With thousands of students enrolling in the Elliott School of International Affairs to learn about happenings in the world, and thousands more coming to GW supposedly because of the advantages of going to school “at the center of it all,” it is surreal that only a handful of students show up for important and unique lectures and discussions that take place right in the heart of campus.
Many students say they come to GW for the D.C. experience and the ability to be close to where everything happens. Many of these same students will tell you that your $36,000 is being wasted, basing their claim on the fact that the line at Einstein’s is too long. What these students will not tell you is that there is a wealth of priceless opportunities that they and most others are not utilizing.
On March 12, the ambassador from Pakistan and the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan met in Stuart Hall to discuss Pakistan’s new, post-Sept. 11 pivotal role on the world stage, and how it is reforming itself by working with the United States. At a school of about 8,000 undergraduates and thousands more graduate students, the Sigur Center for Asian Studies was still able to hold this one-of-a-kind intellectual meeting in Stuart Hall 103, a room smaller than most classrooms. Something like this should be a sell-out, standing-room-only crowd at a university like this where so many claim to be interested in politics and international affairs. This was not the case. The audience was mostly adults and a few graduate students and fewer than 10 undergraduates.
Some could argue that students utilize GW’s location when many crammed into the School of Media and Public Affairs’ Jack Morton Auditorium to see the taping of CNN’s “Crossfire.” This one-time showing of attentiveness does not necessarily mean much, especially given the continuous low student turnout at lectures and discussions. Many of these more low-key presentations have much more consequence, importance and academic application than “Crossfire” will ever have. The ideas expressed on March 12 are an insider’s peak as to what the future will hold for Pakistan, a nation on the brink of reform in the volatile climate of war and nuclear tensions with India. It would seem that the real explanation for “Crossfire” in terms of attendance is not true interest, but that most just wanted to get their faces on TV.
The problem with going to tapings of “Crossfire” is that, it alone will not enable students to truly grasp the advantages of going to school at GW. Everybody around the country can get the same experience by watching it on TV from home, although not every school can say they tape it on their campus. The true GW advantage is really tangible at events like the March 12 discussion where, in one room, any student could basically have a personal conversation with two ambassadors, a former assistant secretary of state and a Brookings Institution senior fellow (who happened to sit right next to me in the audience).
We shouldn’t let ourselves get distracted by all the busy work that goes along with going to college. Most came to school to learn and should look into these other avenues to grasp what is going on in the world. One should not major in a subject just to get a degree, but there should be a real desire to learn something.
Before students get caught up in arguments about long lines, bad food and boring Student Association elections, they should remember why they came to GW in the first place. They need to look for events like the March 12 lecture that will enable them to truly get every penny out of their tuition dollars and get a leg up on the rest of the country’s college students.
-The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.