An 18-month transition will transform Mount Vernon College, which GW has financially controlled since October 1996, into a part of GW.
The 122 year-old women’s college in the picturesque northwest edge of the District will become the George Washington University at Mount Vernon College by June 30, 1999.
GW became affiliated with MVC last October, when it assumed responsibility for the financially struggling college’s $6.5 million debt to Georgetown University.
The college continued to run as an independent institution, with GW chipping in to repair aging facilities and rebuild MVC’s infrastructure.
“MVC had been deteriorating,” said GW Director of Public Affairs Mike Freedman. “Part of our responsibility was improving the infrastructure and creating stability.”
Along with the financial help GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg “made a commitment to give us a chance to make it (financially) on our own .GW gave us some time,” MVC Interim President Grae Baxter said.
But to continue to operate independently, the women’s college would need to pass certain benchmarks, Baxter said.
Primarily the institution would need to eliminate its deficit by June 1998. Baxter said this will not be feasible. And enrollment would need to be at 800 for fiscal viability, according to the September GW Faculty Senate meeting minutes. But the enrollment stands at about 553.
“It is clear to everyone that we can not make it on our own,” Baxter said.
Thus, MVC trustees “approved in principle the elements of a plan” to incorporate the women’s college into GW, according to a letter sent to students by Baxter Dec. 23, the day of the trustees’ meeting.
The plan said juniors and seniors must complete Mount Vernon College requirements and earn degrees through the college by May ’98 and ’99.
MVC coursework will not be offered past the spring semester of ’99 and students already have started taking courses at GW this semester.
These students may choose to show the affiliation with GW on their diplomas. And through the Elizabeth J. Somers Masters Degree Fellowship program, MVC students will be eligible for 50 percent discounts to enroll in GW masters’ programs.
Current MVC graduate students must complete their coursework by June 1999 when the college will cease to exist as a separate institution.
Furthermore, these two graduating classes and other alumnae of MVC can become alumnae of GW because their alma mater is now connected to GW, Baxter said.
In addition, MVC freshmen and sophomores are eligible to transfer to GW for the ’98-’99 academic year and have the option to apply for housing at the Foggy Bottom campus. Freshmen GW women can opt to begin their college careers living on the Mount Vernon campus instead of Foggy Bottom.
For incoming students the MVC campus also will offer three exclusive programs: women and power, entrepreneurial leadership for women, and women and design.
Faculty and staff members will be “phased out” during the 18-month transition, according to the Washington Post.
But Sylvia Benatti, an MVC alumna and coordinator of the MVC career services and study abroad office, said she hopes that GW has the insight to see what an asset it would be to keep these professors on the campus.
The new developments and the previous affiliation with GW have caused women on the close-knit campus a higher degree of anxiety than most anticipated, students said.
“The mental stress we had is something (GW) doesn’t even know about,” MVC freshman Mahwish Bajwa said. The uncertainty of the college’s future forced students to undergo the application process again.
“I don’t think those who are responsible are doing a good job informing us,” MVC sophomore Jennifer Dawson said.
But Baxter said, “I have been absolutely meticulous about being open and honest.”
One student leader said, “We have not had any real answers and we are given just enough information (from the administration) to keep us quiet so we don’t cause trouble.”
Benatti said that as a staff member, she did feel some frustration because she did not know until December what the affiliation between GW and MVC entailed. But she said that the nature of the negotiation inherently deterred disclosure of specifics.
MVC junior Katie Reidy said this lack of communication is a new element on their campus. She noted pertinent concerns such as the shuttle service between the two campuses and the availability of the GWorld card to MVC students have not been addressed.
“Students are being brushed aside,” Reidy said. “The bureaucracy is taking over and the administration is being very secretive.”
In the midst of this perceived information deficiency, a fear has arisen that not only will GW take over the land but also the students.
Bajwa, as well as other students, admits the financial and academic support of GW will be a blessing to MVC. But the University can benefit not only from additional grassy space, but also from the proactive spirit of the women’s college, she said.
GW should, therefore, maintain the mission to specifically focus on women on the campus, Bajwa said.
“The bad thing would be if (GW) starts disgracing our identity, going back on its promise and betraying our trust,” Bajwa said.