The Board of Trustees responded to students’ concerns and officially approved plans to make the Mount Vernon Campus co-educational. The method by which the University plans to do this, however, is flawed.
Administrators plan to make MVC an honors campus with the goal of housing 300 honors students there by 2003. Next year, 100 freshmen in the Honors Program and 50 continuing honors students will be placed at Mount Vernon. The University will still maintain some women-only residence halls, but any honors halls will be co-ed. The problem, though, is that making Mount Vernon home to a geographically removed population already does not work.
The women currently housed at MVC – both in the Women and Power residential community and those who are non-program residents – frequently express their displeasure with their community. The greatest concern – the lack of men at Mount Vernon – is obviously solved by the new plan. But other complaints center on the lackluster shuttle service, which does not run 24 hours a day and does not arrive at either campus on time with any regularity. There is also a feeling of separation from the GW community. Many students come to GW to experience the urban atmosphere of Foggy Bottom and end up at Mount Vernon instead. The new plan does not offer solutions to these problems, and makes the feeling of separation from Foggy Bottom even worse.
Perhaps the largest issue is that students at Mount Vernon resent being segregated from the larger Foggy Bottom campus. College – especially freshman year – is a time when students seek inclusion. Students want to find their niche, to fit into the campus community. Putting some residents at an entirely separate location based upon their inclusion in a certain group does not integrate students with their peers at Foggy Bottom.
Rather than increase Mount Vernon’s role in the larger campus community, this new plan serves to marginalize it even more. The Honors Program will have a presence at both campuses and its students will attend classes at Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon. But the majority of GW students – those not in the Honors Program – will have no reason to go to Mount Vernon except for the occasional soccer game or tennis match.
Mount Vernon is a great resource for an urban University like GW and should be integrated to a larger extent into the GW community. The easiest and perhaps most effective change that could be made is to improve transportation between MVC and Foggy Bottom. But the larger issue of proper use of the facilities still must be addressed.
Increasing the capacity for the Honors Program is a laudable goal, but that should not come at the expense of the students in the program. Those students must not feel segregated from their peers who are not honors students. Separating the Honors Program at Mount Vernon does not appear to alleviate that concern.