University officials recently announced their intention to build a new residence hall on the Mount Vernon Campus. While the specific bed count of the new facility has yet to be disclosed, any significant addition to the Mount Vernon Campus will impact the demographic balance between students living in Foggy Bottom and those living on “the Vern.” Given a potential housing crunch and a continuing acute classroom shortage, this page understands the University’s interest in further developing Mount Vernon. In doing so, however, the administration is making yet another business decision without fully addressing the negative impacts on student life.
By all accounts, Mount Vernon is a beautiful place and GW has taken a number of steps to make it more accessible to students. The trouble is that students attracted to GW are not drawn by Mount Vernon, but rather its location in the heart of Washington, D.C. When accepted, most students don’t even know about the Mount Vernon Campus – it is strangely absent from most University advertising literature and certainly not what is meant when contended, “Something happens here.” While some students choose to live on Mount Vernon, many more are forced to live there – an increasing number of them rising sophomores. Although it has been the focus of serious development, student life on Mount Vernon is simply inadequate for a burgeoning population that could reach over 1,000 students soon.
The Vern boasts impressive athletic facilities, but much of its student life infrastructure is inadequate for its current group of students, much less several hundred more. Events held on the campus draw small crowds. It has too few dining options and too few convenient Colonial Cash partners to offset it. Isolating a thousand or more students on Mount Vernon while encouraging them to take classes there will further segregate two populations that already know very little about one another.
The decision to further develop Mount Vernon makes sense from a University operating perspective. It could, however, have potentially far reaching effects on student life at GW. Before relegating a large number of more students to Mount Vernon, the University must ensure it is able to cater to quality of life issues for the people paying money to come to the school as advertised.