Richard Christel’s interview with Richard Hinds focuses on the evolution of Georgetown Campus Plan negotiations. Mr. Hinds serves a General Counsel of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a position he has held for many years. During the 1990s and into the present day, Georgetown University has been at times in conflict with the neighborhoods that border its campus. Mr. Hinds underscores and explains the evolution of the neighborhoods’ commitment to pushing back plans that the university wanted to implement in order to move some of its students off-campus and into housing in residential areas. These negotiations, begun in the 1990s, were finally settled after years of activism by concerned citizens, CAG, the ANC, and the university in June of 2012 when the President of Georgetown, Jack DeJioia and ANC chair Ron Lewis announced the formation of the Georgetown Community Partnership.
Interview With Richard Hinds
DATE Saturday, January 27th 2018
PLACE Mr. Hinds’ House
Richard Christel: …OK. I am interviewing today Richard Hinds, General Counsel for the Citizens Association of Georgetown.
Richard Christel: So, we’re now recording. Let’s start off with what was the 2010 expansion plan proposed by Georgetown University?
Richard Hinds: Well, the University basically had decided to greatly expand the School of Continuing Studies and the Graduate School. They also wanted to continue the process of housing a large number of, a large percentage of their undergraduates off campus, in the community.
Richard Christel: Really?
Richard Hinds: That was the plan. Georgetown University is gonna get bigger. There’s gonna be the same number of undergraduates in the community, no new beds on campus, and we’re gonna have a huge influx of commuters for the continuing school, Continuing Studies School and a large influx of graduate students. At least some of them would also be likely to live in the community adjacent to the university.
So that was the plan, and we were talking, we were talking about, you know ‑‑ I figured the exact numbers, but it was in the thousands.
Richard Christel: Lots?
Richard Hinds: We were talking about thousands of new students.
Richard Christel: Was the community aware?
Richard Hinds: And that plan was revealed to the community in a series of open forums, community meetings, and the community at those meeting expressed great anxiety about the plans and opposition to some of the numbers, and basically, you know, told the University they didn’t like the plan. Nevertheless, the University went forward with basically that plan.
Richard Christel: So, what was the controversy behind it, just more students and no new campus housing?
Richard Hinds: Well, leading up to, uh, the 2000 Campus Plans, there had been a continuing increase in group houses and parties at group houses that were out of control.
Richard Christel: In the neighborhoods?
Richard Hinds: This particularly affected Burleith and West Georgetown where most of the undergraduate lived. And to some extent, although less so, graduate or mixed undergraduate‑graduate group houses also figured in the mix. And, there were efforts by the University to try and deal with those issues. There was the so‑called “drunk bus.”
Richard Christel: Drunk bus?
Richard Hinds: That was instituted to permit the University to cart their drunken students home from the bars rather than have them just wandering down the streets of Georgetown or Burleith on the way to the campus creating noise while on the way. The only problem with that plan was that the congregating points for the drunk bus were sites of little informal parties themselves, which created, you know, a lot of noise for the people living in the stops for the drunk bus.
Richard Christel: Good use of a bus.
Richard Hinds: That was the University’s response. That, and there were some efforts, something called SNAP. I’m not sure what it stands for, Students something or other. That was supposed to be sort of the University enforcement of their rules off‑campus student behavior. It was a kind of a, you know, a half‑baked notion where, you know, a student was driven by SNAP official who had no real authority to do anything. It was basically kind of like mediation, you know. “Come on, guys. Hold it down,” is the approach to dealing with noise.
Richard Christel: Did it have any effect?
Richard Hinds: And then, you know, people who relied upon SNAP to deal with a party, would find that it would quiet down when the SNAP student was there. And then as soon as he left, it would come back up. And they would have to call SNAP again. Neighbors also called the police multiple times. And the police were spending huge amount of time, responding to noise issues at night.
Police began issuing citations that resulted in students getting not a misdemeanor, but an offense. Nevertheless, it was a criminal charge and carried penalties of small fines as I recall. And, usually those were kind of issued and then not followed up on ’cause there was a court appearance involved.
But the, the official response was inadequate from the police and from the University. And so the neighborhood was getting kind of close to rebellion.
Richard Christel: This is the 2000 plan?
Richard Hinds: Yes, the neighbors were very unhappy, in the 1999’s leading up to the 2000 Campus Plan. And then, so then to be faced with, “OK, we’re gonna give you even more of what you don’t like” was the University’s response.
Richard Christel: So, what do you think the University could have done better? Could they have built more housing on campus?
Richard Hinds: Well, back, I believe it was in the 1990 Campus Plan, the University adopted a fairly aggressive, or at least made a fairly aggressive pledge to the community that it was going to, in the future, house 95 percent of the students on campus.
Richard Christel: Of all students?
Richard Hinds: Of the undergraduates.
Richard Christel: Yes.
Richard Hinds: So that only five percent of the undergraduates would be required, because of lack of beds, to live elsewhere. And also they were to institute a rule that living off campus was a privilege not a right and that if a student misbehaved he could be required to live on campus. The right to live off campus would be terminated. Those were the kind of promises made to the community in the 1990 Campus Plan that mollified the community, led them to agree to an increase in the undergraduate enrollment. Uh, and also the University planned to introduce SNAP and some other things that, that they said would help to control the situation. Uh, but when that didn’t happen, uh, in the 1990s, there was as I said, considerable unhappiness with the 1990 Campus Plan, with the University’s failure to live up to its, uh, pledge and also, you know, being met with a plan that called for basically no decrease in undergraduates numbers, no increase in beds, and, uh, any, in what the community viewed as more inadequate promises about how we’re gonna do better dealing with student noise and disturbances at night.
Richard Christel: So it was just the lack of action towards town’s behalf on the University’s behalf?
Richard Hinds: Well, there were actions taken but they were inadequate.
Richard Christel: Yeah.
Richard Hinds: I mean, uh, I can’t say University did nothing. They tried but to some extent, it was out of their control because their students were, for the most part, [laughs] the students living off campus were causing the problem and the University were taking, you know, they, they took a kind of conflicted position. I mean the university accepted that they should do something about them but on the other hand this is a police matter because they’re not living on the campus.
Richard Christel: Really?
Richard Hinds: On the campus, police have no authority to go knock on their door and do anything about their noise and so there was a little bit of finger pointing at the police, and police were saying, “Well, look. The University needs to do more,” and so fingers were pointed in both directions and the neighborhood was unhappy.
Richard Christel: So, what was your role in the plan?
Richard Hinds: Well, in the 2000 Camp‑, well, in the, in the 1990 Campus Plan, I think I was not really involved back in campus plan activities. I forget what role I was playing back then, but I think I was involved in historic preservation issues generally but I didn’t get involved in the campus plan, uh, activity very much. But I became very involved in the 1990 era as we led up to the new campus plan.
Richard Christel: How so?
Richard Hinds: Because the chair of the Historic Preservation Committee had died. She was really the lightning rod and leader of the group, on campus plan stuff when she was there. And so they needed somebody to kind of spearhead the effort and so I, somehow or other, it devolved on me. I’m not exactly sure how but it just, it just kind of happened.
Richard Christel: So the task fell to you?
Richard Hinds: I was on the Historic Preservation Committee which, it’s sort of been, because it’s a zoning matter at bottom. That’s where the CAG Committee level activity took place. I should mention that Georgetown University exists where it does in part because of history but in part because of zoning. It’s in a residential district. In other words it’s in a district zoned residential.
Richard Christel: Which means?
Richard Hinds: Which means that, basically, a university can only exist in such a location if it gets a special exception. And this special exception has criteria. One of which is, you’re not to do anything that would adversely impact neighboring properties. And so, you know, CAGs whole approach to this was, “Well, what they’re doing is adversely affecting neighborhood properties and the proposed campus plan is totally inadequate to deal the adverse impacts of what they’re doing.”
Richard Christel: What was your role going forward in these plans, though?
Richard Hinds: Well, I was the legal advisor then. That term which has been changed to general counsel. So basically, I was CAG’s lawyer.
Richard Christel: OK.
Richard Hinds: I would be attending these meetings. But, basically, you know, it was sort of as a, I was attending both as, on a substantive side, but also on the legal side as someone who would be representing CAG in the campus plan proceedings before the zoning commission that has to approve each campus plan.
Richard Christel: Do you think, as Georgetown continues to grow into a larger university, they will continue to buy houses on the west side of Georgetown and the Burleith area to make into student housing?
Richard Hinds: Well, that was one of the many issues that we were concerned about. There was a whole block of houses on 37th Street that were purchased by the University and turned into student housing. And, the neighbors on that street were very unhappy with that result. The buildings weren’t well‑cared‑for and the students were, leaving beer bottles on the sidewalk and carrying‑on on the sidewalk and, in general greatly annoying their neighbors. We didn’t like the, you know, the University’s, purchase of those houses and then turning them into student housing. I think they were originally just rentals that the University bought and turned into rentals. Well, there was no issue there. But then they became student housing. That’s when the issues arose. The University also, reserved the right, I think it’s how to say it, to buy more properties.
And CAG wanted, among other things, not only a pledge, but a binding requirement that the University not buy anymore property in west Georgetown and intrude further into the community. We wanted to avoid what happened in Foggy Bottom where George Washington University basically bought the neighborhood. And then it became basically a university little ghetto where ordinary residents were not welcome even though they lived there.
And that’s another whole series of battles over campus plans and George Washington University is, I mean, was facing at about the same time the same kind of issues that we were and I think that both universities have, in the more modern era, made great strides to try and deal with, those issues. George Washington University purchased the whole campus of a school near Reservoir Road.
Richard Christel: Really?
Richard Hinds: and housed undergraduates there. Whew, I can’t remember now the name of that school, but it’s long since gone.
[Mount Vernon College see https://mountvernon.gwu.edu/about ]
Richard Christel: So, you said there was a pledge to avoid buying more houses. What was the result of that? When, why didn’t that happen?
Richard Hinds: Well, there was no pledge. I mean that was one of our concerns.
Richard Christel: Oh, OK.
Richard Hinds: The neighborhoods in these meetings said, one of the things we didn’t like was the university buying properties in west Georgetown. We want a pledge that they won’t do that. And, we wanted to have that pledge be enforceable as a requirement of your [Georgetown University’s] continuing to exist.
Because basically, what the zoning commission has to do is to permit Georgetown University to continue to exist. If the university doesn’t meet the zoning requirements then in theory it has to shut down and set up shop elsewhere.
Richard Christel: Would you think there’d ever be an impetus to make Georgetown accept a pledge? Would that ever be forced upon them?
Richard Hinds: Well, I mean, it was forced upon them and they have accepted it.
Richard Christel: Oh, they have?
Richard Hinds: Yeah, but not in this campus plan. That’s in the current campus plan.
Richard Christel: In the 2016 Campus Plan?
Richard Hinds: Yes. Well, I think actually the 2010 Campus Plan.
Richard Christel: 2010 is when they signed that pledge?
Richard Hinds: Yeah.
Richard Christel: OK.
Richard Hinds: Yeah, there was a whole change in philosophy at Georgetown University going into the 2010 Campus Plan. There was continued unhappiness over the 2000 Campus Plan proceeding. And CAG was kind of like gearing up for yet another fight on the 2010 Campus Plan. And then the University had a change of heart and a total change in strategy. I’m not exactly sure what caused that, but I think it had to do with changes in personnel.
I think that Dr. DeGioia also began to recognize that the course of continued confrontation with the community and continued legal battles was not a desirable way to continue proceeding. Basically, there was a, there was a sudden pivot into changing everything that, that the University did leading up to the 2010 Campus Plan.
Richard Christel: And the goal was essentially to work with the community instead of against it?
Richard Hinds: Right, right. And to set up a community partnership agreement and to agree not to buy any more houses. To take the houses that they did have and turn them back into, I think it was either graduate or administrative officials. And I think they actually chose administrative officials. Not even graduate students for those houses on 37th Street. So, that whole street has been cleaned up, so to speak.
So it was just a whole host of things. The idea of having huge increase in the School of Continuing Studies was scrapped. And instead they agreed to move the whole school elsewhere in the district on Massachusetts Avenue near the law school, into a huge brand new building. And the population of that school is in the couple thousands. Maybe 3,000. I think it’s actually been quite a successful venture.
Richard Christel: So, if Georgetown were to build bigger dorms on the campus with the expansion plans, would that be received favorably among the community?
Richard Hinds: Well, that was, that was part of the deal in the plan. In the last campus plan they agreed that instead of wanting to house students who cannot be housed on campus in the community, they agreed to reinstitute the pledge to have 95 percent of the students housed on campus as a goal.
Richard Christel: …As a goal?
Richard Hinds: I mean, they still haven’t gotten there, but that was a renewed pledge to do what they had agreed to do back in the 1990 Campus Plan and had basically reneged on in the 2000 Campus Plan. They built new dormitories that are housing several hundred students. Those undergrads therefore were able to move out of Burleith and west Georgetown and onto the campus.
As I said, in general they have accepted the notion that they need to try and house 95 percent of their students on campus. Georgetown University was to be a residential campus as opposed to a commuter campus. And, and that includes moving the commuters to Massachusetts Avenue, and then to limit graduate enrollment.
Although, we, the community has kind of gone along with the notion that there were some issues with graduate group houses, they are nothing like the undergraduate problems. And therefore in exchange for doing everything that they’ve agreed to do including looking for graduate housing off campus in Rosslyn or on MacArthur Boulevard, as opposed to in 2007 including Georgetown areas, we would go along with the new approach.
Richard Christel: Do you think Georgetown University will ever be pressured into putting a cap on enrollment and not increasing it further as time goes on?
Richard Hinds: Well, a cap on enrollment is sort of a standard tool for campus plans, whether it’s any kind of a school that’s in a residential district. It would be very unusual for there not to be a cap. And the universities always had a cap so far as I can tell. Maybe back in the early days there was no cap, but there’s been a cap for decades.
Richard Christel: But in the sense that the University can’t change it, they will have a ceiling of enrollment?
Richard Hinds: Well, they’ve basically hit it.
Richard Christel: Oh.
Richard Hinds: Last fall they were over the cap by several students.
Richard Christel: Oh, OK. Not too bad then.
Richard Hinds: But in other words, they’re making full use of the cap they have by kind of exceeding it a little bit by accident in the fall.
Richard Christel: Have you seen any controversy that could be comparable to the late ’90s and the 2010 plan with this current plan they passed in 2016?
Richard Hinds: Well, the 2016 plan is basically a continuation of the 2010 plan, which was where the love fest began.
Richard Christel: Love fest in referring to them being nicer to the community and more generous?
Richard Hinds: Yeah. We were no longer fighting. We were working together. And, and the work culminated through fairly long negotiations through this partnership with the community, in an agreed 2016 plan. So, in other words, it was a campus plan that was agreed to in advance as opposed to in the 2000 era where they would put forward a plan that they knew the community was opposed to.
Richard Christel: A whole new position.
Richard Hinds: So, this was the opposite approach. Instead of going to the commission to get something approved that they knew that neighborhood was opposed to they had long negotiations with Ron Lewis, who was the Chair of the ANC at the time, and Jennifer Altemus, who was the vice president at CAG and took the lead in negotiating the 2010 plan and then the 2016 plan.
Richard Christel: Do you know of any benefits CAG brought to negotiations?
Richard Hinds: I’ve enumerated some of them. But, I mean, basically there was a complete pivot away from “we’re not gonna build any housing on campus and the students who we cannot fit on campus get to live in the community whether you like it or not.” As you may know, there was a lottery for rooms on campus.
Richard Christel: I had no idea.
Richard Hinds: If you were lucky, you got a room. If not you found a place in Burleith, or west side of Georgetown. So that whole approach changed to going back to the original commitment. The 1990 commitment to house 95 percent of the students on campus or at least have that as a long‑term objective and to start with building new dormitories on campus to meet that objective. And then there was a fairly major restructuring of the SNAP program.
I’m not familiar with all of the details of it, but it was greatly increased. The sanctions that were able to be given were increased. A lot of things were done on the procedural side to kind of make the efforts by the University to control behavior of students off campus a little bit more real as opposed to saying, “Well, you know, this is a police matter if they live off campus.”
“Go call the police.” So, instead there was a greater recognition of, “We need to do something about it, and we’re doing X, Y, Z, to address the issue.” These are all University policies, but the community at least now has a say as to whether they think that they’re so toothless as to be useless.
Richard Christel: So community desires were accepted and acknowledged by the University.
Richard Hinds: Part of the problem with the University was, this kinda goes to the University being a Catholic university, that there were rules that students couldn’t have a party on campus unless they filed some paperwork and went through a drill to get a permission. And then there were restrictions on liquor that they could have at the party. And there was no place to get liquor on the campus so they would have to import it, of course. So that, in turn created a pressure for students who wanted to go out and have a good time and have alcohol to go have it in the community. Off campus where alcohol was permitted, you didn’t need to go through a whole lot of drills to have a party. And so that created a pressure for some of the problems that the community was facing. To address that, the University changed its rule on the parties. I think there are still some requirements, but it’s a lot less onerous than it was before to have a party on campus. And they set up the student community center where I understand you can get liquor now.
Richard Christel: Do you know when they changed the party rule?
Richard Hinds: That was part of the pivot in the 2010 Campus Plan. We went into the 2010 Campus Plan with basically, you know, more of the same. Just to go back to the 2000 Campus Plan, I mean, the community was opposed to just about everything the University did. The zoning commission thought there was issues and they told the University they were going to have to do better, start flying right. And Zoning encouraged the University to do various things, but by and large, approved the campus plan.
The 2000 Campus Plan kind of ended in minor improvements. But CAG urged the zoning commission to impose the 95 percent rule that the University had originally agreed to and they declined to do that.
Richard Christel: So, one of the things that come out of the 2010 plan was the rerouting of the GUTS buses to Canal Street. Where were they running before?
Richard Hinds: Through the streets of Georgetown.
Richard Christel: So that was a pain or a nuisance just because of the amount of buses and like the noise from the buses?
Richard Hinds: Right, right. Yeah. Just traffic and also to some extent they’re picking up the students who were congregated late at night waiting for the bus.
Richard Christel: That wraps up my questions. Do you have anything else you’d like to, to share on the campus plans?
Richard Hinds: Well, I think it’s just interesting with the evolution that happened because, as I say, we had a very hard fought battle in the 2000 Campus Plan. And we seemed to be gearing up in the 2010 Campus Plan for more of the same. A lot of money was raised to fight the campus plan and, and there was a feeling that, “Well, we lost the last one, but we’re going to really make a real effort to win this one.” And then there was this sudden pivot by the University. It was almost as if they got religion. There were intense negotiations that were spearheaded as I indicated by Ron Lewis and Jennifer Altemus from CAG to come up with a different approach.
Richard Christel: They helped to create a successful negotiation.
Richard Hinds: And what transpired was a very detailed plan in which a lot of the terms of it were dictated by the community and accepted by the University as reasonable. In other words, the University had a campus plan that they proposed and it basically got rewritten during these negotiations which resulted in a total change in approach from the University and put us on the current path which has led to the 2016 Campus Plan.
And they thought, it’s working pretty well. So they came up with that campus plan. And that again was also negotiated through partnership with the University and the community of which the students are, of course, a part as well. So the students are represented in this community partnership. But the effort is clearly to kind of, deal with the community on the one hand as opposed to just the University and the students getting together and deciding what they want.
Richard Christel: What did the students want?
Richard Hinds: In the case of the students where, you know we’ve heard continuously that they wanted to live off campus as they wanted to get out from under some of the restrictions on parties and what‑have‑you that the University imposed on them. So, there was a conflict there between what some of the students wanted and what the community wanted. And, and of course, one side effect of putting more students on campuses is now there’s a requirement to live on campus in your freshman and sophomore year.
Richard Christel: When did that come about?
Richard Hinds: That came about in the 2010 Campus Plan for sure. It might’ve been one of the few things we won in the 2000 Campus Plan. I’m not sure about that detail but if that happened it was purely because it was forced upon the University. Whereas in 2010 University Plan, now it’s in their interest.
If they’re going to build rooms, they want to have people in them. So they were agreeable now. Instead of being forced to it, they agreed to, to that provision. So it’s been a fact for some time. Certainly been a fact since the 2010 plan. But it may, it may have gone into effect earlier. I’m just not sure about that detail.
Richard Christel: Do you think that the University would ever mandate all undergraduates to be housed on campus?
Richard Hinds: Well, that was the original pledge going back to 1990, to have a residential learning experience for undergraduates. There are other schools that they have the same requirement. “If you wanna come to this school, you’re gonna be living on campus.” And so that was the concept. It was the original vision of the leadership of the University in 1990. And then they not only failed to make good on that pledge but they basically reneged on it.
Richard Hinds: And said, “We’re not going to do that. We’re gonna, not gonna build anymore housing on campus. We’ve decided it’s better for us to use the scarce land that we have for other purposes.” That required a change in thinking on, on the part of the University.
Richard Christel: Well, that’s it then unless there’s anything else you’ve got to say on that point.
Richard Hinds: No. It was a very interesting experience. As I say, it was, it was actually litigated before the zoning commission. There was a, as I say, an interesting sudden pivot by the University to a different way of thinking about and dealing with the community. And, and it led to the current situation in which the community is working closely and collaboratively with the University. Nothing is quite perfect but it us much better than it was in the past. And at least the community has the feeling that it’s not “us against them.” We’re both trying to work together to get a result that’s satisfactory to both parties.
Richard Christel: Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge about these negotiations between the Georgetown community and Georgetown University.
[For information about the negotiated campus plan moving forward beyond 2017, see the following: