If the Student Association had its way, a student representative participating in Friday’s GW Board of Trustees meeting would have been treated to talk of the weather, student fashion at the inaugural ball and praise for a member’s Australian outback hat.
Chairman Charles Manatt opened the meeting on the chilly and windy day by reminding the board that last year’s winter meeting was one of the nastiest days of 2004. He also praised a brown hat adorned with Alligator skin leather brought in by board member Patricia Gurne.
There were more serious matters on last week’s docket that dealt directly with the management and health of the University. Besides deciding on a 5 percent tuition increase for sophomores and juniors, the board was told about some vacant senior academic posts and heard reports from SA President Omar Woodard and men’s basketball coach Karl Hobbs.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg told the 35-member body about the overall state of the University, and the search for deans for the Law School and Elliott School of International Affairs. The law school’s top position has been vacant since last spring. Elliott School Dean Harry Harding announced his intention last month to leave his position at the end of the semester.
“Vice President (for Academic Affairs Donald) Lehman had the first candidate for a two-hour interview,” said Trachtenberg, referring to the Law School search. “If the rest of the candidates are at his caliber, the search is going to be a devil of a pickle.”
Trachtenberg added that the committee searching for a new dean of the international affairs school has some interesting prospects lined up. He conceded that the group looking for a School of Media and Public Affairs director, a position that has been vacant for about a year, has not been able to find attractive candidates.
“Vice President Lehman has asked professor (and interim SMPA Director Steven) Livingston, who is conducting the search, to go back and double up on his efforts,” he said.
Trachtenberg managed to lighten the mood by commenting on how well dressed the student body appeared at GW’s January inaugural ball.
“Between the beginning of the party and the end I fell in love 32 times,” said Trachtenberg, who added that it was nice to see students “out of those boring jeans.”
Beyond the usual mix of administrative business and occasional banter among board members, Woodard spoke to the governing body about having student representation on the Board of Trustees, a cause that has been championed by several SA senators. Trachtenberg and Manatt have come out against the proposal.
“I believe that shared governance is one of the most important aspects of the University,” Woodard said. “We need an active relationship with students and the Board of Trustees.”
In his 15-minute address, which ran 13 minutes longer than the traditional amount of speaking time that SA presidents are traditionally afforded, Woodard thanked the University for allocating $2.3 million to residence hall renovations. Woodard started a residence hall renewal project last year that seeks to improve aging residence halls and fix recurring problems in the University’s housing system.
The board’s normal routine was punctuated by an energetic speech from Hobbs, who said he was proud to promote the University. He called on trustees to look into an academic facility exclusively for student-athletes.
“I want to truly develop an academic center for our athletes,” Hobbs said. “So that when a parent walks in there, they just say, ‘Wow. There is a strong commitment to student-athletes here.'”
The newly appointed vice president for advancement, Laurel Price Jones, also spoke to the board, saying that she plans to secure an “eight-figure gift” for the University. Officials hope Jones can jumpstart GW’s fund-raising efforts and amass an endowment comparable to its peer institutions.
“I’m not someone who spends a lot of time thinking, planning, talking,” she said. “I’m not going to wait to act on all the prospects sitting in front of us right now.”