Walking off of the elevator on the third floor, I thought I had fallen down the rabbit hole. Swirling flamboyant carpeting, expensive conference rooms and not a student to be seen. In the bathroom, two men in “nice” suits were talking business while they fixed their hair. I knew that I was not in friendly territory – my entrance prompted silence and a pair of dirty looks. I interrupted something important and they were offended. It all looked more like an Atlantic City convention facility than a student center. Pathetic as it may sound, GW does not have a student union. Even more pathetic, the Marvin Center is the closest thing we do have.
Rest assured, the University plans to allow students to use the Marvin Center for the foreseeable future. Campus decision-makers are only going to remove students from non-profitable parts of the Marvin Center. You see, the Marvin Center operates on its own budget. Personally, I could not think of a better system for ensuring that profit remains a higher priority than the student body. Maybe we could hire Riggs Bank to help us improve efficiency and profitability. I even know somebody that works there.
The good news is that Jewish and Muslim students were not allowed to take over the Hippodrome. Instead of flipping their collars and shutting their mouths, these finicky students demanded a place on campus to eat “Kosher” and “Hallel” food. Instead of caving to these religious fanatics, the University remained firm in their dedication to making more money. One plan in the works is to expand the conference facilities into the Hippodrome. Although a bad thing for students, this is great news for random dudes in suits.
One of the biggest problems in the Marvin Center is student organizations constantly want to use the space to learn, study and organize. When students are always using Marvin Center facilities, GW can’t rent the space out for profit. That is why student organizations are not allowed to bring their own food to events. If an event is held in the Marvin Center, a student group is required to use Marvin Center catering. Unlike administrators, student organizations cannot afford to meet while eating expensive catered food. What a fabulous way to discourage student organizations from having events in the Marvin Center.
Much has been made of the construction of new J Street venues. Personally, I will reserve judgment on how everything looks until we know what the ceiling looks like. Much more disturbing than the slow construction progress is GW’s obsession with finding food venues students will like. Claiming love of the student body as their motive, Aramark was forced into renovating the Marvin Center because students were eating off campus in droves. J Street was losing money, so things changed, and they changed fast. Do not expect GW to respond so rapidly when it comes to the needs of student organizations and religious individuals on campus. GW has let these problems fester for years because fixing them is not profitable.
If it offends you deeply that GW would cut entire academic departments while spending lavishly on carpet, you are out of touch with the administration. Academia and student life are obsolete priorities. Watching and listening to campus leaders, I know the truth. Convention space, “Crossfire” and Aramark represent the new face of education. Detractors that argue GW needs a student union are nothing but whiny brats. We should leave the improvement of academic departments and student life to top-tier universities. We are better off keeping our eyes on the ball. Let us never forget: cash is king.
-The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.