be concerned that students won’t understand the jargon or complexity of neighborhood issues. This may be a legitimate concern at a different university, but at AU, if students are given the opportunity to represent themselves, they take it. The Eagle trusts in the AU population to do enough research on Spring Valley neighborhood concerns to merit being part of the discussion.

Students are here for four or more years of their life and deserve to fully understand and be involved with issues in the area. No one wants to live next to dangerous chemicals unknowingly. Even if the only benefit of joining the Restoration Advisory Board is receiving more information that only occasionally applies to AU students, it’s enough. The safety of our community is not something to be taken lightly. ? E

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