Column: America’s University

You may love America. You may also love this University. Although I love both, GW can be as dysfunctional as the U.S. government. Like America, we are so aware of what makes us superior and exclusive that some of the most basic needs of our community are left out to dry. Tremendous expenditures on administrative pay raises are not appropriate while entire academic departments are begging for necessary classroom facilities and equipment. The latest budget cuts will ensure students will feel the pinch, especially as tuition continues to rise. Hopefully this year the administration is getting paid enough to make it all better. Let’s hope that some of those resources will trickle down to students. Could President Trachtenberg be getting financial advice from President Bush?

I wonder if Student Judicial Services is consulting with John Ashcroft at the Justice Department. Although there are campus rules for behavior and punishment, SJS has virtually unlimited latitude. Prescribed procedures can be overridden, punishments can be created and almost anything can be interpreted as a violation. SJS combs the Web looking for incriminating pictures of students posted by their friends. Everything you do on campus and anywhere off campus is under possible SJS scrutiny and investigation. There is no reason that GW’s disciplinary system should claim such ridiculous jurisdiction; they are not the FBI.

SJS is taking advantage of its tremendous power to go after student organizations. I question GW’s dedication to Greek-letter life because fraternities and sororities are regularly kicked off campus or placed on probation. GW advertises that campus is pro-Greek because being anti-Greek is bad for admissions. In reality, supporting Greek-letter life means more than building Townhouse Row. Greek-letter life should be diverse so students can have a real choice. SJS policies support Greek-letter life only to ensure the strangulation and the eventual removal of every Greek-letter house not owned by GW. Policies toward fraternities and sororities should reflect the spirit of a learning environment. Regulating citizen behavior is the job of government, not educators.

The U.S. government and the GW Student Association share a tendency toward financial scandal. Last year, the administration agreed to a full financial audit and examination of all SA records and allocations. This measure was needed after tens of thousands of dollars of money for student organizations went missing. In a separate incident, student money was stolen and used by members of the SA Senate to get drunk. Last year, SA President Kris Hart worked hard to get the administration’s support in hiring professionals to look into the exposed financial problems. Senator Ben Traverse led the fight in the Senate calling for a financial investigation. At first, administrators supported the audit. But the whole thing was called off before the plans could be implemented. It is a shame that a united student leadership was not enough to convince administrators to act on behalf of students. Washington, D.C. is already too full of empty promises.

Students at GW should not be the secondary consideration for campus decisions. The trends should move toward more independence, resources and trust for students. The good news is that SA President Omar Woodard is doing his best to reach out to the student body. Ben Traverse is back in the Senate as Chair of the Rules Committee and has made clear his intention to pursue financial reform within the Student Association. Senator Peter Feldman is forming a caucus to organize Senators to fight for pro-Greek policies. But student leaders can only be effective if they have the support of the people that they speak for. As students become aware and begin to stand up for themselves, the student voice can become a major force on campus.

Campus decision-makers are not malicious, just out of touch. The administration believes that they know what is best for students, better than we know ourselves. An open academic environment includes the freedom to make a mistake and learn from it. Students and administrators can and should work together and communicate to make the student body feel like the priority on campus. It is time to leave financial shenanigans, authoritative law enforcement, and empty talk to the U.S. government. That way GW can have more time and more resources to build classrooms, hire full-time faculty and listen to students. GW is a fabulous place to go to school. We should stop emulating America and focus on being a great University.

-The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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