So the behemoth known as GW continues on its Manifest Destiny march westward. With the recent acquisition of the Premier Hotel, formerly a Howard Johnson Hotel, the University can house almost 400 freshmen who would otherwise be scattered around campus or in local hotels. All visiting Colonial Inauguration freshmen and their families must be relieved.
But forgive me if I decline to jump on the “Yay GW!” bandwagon. I believe the purchase of the hotel is an indication of poor thinking at the University. Consider – last year, 1,873 freshmen accepted admission to GW. This year, more than 2,200 said they want to be GW students. That is an approximately 17 percent increase in freshmen!
Was there an equivalent increase in teaching facilities? Or what about professors and teaching assistants? No such grand announcements were made.
So what are the benefits of the new residence hall? For one thing, some of GW’s hostile Foggy Bottom neighbors cannot complain the University is not providing more housing for its ever-expanding population.
But there is a significant downside to the new residence hall, and it affects GW students more than Foggy Bottom residents. While some residents are rightly concerned about the University expanding outside its campus plan, GW students and their families should be more concerned.
Tuition at GW is comparable to that at an Ivy League college. As tuition has risen over the past few years, so have class sizes. Prospective students are told there is something like a 15:1 student-faculty ratio. Yet in my four years at GW, I was never in a class with a little more than a dozen students. I do, however, remember being in overcrowded classrooms where students had to get to class early in order to avoid being stranded without a seat.
There were also all those chemistry and political science classes with several hundred students in the lecture halls in Funger. While some of those classes did have several teaching assistants and smaller discussion sections, it is still quite a challenge for underpaid and under-appreciated TAs to juggle several classes in addition to their own academic schedules.
Who suffers from this set up? Students and their families who pay many thousands of dollars for their educations are treated shoddily.
The greater the number of students being accepted into GW means the greater the number of students who will be nothing more than nameless faces and Social Security numbers to both University educators and bureaucrats.
This is what $25,000 a year is buying?
It is interesting to note that the $19 million deal to purchase the Premier Hotel was made during the summer when few students are on campus and even fewer parents are paying attention. It is highly unlikely that the deal was made on the spur of the moment. Yet the decision was sprung upon the community – both the GW community and the Foggy Bottom community – without any prior warning. And then officials wonder why Foggy Bottom residents are so distrustful of the University.
I am a GW alumni as well as a Foggy Bottom resident. I don’t like what I see and hear. The more GW expands, the more individual student concerns get left behind. The bigger the campus boundaries become, the faster the destruction of Foggy Bottom’s historic areas. As GW slowly purchases house after house on city blocks, the construction of the next super dorm cannot be far away. And as each new residence hall or building goes up, down comes another piece of what makes this area unique.
But Manifest Destiny must go on.
-The writer is a GW and Hatchet alumnus.