First and foremost, this will be my last column on this issue. I already feel as if this is a dead horse, but everyone who has written to me has wanted me to have a final word on the topic.
During my conversation with President Trachtenberg and Special Assistant Gerald Kauvar earlier this week, we discussed many issues including my original gripe about GW’s drop in rankings in my last column. Yet again, I was told the same line about how rankings “are all nonsense” and how they are “irrelevant.” I asked President Trachtenberg to go detail on the topic, especially in light of his statement that his top two priorities are the “interests of the students and faculty” and his acknowledgement that students do care about the ranking.
“The fact of the matter is that rational students understand the difference between 51st and 52nd is irrelevant. Do they care? Sure, I care too. I would always rather be higher up than lower up. I’d like to be first rather than second; I’d like to be second rather than third. Why wouldn’t I? But what I’m saying is – it doesn’t make any difference.”
He referred to the year that the California Institute of Technology was ranked first and the following year when it dropped to 12th. “Did they go and burn the buildings down? Did they do something terrible in the intervening year? No. Someone pointed out to the U.S. News and World Report people that the California Institute of Technology is a boutique institution that teaches very elite and sophisticated sciences and it’s not a generic institution that you compare to the other universities in the pool.”
He went on to note that as a result of the system that U.S. News uses, some universities rig the rankings; for example, by asking every alumni to donate at least one dollar in an attempt to boost a schools ranking in terms of percentage of alumni donating. He asked me if I would like to “turn over control to the U.S. News report.”
I couldn’t argue that GW should be run according to what is best for GW as judged by people who work and study here. Despite that, I had to question if President Trachtenberg cares more about the people here now, or the people who will attend in years to come.
President Trachtenberg’s response was that he didn’t think the two were severable. “I think you have to play each ball game starting with inning one and working your way through. The second inning doesn’t start before the first inning.” In the words of SA President Omar Woodard, “You have to always plan for the future, but now is paying the tuition. Not 10 years from now.” This ties into another issue that was brought up.
While it may be the largest among D.C. universities – including Georgetown – GW’s endowment is relatively small in comparison to the nation’s top schools. President Trachtenberg stated this in his explanation of how he has a limited supply of money to work with. Maybe if he did separate current students from future students, current students would be more willing to give back money once they became former students.
Current students are the ones providing him a job that pays over half a million dollars a year and a home valued at over $2 million. President Trachtenberg, knowing that current students have no influence over that, seems to sometimes forget it. He states that “a student on Monday, who gets a degree on Tuesday, doesn’t forget everything they knew about being a student on Wednesday.”
Well, President Trachtenberg, a student who feels you are ignoring him on Monday, and who remembers that on Wednesday, isn’t going to cough up money on Thursday. If you want to get money from us when we graduate, you need to start considering how we feel about you while we’re here.
When I spoke to you, you did an excellent job justifying things you’ve caught a lot of flak for over the last year. I may even one day give money to GW now that I understand why you do what you do. If you want the same from my fellow students, you’d better start communicating a whole lot better.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.