Column: Don’t blame Gelman

I am writing in response to an op/ed published in Monday’s Hatchet entitled “Graduation – just another fee” (April 21 p. 5). That editorial, penned by a graduating senior who was understandably disgruntled to learn that she would have to pay a $100 fee to graduate, implied that the Gelman Library System doesn’t do enough to show students how their $50 voluntary library fee is spent. I strongly object to this claim and hope to clarify the library’s perspective.

As you know, each semester you have the option to contribute $50 to the library via your tuition bill. The fee, which is listed at the bottom of your bill accompanied by a box that can be unchecked in the event that you choose not to contribute to the library, is often perceived by students to be “sneaky.”

For the record, Gelman Library does not choose the method by which this fee is administered and has gone to great lengths in the past to persuade the University administration to alter its method of applying the fee. The voluntary library fee has been a part of the tuition bill in its current context since GW President Steven Joel Trachtenberg took over this fine institution so many moons ago. Complaints about the “slippery” and “sneaky” method of applying this fee should be directed to that administration.

More importantly, I would like to clarify for the students who do contribute how that money is spent. As of April 21, the library had spent $177,631 on improvements to its information technology services. This includes more than 25 new computers for the first floor, brand new public printers for the entire library and the necessary software and licenses to make these machines do the things that students need them to do.

Next, the library has spent $193,535 on the salaries of Gelman’s employees. These funds are primarily dedicated to the Gelman Library Advancement Team, which has secured more than a million dollars in donations to the library’s endowment, $200,000 will be used for the installation of a cafe on the library’s first floor and $100,000 is for an electronic classroom where you may soon be learning how to conduct research. By my calculations, that’s a $1.3 million return that will directly benefit students on a $193,535 investment of student funds. That’s not too bad.

Finally, inflation causes the cost of books and journals to rise by 7 percent each year. Meanwhile, the budget designated by the University to sustain the library’s collections is somewhere near 4-5 percent. Thus, Gelman used $60,237 of the voluntary library fund to keep its purchasing power up to par and ultimately keep the books and journals you need on the shelves. These are the primary expenditures this year, which have been funded by your $50 library gifts.

My job as Gleman’s student liaison is to make sure the students are informed about matters such as this. The aforementioned expenditures are published and posted in the library lobby year round and comments and questions regarding its use are always encouraged. I do my best to make this information widely known but apparently I have not made it clear enough what a vital resource the voluntary library fee is to Gelman. I am not here to defend the nature of how this fee appears on your tuition bill. In fact, as a student, I’ll be the first to point out that the term “voluntary fee” is a blatant paradox. However, if students withhold their fee I guarantee that they will soon see a dramatic decrease in the services and resources provided by the Gelman Library.

-The writer, a senior majoring in philosophy, is the Gelman Library student liaison.

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