This post was written by Colleen Murphy and Brianna Gurciullo
Top GW officials are pressuring the city to pass a law giving University Police officers the power to respond to off-campus parties the same way they would in residence halls.
The policy – which Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said could see a vote in the D.C. Council this fall – would broaden officers’ jurisdictions and allow them to report students for disciplinary action even when the complaints are beyond GW’s grounds.
“It would give us the authority if we knocked on the door, we could ask for GWorld cards and who’s in there just like we do in our residence halls right now. And they would have to produce it,” Darnell said. “Right now, we don’t have that authority.”
Officers cannot knock on students’ doors off-campus under the city’s current rule, which was spotlighted last April after administrators realized GW officers were illegally acting outside of their jurisdiction.
University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the legislation would give officers “limited authority” to investigate off-campus complaints.
“The concept behind the bill is still under consideration and no decision has been made on the language that might be proposed,” she said Thursday.
Special police forces, like UPD, are “strictly confined to the particular place or property they are commissioned to protect,” according to D.C. law. Officers cannot “display a badge, weapon, or other evidence of authority” outside GW boundaries, while Darnell said officers under the proposed policy would remain in uniform.
GW announced its plan to lobby the city Wednesday, along with a handful of policy changes for students. In addition to creating an online complaint form and requiring an online seminar for students moving out of residence halls, the University will collect addresses for all Greek life members living off-campus, Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said.
Darnell said officers would refer to a list of student addresses when neighbors make complaints, and would take action once they confirm who owns or rents the house.
“We know which houses students are living in,” Darnell said. “So if we have that list and we have this authority from the city council to take our jurisdiction three blocks, five blocks or only to those houses where we have students, then we can knock on the doors and say, ‘Hey, you’re in violation of the Student Code of Conduct.’”
GW hopes the D.C. Council will introduce the bill by Sept. 17, when the legislators return from their summer recess. Darnell said it would have a greater chance of passing if universities across the District band together for the policy change.
“We think it will be more effective if we take this legislation through the consortium of universities and work as a block. We are not the only university with this problem,” Darnell said.
Charles Barber, the University’s deputy general counsel, said there is not yet a “consensus” about the legislation, though the colleges are still in talks.
The University’s tense relationship its neighbors dates back several decades, and has worsened as GW announces more construction projects.
Neighbors again blasted University officials for ignoring their concerns about student behavior off-campus at the Wednesday meeting, which Darnell said GW was trying to change.
“This is a recognition that they have very serious and legitimate concerns. We just want to do everything that we can to address those concerns,” Darnell said.
– Cory Weinberg contributed to this report