Debate was not a dud because of GW

University administrators are an easy target for student complaints, and it can be convenient to blame a burdensome “bureaucracy.” However, in the instance of the Sept. 3 mayoral forum, students should turn the mirror inward to search for reasons for the dismal turnout rather than assume the position of victims done in by University administrators.

Where were the 400-plus students who took the time to go to Marvin Center 204 and obtain tickets, but did not show for the forum?

In fact, there was no large number of students clamoring to get into the forum, nor was anyone dealt with brusquely. There actually were fewer than 20 persons (not all of them students) who did not have tickets. They were asked politely to wait until all ticketed students had been admitted, with the promise that those without tickets would be admitted also, space permitting.

The other 350 folk did not show up, so it didn’t take very long to make the call to admit anyone who wanted to come inside. All those who opted to wait eventually got into the debate. No one was “turned away.”

The University’s first obligation was to students who took the time to obtain tickets in advance, because with a ticket comes the obligation to assure seating. What might The GW Hatchet have written had we admitted students without tickets, only to have the other 400 students with tickets arrive to find the seat they were promised had been given away? Based on the fact that all of the available tickets had been distributed in advance of the event, how might we have accommodated everyone (including the fire marshal) had the ticketed students shown up?

Why were tickets necessary you ask? The reason for ticketing and the ID requirement was to ensure that GW students would fill the theater and not political activists. Without such a process, no doubt there would have been much more horn blowing, jeering and heckling than the few isolated incidents that you refer to as creating a circus atmosphere.

We could have filled the house to overflowing capacity had we allowed the candidates to bring in their hordes of supporters and opened up the forum to the general public. Instead, each candidate received only five tickets and one sponsoring organization, the Washington Association for Black Journalists, was limited to 25 tickets, so as not to impose on the availability of tickets for students.

As for the “relegation” of student organizers to the sidelines, a working committee was established several months ago to develop this event. The committee consisted of University administrators, sponsors and students. I attended every meeting and never once saw Adam Siple in attendance, although I have every confidence that he was invited and would have been welcomed.

To my knowledge, The Hatchet (an event sponsor) sent a representative to only one meeting – the next to last. Student Association President Carrie Potter played a pivotal role in working to organize this event and she is to be commended for her efforts. She and representatives of The GW Independent carried the day in the working group meetings by bringing student voices to the table.

I would like to suggest that it would have been far more productive for The Hatchet to first gather the facts before publishing such an inaccurate and irresponsible piece. For responsible journalists, the right to free speech carries with it an implicit responsibility to be accurate and fair. Your editorial was neither.

-The writer is a public affairs specialist in the office of University Relations.

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