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1789: How do G'town students know this?

Jenna Johnson

This week I talked with a bunch of Georgetown University students for a story about a guy living near campus who started the website, the latest in a generations-old town-gown battle.

Several students made the point that the university has been around longer than the pricey townhouses near campus -- so neighbors shouldn't be surprised to see college students wandering around.

And then they rattle off the year Georgetown was founded.

This university has been around since 1789... You're smart enough to buy a multi-million-dollar house, but not smart enough to know that college students live here?
-- Shirtless junior who did not want his name used because, "my dad hates me enough as it is"

"You're living a block from a huge university. You are choosing to live right by a college. It's been here since 1789."
-- Remy Wainfeld, 19, a sophomore psychology major

How do so many students know this random fact?

I had to Google to find out when my alma mater (University of Nebraska) was founded (1869). And everyone rolls their eyes at the note-taking kid in the Yale University admissions video who asks, "Yes, um, when was Yale founded?"

Yet the well-known Georgetown founding year continues popping up, even in online comments:

Unless Mr. Brown or his ancestors bought their house before 1789, he really can't complain.
-- sfr71 commented on my blog post

I can't believe college students drink. Thats an outrage. I guess since this guy has been living in burlieth since before 1789 he has legitimate argument.
-- Sports!!!! wrote on the student blog Vox Populi

This morning I called Georgetown spokesman Andy Pino and asked him how the university was able to train their students so well. With a laugh, Pino walked me through three likely reasons students are so well-versed on university history. "It's definitely a part of our lore," he said.

1) The date is prominently featured on the university's seal. Yeah, okay, maybe.

2) 1789 was a historic year. It's the same year that George Washington was elected president. The U.S. Constitution goes into effect. The first Speaker of the House is elected. The French Revolution begins. The Department of the Treasury is founded. The Bill of Rights is created. Thanksgiving is celebrated for the first time.

3) The upscale restaurant 1789 is just around the corner from campus, upstairs from the popular college bar, The Tombs. Bingo.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  April 30, 2010; 1:50 PM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags: Georgetown, University of Nebraska, Yale University  
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I can tell you that U.Va. was founded in 1819 because the seal is on my ring, which I wear every day. It's likely G'Town has a similar ring.

Posted by: U-Hoo | April 30, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

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