GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s offer of roughly $7.2 million in free tuition to 48 local junior high school students was truly an eloquent gesture to expand educational opportunity in a city plagued by the failure of education. There is no doubt that the District’s school system is in turmoil, that the victims of this debacle will suffer all through their lives because of it and that Trachtenberg’s reaching out will make a difference for a few of those who need it most.
Such a commitment to education is admirable and truly deserves high praise – especially considering the political climate of recent years.
But the mismanagement that plagues District schools seems to be spreading to Rice Hall. A 6.9 percent tuition increase, threats of moving Commencement from the promised Ellipse to the MCI Center (because of the prohibitive cost of a backup plan), lagging technology (despite that tuition hike) and the Adams/Lafayette fiasco are just the latest in a series of examples of a University that does not hear the voices of its students. Are those in the administration deaf, or are they just not listening?
At this rate, when those lucky recipients of Trachtenberg’s generous spirit are preparing to enter college, will GW have slipped even further down the ladder of academic prestige? For all we know, in four or five years, those students at Paul Junior High may want more than GW will have to offer.
As The Washington Post pointed out, GW’s president is noted for his “spontaneity.” What we need, though, is not to be held hostage by Trachtenberg’s latest whims. Instead, the GW community needs to develop a road map that will guide the University into the next millennium. Without such a plan, GW stands destined to forever teeter beneath those premier academic institutions that always seem more than just a few steps ahead. Just as there needs to be a product behind flashy advertisements, there has got to be a solid institution of learning behind all the talk of GW as an “almost” Ivy League school.
To those students at Paul Junior High, Trachtenberg made a promise on behalf of our University: “We will do what it takes to get you the resources.” He deserves applause for that – but now we need to demand the same commitment for those of us who are already here.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.