SJT pledges more diversity at forum

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg announced plans to diversify GW’s faculty and downplayed the importance of national college rankings at the Student Association Academic Affairs Town Hall Meeting. About 70 students attended the event in Funger Hall Tuesday evening.

Donald Lehman, vice president for Academic Affairs, also joined the discussion.

Several students questioned the president about GW’s absence from the top tier of universities in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings. The University ranked in the second tier of the U.S. News rankings for the second year in a row last September.

Trachtenberg said he sees something “angst-ridden and particularly American” in the competitive activity among universities, and he described the rankings as a “bafflement.”

“There is a case to be made that you are at the greatest university in America for you,” he said. “There are opportunities here that most college students would envy and as we see an increasing amount of students returning as sophomores and eventually graduating … we are doing more and more right.”

Trachtenberg also addressed student concerns about faculty diversity, saying the University aims to recruit diverse faculty.

“We have a standing offer to any department that if they can find an outstanding professor of color, we will help recruit them,” he said. “Even if the department is missing the financial assets to bring another professor on, the University’s offer stands and we will support them in the recruitment.”

Trachtenberg also addressed student concerns that their opinions are ignored in issues such as tenure for professors. He said GW allows student leaders to attend and participate at board of trustees meetings. Student leaders often provide valuable insight on academic and campus life, Trachtenberg said.

“It’s a mistake to think student opinion doesn’t matter because it matters profoundly when it comes to student issues,” Trachtenberg said.

Lehman answered questions regarding the University’s admission policy, after several students said they felt too many students were admitted under the early admission process.

Lehman said the University’s early admission policy is under review by the council of associate deans, with a possibility for change in the future. Lehman did not specify what changes were under consideration.

Student Association leaders said the forum was a valuable dialogue for both administrators and students.

“Through this forum, (the SA) hoped to give students access to administrators where they can meet them face-to-face and address student concerns,” said Liz Latwin, SA vice president for Academic Affairs.

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