Our view: The University must balance long term growth with educational quality for current GW students.
This semester, GW students have felt the pinch of a University-wide classroom shortage. Forced to sit in chairs without tables – and even on the floor – students in some of the University’s most popular departments have voiced concerns that the current classroom situation is negatively affecting their academic performance. As long as the University continues to require students take courses such as Spanish – in which the classroom shortage is among the most acute – it must adequately factor classroom space into any future plans for University development.
While embarking on an ambitious construction plan, the University has left itself in a precarious position. This year – as part of the construction of the new Ric and Dawn Duques Hall for the School of Business – the University decided to renovate Funger Hall as well. Given the high volume of classes held in Funger in the past, the loss of classroom space left the University in need to develop a manner in which a full course load could be accommodated using the remainder of the University’s classroom space. This reality forced the University into using smaller classrooms in other buildings to accommodate similar-sized classes they offered before Funger was no longer available. Not coincidentally, this reality hit the University’s most popular programs – such as political science and international affairs – the hardest.
This page recognizes that while new facilities are built, and others are renovated, there will no doubt be a temporary shortage in classroom space. This fact, however, should not absolve the University administration from the need to adequately balance the need to improve its facilities for the long term, and the requirement to provide a quality education for its current students in the short term. If the University wishes to continue requiring that students take foreign languages as part of their graduation requirements in several University schools, it must provide the proper facilities to fulfill this expectation.
As the University examines the impact a lack of classroom space has on its foreign language departments, it must also recognize that the departments themselves are drastically under-funded. Privately, many professors lament the level of funding for popular languages at the University and the impact it has on the hiring of qualified professors. The University must recognize that the international orientation of many students at GW dictates a strong demand for quality foreign language instruction. While this page understands that financial realities associated with construction and the relatively small stature of its endowment add additional challenges to funding all aspects of the University, GW must assess where its budget priorities lie and fund them appropriately. If the University wishes to assert itself as a leader in the field of international affairs it must adequately address the quality of its foreign language programs, both in its professors and the ability to accommodate demand for such programs.
In preparing for the future growth of the University, it might be easier to discount the quality of instruction in the near-term. It is imperative, however, that administration officials recognize the need to ensure students studying in popular University programs both have quality professors as well as sufficient classroom space. Doing so will guarantee that future classes at GW will benefit from construction projects while maintaining a high quality of education at GW for students enrolled right now.