The University of Maryland: A city within a city with movie houses, health facilities, bars, restaurants and even its own police force. All within the city limits of College Park, Md.
During the school year, approximately 8,000 students live in the campus dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses. Virtually all of those students are part of the 5th district of College Park, which has more than 10,000 residents.
The city's even seven other voting districts have average populations of 2,200 each.
The students are permitted to register to vote, but according to the city they are not "bona fide" residents; that is, they do not necessarily intend to make College Park their permanent homes.
So, when the city was reapportioned late in 1967, the eight voting districts were drawn without taking the students into account. Eight years later, three students filed suit against the city, saying that campus residents were gerrymandered out of their rights. After years of legal hassles, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the students do have the right to sue.
The city's reasoning based on the view that the residents draws from Kenneth Lechter, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney working with the students. "It's absolutely paradoxical," says Lechter. "You can't discriminate one type of voter from another type of voter.
"I assume they (city officials) think that the students will take over the city."
It has happened before. In places such as Berkeley, Calif., and Oberlin, Ohio, large populations have mobilized and taken over their local governments.
"We could take at least three and up to five of the council seats" if College Park were reapportioned, says Renee DuBois, 22, a senior and one of the students had a big enough vote, they could force almost any issue." The university's campus residents comprise almost 30 per cent of the city's population of 27,000.
Among the issues of most concern to the students, DuBois says, are security lighting around the University - "lighting in the boundaries, nobody wants to pay for it" - and trash collection for the off-campus fraternity and sorority houses.
Another "big question," says the former Student Government Association vice-president, "is police. If you can't get a campus policeman, what do you do? Right now they (city council members) don't worry about it."
The city's attorney, Morris Topf, says that since the university is on stateland and is state-financed, the city has no jurisdiction on campus. "And the off-campus residents should automaticaly be included in the reapportionment formula.
College Park, he says, is "an entity of very limited governmental functions . . . The city's business is trash collection and street repair."
Because it works within those limitations, it does not have to divide its councilmanic districts according to the concept of "one man, one vote."
"The city has no objection to the bona fide residents being apportioned," Topf says. "But most of the students are non-residents, there solely for the purpose of schooling."
Besides, he says, most students are not interested in voting "and they're sensible not to . . ."
Although no figures are available as to how many students do vote, both sides of the dispute acknowledge that only handfuls of campus residents traditionally have registered. While Topf maintains that the reason for the small turnouts is that "we don't do anything on the campus," DuBois says it is because the students know that their ballots can have little impact.
Last summer Topf succesfully argued in Prince George's County Circuit that Du Bois, Dave Johnson and Zachary Kinney were not "bona fide" city residents and therefore did not even have the right to sue. The Maryland Court of Appeals, however, reversed that decision earlier this month and sent the case back to the lower court to be judged on its merits.
In rendering its opinion, the appeals court did not rule that the students were residents; instead, it said that the city had to prove they were not residents and had chosed the wrong avenue - the courts.
Topf says that the city council hadnot yet dicided whether it will try to prove non-residency in some other manner, but he says, "There is a procedure spelled out in the state law for challenging the registration of people.
"Someone's got to file a petition to challenge it, and then there's a hearing held." He said that where an individual pays taxes, registers his car and banks are among the factors used in making a determination.
Even if such a procedure were used, Topf says, the appeals court ruling "lends a good bit to speculation" as to whether the suit still would be valid.
"We have an alternative defense. If we are malapportioned, then we ask that we be allowed to reapportion not on the basis of population, but on the basis of registered voters."
As proof that the students living on campus are in fact city residents, Lechter points out that the federal government includes them in determining College Park's yearly revenue sharing allotment. The formula by which the amount of a jurisdiction's share is determined includes population, per capita income and the taxes taken in by the jurisdiction.
Topf argues that although the students help by their sheer presence and by their generally low incomes, that the effect is mitigated by the fact that they don't pay many of the taxed that other residents do, such as taxes on property. Population is a less important consideration in the formula.
Robert Childers, public information officer for the Office of Revenue Sharing, however, says that since the students comprise such a large percentage of College Park's population, "it becomes a major thing."
"We assume that they (the students) are pretty low paid - have low per capita incomes. That is good (for the city's revenue sharing allotment)," he said.
Childers said College Park will receice $143,382, or $5.17 per person, for fiscal year 1978 in revenue sharing funds and that the students "would be to the advantage of the community in deriving that sum."
He said that he could not determine exactly to what extent the students affect the allocation, but said that "if the students are included in this population, they're (the city) getting money from us. That's for sure."