It has been four years since GW acquired Mount Vernon College. Since then, GW has been integrating the Foggy Bottom campus with the Mount Vernon campus.
But relations between the two campuses are sometimes strained. Residents say logistical problems of bringing the two distinct campuses together is not the sole reason for the contention. Some Mount Vernon students report in the December issue of a campus publication, Martha’s Voice, that misperceptions of the all-woman campus and the students who live there are also stifling the synthesis of the two campuses.
In a Martha’s Voice article, Mount Who? Is that in D.C.? MVC freshman Bethany Waterhouse describes that in a typical conversation with Foggy Bottom students their faces are gripped with confusion and disgust when they learn she lives at Mount Vernon. She is asked a few familiar questions. `Why?’ Then come my personal favorites – `Are you some sort of (gulp) feminist?’ or `Are there a lot of lesbians out there?’
Freshman Tori Reimann, the editor in chief of Martha’s Voice, agrees.
When I tell people I’ve come to Mount Vernon they are usually confused, she says. Most of them came to GW for the city life. I did, too, but I thought Mount Vernon is the best of both worlds.
Most people think it’s just freshman girls, says Cathy Resler, a GW junior and Residence Hall Association member for Munson Hall. (If students choose Mount Vernon) it seems to be a religion thing. When I find out someone lives at Mount Vernon I ask them, `Are you a freshman?’ or else, `What religion are you?’
Resler says she believes that a negative perception of Mount Vernon students is prevalent among Foggy Bottom students because there is often little contact between the campuses.
I don’t think people mean to be rude, but they don’t understand the program, Reimann said.
MVC Executive Dean Grae Baxter says some Mount Vernon students report feeling stigmatized by Foggy Bottom students. Around Mount Vernon campus feminism is referred to as the F-word, she says, because the word itself is so often applied to the Mount Vernon women in a derogatory way.
Some of that perception might stem from Mount Vernon’s major scholastic endeavor. The Women and Power Program, which integrates classroom learning with residential living, includes most of the students who live there.
The academic focus of the program examines the contribution of women in a variety of areas, such as international affairs and science. The program is open to freshmen, and next year Mount Vernon will offer a second-year program called Women and Leadership.
MVC freshman Bridget Grage says the close-knit community her campus provides through programs like these is an asset as a new freshman in an unfamiliar city.
I think it’s a nice transition into college, she says. It’s nice as a freshman to have the small school experience. I may be missing out on something Foggy Bottom students get, but I have other advantages.
The divided campus affects students in Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon.
Some people definitely feel closed off from Foggy Bottom and that GW hasn’t made an attempt to include us, Reimann says, adding that she does not personally feel this way.
Baxter agrees with many students that a lack of interaction leads to misunderstanding.
The women here are really fabulous, she says. We invite the students to come over, get to know our campus and our students. We want you to know that you are welcome here.
Resler says she feels problems between the two campuses are in part because of lack of cohesion on an administrative level.
The University doesn’t treat (Mount Vernon) very well or treat them equally, Resler says. They have resources the University doesn’t take advantage of.
Still, several Foggy Bottom students note the advantages of the Mount Vernon campus.
It’s a great place to take intro classes, Foggy Bottom freshman Jenn Kruss says. You get to meet the professor, and you actually get to meet the other students. Students complain about the commute, but it is a good facility.
Senior Katheryn Graham, a Foggy Bottom resident, says she has a lot of friends at Mount Vernon who she don’t have a problem with the relationship.
They meet people the same way we meet people, she says. A lot of them chose to live out there.
Foggy Bottom sophomore Robert Wyman says he believes the Mount Vernon students should recognize when they have a good thing going.
It seems like you hear them complaining about how things aren’t going their way, he says. Then you get out there and they have facilities and advantages we just don’t have here – great food, a beautiful campus, beautiful halls. I think they just complain a lot.
Foggy Bottom freshman Paul Drake agrees.
It’s really nice, he says. I want to know why it’s only for women.
Although both Grage and Reimann say they have enjoyed their year at MVC so far, they are both planning to move to Foggy Bottom next semester.
I’m planning on moving down to Foggy Bottom, Reimann says I think most people are.