“I don’t pay $30,000 to get treated like this” is certainly a phrase, or variation of one, that most of us on campus have heard. You can hear this if you hang around a J Street line or outside the financial aid office, but other GW departments and offices are not immune.
This sentiment seems so common at GW that students often discount complaints as needless whining. And that reaction is mostly warranted for the students who somehow think a University with 8,000 students and one dining hall are ever going to get a quick meal at noon or that a mistakenly added fee to a bill means the University is trying to rob them blind. But those examples divert attention from a serious issue of how customer service is the backbone of universities.
One serious slip-up by a professor, department head or office supervisor can leave a lasting impression on students no matter how well they have been treated ever since Colonial Inauguration.
As a student newspaper editor, I have had my fair share of stressful and taxing encounters with GW’s administration and those who work for it. In every instance, whether it be an official who disagreed with something published or simply someone I dealt with as a student, people working at GW have respected me as an adult and extended at least the minimal amount of rights students should expect from their university. In other words, I have received good customer service.
Saturday morning, I got a taste of something different. I visited the University Police Department to file a complaint about a UPD 4-RIDE van that drove on my heels between Ross Hall and the Foggy Bottom Metro stop. During my visit, I encountered a supervisor who not only didn’t want to hear my complaint but brought in an officer who, for lack of a better term, interrogated me and threatened to call Metropolitan Police for asking for clarification about a University policy. In other words, I encountered a service failure.
That service failure left me feeling that UPD is insincere in its assurances that it constantly reviews its practices and wants student input to help that process. It also left me wondering how other students are treated at a department charged with protecting our safety. While I have spent more than three years growing to love this University, one incident on one day has had the effect of making me feel, if only temporarily, ashamed to be associated with the letters G-W.
I use my column today to highlight my concerns so that the University can learn how service failures affect a student’s experience here. I encourage other students to address their concerns to the University.
Do not be silent, because the University is here to serve you. And when you feel – as I did last weekend – that your voice won’t be heard, then turn to your student newspaper by writing an e-mail to email@example.com, sending us a letter or contacting an editor. As GW’s independent student newspaper, we are here to hold the University accountable to you.
Experiences like mine Saturday morning leave an indelible mark on students’ memories at GW. We all want to have only fond memories of our time spent here, to be able to tell our parents that the $120,000 price tag was well worth it and to have no feelings of regret. I assure you that smart administrators aware of the importance of alumni giving and retention rates feel the same way.
Students should help the University by letting their concerns be known so that they can be addressed with proper action taken to prevent it from happening to someone else. Fell free to laugh it off when other students complain they were rejected for the Presidential Sleepover, but do not make light of the real service failures.
If we work together, we can ensure that this University continues to be something we’re all proud to be a part of.
-The writer, a senior majoring
in journalism, is Hatchet
editor in chief.
This article appeared in the October 22, 2001 issue of the Hatchet.