Mount Vernon students endure tough integration

Almost immediately after GW’s 1996 announcement that it would acquire the all-women’s Mount Vernon College, work began on the transition to another GW campus now known as GW at Mount Vernon College.

But some Mount Vernon students said the integration has been a painful process.

The transition programs were created to ease the problems of creating what is essentially a new school of the University. One of GW’s first concerns was aligning the academic programs of the two schools, said Lori Pederson, Mount Vernon’s student life director.

All freshmen, sophomores and juniors who live at Mount Vernon are classified as GW students. The senior class will be the last class to get a degree from Mount Vernon College.

One GW junior, a recent transfer student who lives at Mount Vernon, said tension exists between the Mount Vernon seniors, faculty and the GW students.

The junior, who asked not to be identified, said the tension was inherent.

“It should be expected,” the junior said. “I mean, these students didn’t apply to GW. They applied to a small women’s college with a completely different campus and structure. The faculty was basically told (by the University) that `we don’t want you anymore,’ and they don’t really have a choice but to accept it.”

“We have two separate academic programs here on this campus,” said Grae Baxter, the executive dean of Mount Vernon. “We have seniors and graduate students who will complete their Mount Vernon College programs and receive Mount Vernon degrees by May 1999, and then we have GW students who are working for a GW degree, taking GW classes taught by GW faculty.”

Baxter said the registration for Mount Vernon classes also is done differently. GW residents of Mount Vernon get first priority for registration, before all other GW students.

While Mount Vernon and GW students share classes and resources, some things remain separate. Mount Vernon has its own student government, meal service and contract with Coca-Cola.

Mount Vernon also has a contract with Aramark, the same service provider that GW uses, but Operations Manager Dan Alexander said the campus still uses separate contracts for residence hall and other cleaning services. This contract has been a point of contention recently for several residents of Pelham, one of the Mount Vernon residence halls.

One resident, who asked not to be identified, said the community bathrooms in Pelham are not cleaned as regularly as they should be.

“They are supposed to be cleaned every day, just like the community bathrooms in Mitchell Hall are,” the resident said. “I pay as much to live here as I would to live in Mitchell, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask that my bathroom not be dirty.”

The resident said the restrooms have been cleaned once every week or ten days since the semester began.

“The subject of Pelham is a slippery one right now,” Alexander said. “We have released a couple of people here . and we have hired a housekeeping supervisor. They have made substantial gains just in the last two days. I would hope that within the next two days, the Pelham situation will become a non-issue.”

While GW has given attention to the structural side of the Mount Vernon acquisition, some students are concerned by the University’s lack of effort to integrate social activities between the two campuses.

“I think that one of the concerns of students is to get Foggy Bottom students more aware of what’ s going on out here,” Pederson said.

Naomi Schneidmill, a GW freshman who lives at Mount Vernon, said most Foggy Bottom students do not understand that Mount Vernon residents are GW students.

“They have to understand that we applied to GW,” she said. “We have no permanent affiliations with Mount Vernon. It’s just where we live. When we decided to live at Mount Vernon, we were told we’d blend in without any problems, but that’s not what happened. It seems like there’s a stigma attached as soon as you say `Mount Vernon.’ “

GW’s division of Student Academic and Support Services attempted to increase Foggy Bottom students’ awareness of Mount Vernon by holding a Fun Day at the campus Sept. 11, but Pederson said the event was not well-attended.

Pederson said the Greek-letter community has made a concerted effort to become involved at Mount Vernon. Members of Lambda Chi Alpha held a social mixer at Mount Vernon Sept. 18.

“One of the best things that we can do is to make GW students aware of the resources here at Mount Vernon,” Pederson said. “They can take a shuttle every 20 minutes from the main campus, come out here, eat lunch, use the athletic facilities, eat dinner and just get to know the place. It’s their campus too.”

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