An open challenge to GW’s president

Dear Mr. Trachtenberg: As a student at GW, I figure you might like to hear from me. After all, it has been two years now since I first started studying at GW, and my studies here have left me with many great experiences. Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that your leadership has not been one of those experiences.

It seems these days one can hardly walk down H Street without hearing someone complain about GW. Chances are that if one stands in Kogan Plaza and speaks about the surly workers at J Street or the rising cost of tuition, nearly everyone in a four-foot radius will chime in about their own negative experiences.

Perhaps students at GW just have a penchant for complaining. Perhaps the bad taste of negative experiences lingers in the mouth far longer than the sweetness of the good. However, the likelihood is that you, Mr. Trachtenberg, would never know. I, like the vast majority of students at GW, have never met you. In all truth, I doubt I would know who you are if I ran into you on the street, if you weren’t carrying your book with you.

Unlike many other colleges where one finds presidents meandering around on the campus quad, speaking with students about their lives and their goals, we – the student body – never meet you. We never have conversations in the cafeteria with you, and we can’t seem to find you in the student cheering section at basketball games. Even as a leader in one of the largest student groups on campus, I have yet to see you come and sit through one of our board meetings.

If you came and talked with us, perhaps you’d find out why your appearance on the Colonial basketball court provokes an overwhelming chorus of boos.

The trend of declining course selection and increasing tuition bother me the most. Other students are concerned about the increasing lack of on-campus housing and the amazingly inflated cost of food in J Street. Some wonder why we can’t seem to make the U.S. News and World Report Top 50 anymore and some would just like to see our student groups get more of the $1,000 student activity fee that we pay. Perhaps a student or two who participated in April’s protests would let you know how amazingly repressive your actions were when you failed to follow the lead of American University and allow protesters to seek refuge in our residence halls.

At the same time, you would hear students who love it here. I am one of them. I would let you know that for all the complaints that I voiced, I still have had opportunities here that I could get nowhere else. I would let you know how proud I am to be a student at GW and how I would never have decided otherwise. I think a lot of students would tell you this.

But you’ve probably never heard any of this. The twenty students you may get to see in your office hours this semester may have pleaded some of these cases, but you probably don’t know about all of us. I can understand why. It takes a lot of courage to go out and face overwhelming criticism. Perhaps it may mean that you would have to change a policy or two. Maybe you would even have to apologize. Personally, if I were you, I would stand in solidarity with students and forgo salary increases every year that tuition for students goes up $1,000 pushing our families further into poverty. Doing so would allow students under financial hardships to continue school here. But that’s just me. I would be happy just to know that someone in Rice Hall actually cares.

I certainly don’t expect the world, Mr. Trachtenberg. And I don’t think anyone here at GW expects much to change quickly. I can’t permanently change anything during my tenure here. My only recourse will be to refuse to give money when GW asks me for a donation in twenty years. You probably won’t be president of GW anymore by then, so you won’t have to be accountable for your actions. But perhaps, Mr. Trachtenberg, you should be accountable to us now. Why don’t you write back to me, on this editorial page in the fall, and let me know what you think of my ideas. I think a lot of people would be interested.
-The writer is a sophomore majoring in international affairs.

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