Hart Murmurs: Bureaucracy bogs down GW students

Ask GW students what they think of the administration under Stephen Joel Trachtenberg – the growth of the school, the policies, GW administration in general – and you will invariably hear, “Well, he definitely knows how to run a business.”

Is that the kind of response the administration should seek from students? I have been here almost three semesters, and it was very near the beginning that I first heard the familiar GW chant: “We pay $35,000 a year for this?” At first I dismissed it as rich-kid whining, and while I still cringe every time I hear it, I think there is a real issue with the way students view the way the University is managed. Has GW’s famous red tape become more than an annoyance?

GW’s policies are a strange mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. The University provides some of the best housing and amenities anywhere, yet there is a widespread perception that GW seeks to bilk money out of its students and will use loopholes to do so. For instance, I live in City Hall, a hotel/dorm which GW bought this summer. It is an extremely luxurious building, and I feel almost unfit to live there – of course, the price reflects the standards. This makes sense, but what does not add up is the “technology fee” City Hall residents must pay in full for the first semester, despite not having ethernet access until mid-November.

The internet is an integral part of college students’ lives. Some professors incorporate online assignments into courses. I cannot think of a good explanation for having to pay the fee when I had to endure a painfully slow connection for the vast majority of the semester. Why does GW force people to perceive it as a faceless business just looking to turn a profit when in reality this is probably a gross exaggeration?

Overall, students here do not have that much to complain about, but a sense of disillusionment still exists. Issues like registration and housing are problems everywhere, so what is it that overshadows the positive side of GW? I think the problem is a mix of a few misguided rules and, in some cases, a simple lack of communication. GW’s inane drug policy, for example, provides an early introduction to incoming freshmen that a college dorm can still feel like high school. If GW really wants to improve its reputation, it should take a leaf from Ivy League schools and stop cracking down so hard on first offenses. Another sign of the high school treatment was the planned forced evacuation of campus during the anti-globalization protests in September. Administrators claimed the move was for student safety, but frankly by this age we all know what we are getting into. We can embrace or avoid conflict and do not need an educational institution to shield us from it.

GW probably does not deserve a lot of the bad rap it gets. The majority of administrators are rational, caring, hard-working people. Somehow bureaucracy, or the perception of bureaucracy, gets in the way of their efforts. More students are applying to GW than ever before, so the University has obviously done a good job attracting people here. Now, it should seek to improve its image in its own backyard.

-The writer is a sophomore majoring in history.

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