Column: The increasing prevalence of student discontent

As the University winds down for spring break, it comes as a welcome break to administrators, whom are increasingly the subject of student criticism. Letters to The Hatchet expressing dissatisfaction with recent University policy decisions are swelling in number and turning more negative in attitude. Students are fed up with the administration and it is only a matter of time before this sentiment comes to a head on campus. The administration, regardless of their actual inclination, has been unsuccessful thus far in convincing students that they are more than dollar signs and that their concerns are being heard.

The administration will argue this is just not true, especially because University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg has recently discussed problems and concerns with students, including meeting with Greek and Student Association representatives and appearing as a guest at the student-produced “Crossfire.” Nonetheless, this negative sentiment continues to develop. While Trachtenberg may make it seem he is attempting to garner student feedback, it is not translating into University policy on the large scale.

This is not a column assailing the University for bad policy decisions. It is a call to the administration to recognize and confront the growing student discontent before it begins to impact student life.

Tuition

It is not necessarily the recent 4.5 percent tuition hike that upsets students about tuition; it is that many students do not feel they are getting their money’s worth. It now costs nearly $40,000 to go to GW and students make a valuable point – why should students pay top-tier tuition prices at a second-tier school?

There needs to be justification behind tuition increases and students need to see the results. They need to see GW reach into the top 50 and the administration needs to better handle its student diplomacy. They are doing a poor job of persuading students that tuition funds are going to the right places.

The tuition argument intertwines itself into a number of student concerns including study abroad policies and housing quandaries. Students feel at such an exorbitant price, the University should not continue to engage in common cost-saving and revenue-increasing schemes.

Housing

GW has been forced into a tough spot by the failure to win its appeal of the Board of Zoning Adjustment’s mandate to house 70 percent of students and all freshmen and sophomores within campus boundaries. The outcome has been a housing shake up that once again has students feeling shunned by their University.

Housing is unique at GW. Much of the discontent is caused by the dramatic disparity in housing options, from the ultra-lush to the super-cramped. At most other schools this would not be an issue, but at GW there are such amazing options available that students who do not receive the best housing assignments immediately feel neglected.

The recent changes include reassigning many of the better residence halls to underclassmen, thoroughly upsetting upperclassmen that view it as their right to move into the superior halls.

Study Abroad

Study Abroad changes are the last straw for many students. The study abroad changes are not in students’ best interest, but rather in the interest of the University’s financial future.

GW students are among the most internationally minded students in the country. Many come to GW planning to study abroad within their four years. But change after change to the study abroad policy is making it more difficult and more inconvenient to study abroad.

Students view GW’s limitation on study abroad options not as helping “ensure the academic quality” as administrators contend, but rather to force students to pay GW tuition, which is often $6,000 more than the programs actually cost. There is no legitimate reason why the University needs to make money on students when they are not in the country to appreciate the services they are paying for.

Not only will the University gouge students studying abroad with nonessential fees, but now it will require upperclassmen living on-campus and planning to study abroad to live in two of the least desirable residence halls, HOVA and Mitchell. Both halls have among the fewest amenities and least amount of space per person. Why would the administration discourage students from studying abroad? Students living in other, typically upperclassmen residence halls will be charged a full year housing fee even if they leave to study abroad or graduate a semester early.

The answer is not that the University is actually attempting to penalize students who study abroad, but like everything, the University is searching for ways to guarantee the maximum amount of revenue.

The administration would be smart to begin a proactive program of engagement with students and reconsider existing and future policies before this trend of alienation turns into a campus wide consensus.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is Hatchet opinions editor.

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