GW renamed the residence hall Riverside Towers to International House in a ceremony Thursday continuing a trend at GW of focusing on the trappings of prestige rather than working on the fundamental elements of a university that bring actual reputation.
In recent years GW has built multi-million dollar gates, renamed several residence halls transforming Everglades to Fulbright and Adams to Lafayette, changed the Columbian School to the Columbian College and even attached the misnomer “Old Main” to a new building on F Street. The fifth floor of the Marvin Center is now the Hippodrome, and the area known as the mid-campus quad and encompassing Kogan Plaza – whose name, like New Hall’s future appellation, derives from a generous donor – has undergone three renovations in as many years.
What annoys students is not the nice facilities or a campus with flower beds in front of nearly every residence hall, but the disconnect between the image the University zealously cultivates and the reality of what actually happens here. GW is a place where the building boom cannot hope to keep pace with enrollment increases. It is a place where students sit on floors in classrooms or languish on waiting lists for residence hall beds. And academics seem to round out the bottom of a list of priorities topped by physical expansion.
Along with the name change at Riverside Towers came a much-needed technology upgrade. This infrastructure is the type of investment critical to improving a University. Cosmetic changes such as electronic scoring systems for the bowling alley are welcome improvements to student life but do nothing to enhance GW’s academic mission.
Top administrators want to be considered in the same club as Ivy League schools, but looking like Columbia University and costing as much as Harvard University does not guarantee the benefits – the education, the prestige, the networking options – that those schools bring to the table. Such benefits will come once GW focuses on the nuts and bolts of the University: academic programs. Bring more world-renowned professors to our already impressive faculty. Admit fewer and more qualified students. Fund research into critical questions facing society. Make GW a community focused on learning rather than money or new buildings and watch the University’s reputation rise.