GW plans to grow up, not out

The class of 2006 will not know a GW without a Health and Wellness Center, a Media and Public Affairs building and, possibly, a new business school. But what will they see erected before their eyes during their time at the University? A new engineering building? School of public health? Vegetarian cafeteria or boat house?

These are all requests University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he has heard or thought of for new buildings on campus. In a recent interview, he outlined the reasons some departments get new facilities and gave a quick overview of what to expect in the next few years.

“There are so many needs at the University,” Trachtenberg said. “The question is going to be ‘how do you reconcile multiple needs?'”

The American Bar Association recently got involved in a push for a 30,000 square-foot addition to the GW Law School, he said, which was completed in January.

“The bar association is particularly aggressive, as is their profession,” Trachtenberg said.

He said other factors include deans raising money for new buildings. School of Business and Public Management Dean Susan Phillips recently received a $5 million pledge from alumnus Ric Duques, Trachtenberg said, adding to $5 million she already collected for a new business school, which is set to break ground in the fall. The new school will be named after Duques, who received a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from GW in 1965 and a master’s degree in 1969.

“We’ve got deans out there sniffing the world,” he said.

The groundbreaking for the school was almost contingent on GW meeting a city requirement to house 70 percent of its students on campus by September.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment ruled in March that the University could not build any facilities that are not at least half residential until this requirement was met. However, a federal judge recently called this requirement illegal in a suit GW brought against the city alleging the requirements were unconstitutional and abridged its academic freedom. D.C. has since appealed the decision.

GW is actively pursuing more on-campus housing under pressure from city zoning officials and Foggy Bottom residents.

A new 10-story “superdorm” with 710 beds is planned for the corner of 23rd and G streets across the street from the Health and Wellness Center by August 2004. Trachtenberg said GW plans to complete eight four-story townhouses on the same block in what is now a parking lot on the 23rd Street side of the Smith Center by next September.

Students will also return to find the new GW Hospital completed across 23rd Street from the existing hospital by the Foggy Bottom Metro stop.

The $100 million facility will house 371 beds and $25 million in new equipment. It is scheduled to open in August.

Trachtenberg remained tight-lipped about plans for the old hospital site, saying he is “working on it” and has ideas he can’t talk about. He said the site has special considerations for demolition because of potentially dangerous materials in the hospital.

“There are dreams aplenty,” Trachtenberg said, including a new engineering school, graduate school of education, science labs, school of public health and crew team boat house.

He outlined an idea he has for a vegetarian and special diet cafeteria in one of the University dining halls.

“You’ve got Jewish kids who only eat kosher foods, Arab kids who eat halal foods, veggies, vegans and all kinds,” Trachtenberg said. “If you took meat out of the equation, that would get you around most of these special dietary rules.”

Trachtenberg said he will also most likely be a staple at GW for the class of 2006. His contract, which is renewed every five years, runs out in August 2003. After 14 years as GW’s president, Trachtenberg said he plans on returning for at least another five.

Trachtenberg can occasionally be found walking around campus, sitting in Kogan Plaza or eating at J Street. He said he has a GWorld card with about 500 meal points a year.

Students can reach Trachtenberg by writing to his office in Rice Hall, where either he or his staff respond to every piece of mail. He also holds office hours “every few weeks,” which are advertised in The Hatchet.

“Some people call, if I’m around I’ll work with them,” Trachtenberg said.

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