Activist community

“We all belong to this community.” Students report to the ANC office

The lack of accessible transportation out of Georgetown is usually just a blight on students; for Arnav Kumar (SFS 23), it sparked a race for political elections. Cimrun Srivastava (SFS ’23) and Kumar are running for seats on Neighborhood Advisory Commission (ANC) 2E, which represents the neighborhoods of Georgetown, Burleith and Hillandale. Together, the neighborhoods stretch from Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue to the Georgetown waterfront and down to Rock Street Creek near 23rd Street.

The ANC is an independent body that serves as an intermediary between the city government and its neighborhoods. The eight wards in the district are subdivided into 40 ANC commissions, which are ultimately broken down into single-member districts (SMDs). Each SMD has a representative on the local commission, and the commissioners – who usually represent around 2,000 people – are elected without pay every two years.

While interning at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation in his freshman summer, Kumar worked with the DC Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee. Kumar teamed up with former DC Mayor Tony Williams to answer questions about mobility and infrastructure in the district.

“How do people get from point A to point B in the city? And how do we help people do that? asked Kumar.

Although full-time college students don’t appear to be potential candidates for a DC representative body, Srivastava and Kumar believe that students, often non-voting DC residents, should have a say in local issues, that impact how they interact with the city as a whole.

“Students have an important role to play in this community, both by giving back and being able to take back. I’m really excited to publicize student interests because it’s been a minute,” Srivastava said. “I want people to tell me what I want, so I can tell the ANC.”

Although the ANC has only advisory power, its close informal relationships with city agencies lend weight to its recommendations. The duties of commissioners vary – they have jurisdiction over municipal services like garbage collection, interact with local police and deal with neighborhood complaints. They are also influential in advocating for DC residents experiencing homelessness during camp cleaning.

Of the ANCs that include Georgetown, two districts represent the university with seats that have been vacant for one year. ANC 2E04 covers everything north of the southwest quad and 2E08 covers the area south of the southwest quad and about three and a half blocks outside the front doors. Both commissioners primarily represent students, but also have a small percentage of non-student voters.

Srivastava’s civic engagement on student rights issues runs deep: she is deputy director of the Student Advocacy Office (SAO), co-chair of the Georgetown Student Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and representative of the Student Safety Commission. His past activism and passion for protecting student rights and representing student interests inspired his candidacy for the position of ANC Commissioner.

“I’ve been interested in representing student interests with these particular organizations,” she said. “I wanted to do it on a larger scale and then focus on racial justice and policing as well and make sure the student voice is heard in those areas.”

Srivastava sees the ANC as a way to improve institutions that harm students, including the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Many students view the MPD as both a racist and ineffective institution for dealing with issues common to a college campus such as excessive intoxication and mental health crises.

“If the ANC advises an increase in the MPD budget or a foot patrol, I would give the perspective of students I have heard from and worked with in the past,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava and Kumar run unopposed. In fact, Srivastava has already been sworn as new 2E04 ANC Commissioner by Councilor Brooke Pinto (JD ’17) nearly six months before official election day after completing all necessary paperwork.

Kumar wants to use ANC representation to make transporting students and residents cost-effective. Because Georgetown is geographically cut off from the rest of DC and lacks a subway station, ease of transportation to the city is a key issue for all residents, whether they have lived in Georgetown for four years or 40 years.

“I thought about how we can improve access not only to e-mobility, but also how to make it more affordable for students to get off campus and how to do it in a safe and fair way”, a- he added. .

Kumar and Srivastava are not the first Georgetown students to engage in ANC work. Anna Landre (SFS ’21) and Matias Burdman (COL ’21) previously held the ANC spots for both college districts. Srivastava first consulted Landre and Burdman before running.

Students from other DC area schools also ran and served in their local ANCs. American University, George Washington University and Prince George’s Community College have all had former ANC student commissioners running and winning seats.

Both students see the often tenuous relationship between the university and the surrounding community as a challenge their new roles will present, but are also optimistic about their ability to navigate this conflict.

Georgetown students and the neighborhood have a history of disagreements. In 2010, neighborhood groups in Georgetown like the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the Burleith Citizens Association, and the Foxhall Community Citizens Association protested the increased student presence in the neighborhoods. The Office of Neighborhood Life and the Student Neighborhood Assistance Program (SNAP) exist to manage relationships between neighborhood residents and students.

Kumar thinks that relationship is strained in part because of Not-In-My-Backyardism — some neighbors’ opposition to the often loud and visible presence of students in the neighborhood.

“The only reason we can’t live off campus until our senior year is because of NIMBYism,” Kumar said. “This is the foundation of why student commissioners need to be represented. There must be someone to counter NIMBYism.

In approaching this question, Srivastava draws on his experience at SAO, particularly in navigating relationships between students and SNAPs. She is convinced that with an open dialogue, these disagreements can be resolved.

“I think the most important thing is to keep in mind that we’re all part of this community – it’s not the students and also the neighbors are there or the neighbors and also the students are there,” said Srivastava. “This community is for all of us. We all belong to him.