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In the long annals of town-gown unpleasantness, a request this spring by neighbors of American University may still represent a first: The neighbors demanded that students be forbidden from hanging decorations in the windows of a proposed new dormitory, lest the artwork offend local aesthetic sensibilities. It wasn’t the only such request, of course. Georgetown University’s neighbors want the school to provide a shuttle between campus and M Street NW, so unruly students don’t walk along the neighborhood’s pristine streets. And neighbors around nearly every D.C. university demand progressively greater punishments for students who dare park on public streets near campus.
The NIMBYs are able to pressure the schools thanks to D.C. rules that require campuses to file a ten-year plan every decade—and give “great weight” to local ANCs when it comes to approving or rejecting said plans. The system essentially ensures that campus zoning issues take on a Mr. Wilson vs. Dennis the Menace aspect. Sadly unmentioned during the free-for-alls: Colleges, with their fields and libraries and lectures, are actually really cool to have nearby.