It is a balmy spring day and the air of graduation is upon me. In just a few short weeks I will be sitting back in my fold-out chair on the Ellipse, listening to the redundancy of graduation speeches and talk of “that war” and “that day in September,” but basking in the glorious knowledge that I am finally done, academically-speaking. I have spent the last three years (I came here in my sophomore year) receiving a great education, and I really cannot complain. GW has treated me well.
For it was also on this same day that a letter came to me from that lovely administrative service known as the Student Accounts Office, which tortured me so cruelly my sophomore year when I wasn’t allowed to register because of a misplaced student loan. The office which, semester after semester, tries to sneak in that slippery “voluntary” library fee like a driver trying to beat a red light. They think you will not see it, you will just go straight to the bottom line where your total payment is listed like a punch in the face – but so is the price of a higher education.
This time, I owed a fee that I thought I had already paid for – that’s right, the $100 graduation application fee.
I am outraged. They are withholding my diploma like a corrupt policeman in Mexico City, insisting that I pay for a service I already paid for. So I demand to know from this administration – what exactly does this pay for? The ink with which to print my name on my diploma? The folding chairs on the lawn? Governor Warner? Why am I paying for my own ceremony? Isn’t this the reward we are granted for spending a six-figure sum the past four years?
And then, just when you are wondering if GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and his construction cronies can line their pockets even further, along comes the cap and gown fee. $32.95 for a cardboard hat that I will never wear again, and a gown that serves no other purpose. “But you get to keep it!” The GW Bookstore lady tells me excitedly. Great, perfect for a night out at Lulu’s!
This year, when my parents come for my graduation, I plan to give them the grand tour. Nope, not the monuments … the “this is how they screw you in an uncomfortable place” tour. First stop, the Marvin Center lobby, with its ostentatious yet cheap-looking gold column and huge empty, but elegant, spaces. Yes, we paid all this money for a big hallway. I just wish that big dumb inflatable basketball was still there so I could show them that scam as well.
So this is my last proposal, and my advice for next year’s class of graduating seniors, and also the incoming freshman: find out where your money is going. Look into it – create some kind of accountability. Don’t put up with this nonsense anymore about this fee and that fee that you must pay.
And don’t pay that “voluntary” library fee.
-The writer is a senior majoring in international affairs.
This article appeared in the April 21, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.