The University administration is poised to consider a policy that will have as much impact on student life as anything proposed since GW’s inception. The proposed switch to a mandatory summer session for rising juniors could mean any number of things for students at GW. While this change has the potential to drastically improve a GW education, these potential benefits will be discounted by students so long as they feel powerless to voice their concerns.
To any student interested in learning more about the proposed switch, a long path lays ahead. Sifting through the committee’s 37-page report and dozens of pages of appendices is an arduous task. While the entire document is a challenge to understand, the section about the potential impact on student life is especially vague. While there are a few pages devoted to “Student Issues,” only one paragraph considers the impact on student life. The rest of the section is devoted to the University’s concern of decreased student enrollment. This is unacceptable.
Perhaps the administration feels this report gives a comprehensive view of the potential impact on student life. Operating under this assumption, it would still be incredibly na?ve of the administration to think students would feel concerns directed to some faceless email address were being taken seriously. Students do not even know who might be reading these emails; whether it be an actual administrator or an administrative assistant.
While the Student Association’s Town Hall meeting with University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was a great start, more must be done to ensure a student voice in this process. Student Association President Kris Hart has said he and others spent their summer working tirelessly to make connections with the University administration. It is time to use those connections. President Hart must make it clear to the administration that the Nov. 1 deadline will not be enough time to address student concerns. Even if the administration will not change this deadline, the principle of this assertion is important.
While the SA currently has a committee working on formulating its position, the estimate on when this will become available to students is late October. This is not sufficient time for students to understand fully what is going on. Therefore the SA, or another group of students, must study in depth the impact on student life. This report, when finished, must be made widely available to the student body. It should provide students a more readable and understandable outline of the issues than that which is present in the current online report. It should address what is being proposed, what impact it would have on student life, and how to address the plethora of negative rumors circulating the student body.
After providing this resource, the SA must compel the administration to seriously address student reservations. The SA must compel administrators to open their offices to concerned students, and work collectively to build a mutually beneficial solution addressing collective issues and concerns. While the administration might contend that students can merely request a meeting at any time, this writer’s first hand experience suggests otherwise. Last year I tried repeatedly to have a meeting with GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. Three visits and one two-page letter later, I received nothing from the President’s office – no email, no phonecall. This is unacceptable. The administration, on a regular basis, must realize that its primary responsibility is to serve its students. After all, our tuition keeps this University running. By opening its offices, the administration will show it is serious about serving student needs.
While the mandatory summer session might solve many of GW’s problems, there are a number of concerns students have with its implementation. This proposal will not receive the approval of the student body unless the administration takes seriously the need for student empowerment in the decision process. While applying to college my high school English teacher instructed me to use active speech in my application essay; “Show, not tell,” she instructed. Now is the time for the administration to show the student body its intention to empower them in the decision-making process. Failing to do so will only further reduce the credibility of the University administration in student eyes.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet contributing editor.