About 50 students gathered in the Hippodrome Tuesday night to express grievances and suggest changes to University policies.
Students for Accountability, a new student organization that seeks to empower students and work with the administration to address common student complaints, sponsored the forum.
“We are the bosses of this University, and we could and we should plot the course of this University,” said junior Brian Miller, who helped organize the event.
After Miller’s opening remarks, students were free to voice complaints. The more than 30 complaints included tuition increases, Webmail failures, irrational judicial policies, red tape, unsanitary living and eating environments and large class sizes, among others.
Many students complained about increasing GW tuition and fees, which currently total about $37,000 a year. Students said GW’s high price tag should guarantee better facilities and services. One student criticized Gelman Library’s limited selection of videos and DVDs.
“My response to all this is: it doesn’t have to be this way,” Miller said. “If we make sure all our concerns are met, things will not be this way.”
Several students suggested reforms, included forming a University committee that would hear complaints and help students solve problems, hiring an efficiency expert to make better use of tuition funds and demanding a list of where housing and tuition fees end up.
The group agreed to first seek monthly meetings with President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and other GW officials, through which students could confront the administrators.
Trachtenberg, who did not attend the event, said in an interview that he holds office hours throughout the year and students are welcome to make an appointment to speak with him.
He added that the group seemed to be undermining the Student Association with their actions.
“I can’t help but think this is an attack on the Student Association,” Trachtenberg said. “It undermines the elected representatives of the students.”
Trachtenberg said he often discusses issues mentioned in the SFA meeting with the SA.
“As for the budget,” Trachtenberg said, “it is a transparent document available for students to look at in the library.”
At least one student present, sophomore Samantha Siegel, doubted the plausibility of this goal.
“The premise of the group is really interesting,” Siegel said. “The problem is the way that some of the kids want to carry it out.”
Siegel said monthly meetings with Trachtenberg would be difficult to secure before the end of the semester. She suggested that in the meantime, students should individually write or call the appropriate administrators when problems arise.
Miller stressed his desire to make SFA an inclusive organization that represents the entire student body. Miller said the organization has little structure at this stage because its leaders want the goals and actions of SFA to be decided as a group.
“We wanted students to decide what issues are most pressing and what would be the best actions to take,” he said. “Problems have forever, forever, forever been with the University. We just want to get something done.
“The first step was coming here tonight,” Miller added. “The second step is joining with everybody, everybody, to get our interests met.”
Miller said SFA plans to continue developing a structure and setting goals through weekly meetings, the next of which is scheduled for March 25 at a location to be announced.