UDC’s new president led last week’s meeting of the Community-Campus Task Force with a startling openness and comfort with a small audience that included mostly close-by neighbors and ANC Commissioners Adam Tope and Shirley Adelstein.
Mason confirmed at the October 5th meeting that the UDC student center now under construction is scheduled to open in mid-November. Other issues got more time and attention, though, and those included student housing.
Mason said he wasn’t sure the university could afford to continue housing almost 200 students in two nearby apartment buildings, 3003 Van Ness and AVA Van Ness at 2950 Van Ness Street. This was initially thought to be a potential money maker, but has ended up a financial drain.
The neighbors were concerned about the apartments used for campus housing for another reason.
They talked about lifestyle conflicts between young students and a mostly older population of families, mid-life workers and seniors. Student functions, university officials said, are being held at the apartments on a weekly basis. Residents find them disruptive and they asked if the school functions could be moved to the student center once it opens.
Mason said the university needed to revisit this. He clearly got the mismatch in lifestyles.
ANC Commissioner Adelstein focused on the lack of a reporting system that could track resident complaints. UDC provides a hotline, as stipulated in the university zoning agreement. But few call it because the apartment building managers want the complaints to come first to them, and because residents do not know the number.
The UDC president’s response was, “Let’s work with the Commissioner and post the number.”
So here it is: 202-274-7255 or 202-274-5050 (Office of Public Safety).
He went through the goals of the university which he had covered in his convocation (video here, starts at 21:40). These include getting university operations in order and getting accreditation. He also stressed that UDC needed to get its enrollment up to be more financially stable.
Mason’s tone throughout the meeting was welcoming and collegial. He first had everyone in attendance introduce themselves. Many stressed the importance of UDC to the neighborhood and the desire for a good, neighborly relationship.
Near the end of the meeting, in response to many of the issues raised, Mason proposed holding a special meeting next month instead of waiting for the next quarterly task force meeting. This pleased Larry Rausch, who represents the Van Ness neighbors on the Community-Campus Task Force.
“The last several years have seen tangible improvements in the relationship between the University and neighboring communities and last night’s meeting gives every indication that this should continue,” he told me the next day in an email. “UDC President Ronald Mason came across as thoughtful and pragmatic yet also acknowledged the many challenges that lay ahead for the University.”