Some love it, others avoid it like the plague.
Why is there a mixed opinion of the Mount Vernon Campus, why do some embrace the little GW located on Foxhall Road northwest of Georgetown, and why do some hate it?
The University acquired the former women’s college in 1998 and now houses more than 400 mostly freshman residents there. Just a 15-minute shuttle ride – except during rush-hour traffic – this quiet campus can be a relaxing getaway from the sirens of Foggy Bottom or a headache to students traveling between the two campuses.
The University is trying its hardest to paint the best picture possible of what is commonly referred to as “the Vern.” Renovations include 10 tennis courts added last year, increased Colonial Cash partners on and near the campus and plans to construct a new residence hall.
“We’re always trying to make it better and better,” said Fred Siegel, associate vice president and dean of freshmen, who lives on Mount Vernon.
Despite the University’s efforts to make the Vern as appealing as possible, even people who enjoy living there have complaints. Students commonly cite the shuttle ride and lack of dining options as major inconveniences.
University officials said the shuttles have a near-perfect track record, but there have been five accidents over the last year. Siegel pointed out a 19 percent increase in shuttle passengers last year. The buses sustained two fires and one accident in which a bus overran a retaining wall; no one was injured in the accidents.
The shuttle’s inconsistent schedule and traffic delays are major complaints. Buses run continuously during weekdays, and every 15 minutes after 7 p.m. and on weekends. Some students complain that the vehicles are often late, plagued by long lines and do not stick to their schedule.
“Sometimes it leaves early, sometimes it leaves late, they really run on their own schedule,” said sophomore Nate Loehr, who lived on Mount Vernon last year.
“It’s only 15 minutes – if you catch it at the right time,” said Larry Cohen, a sophomore who took three classes at Mount Vernon last year. Cohen said he was on the shuttle for as much as 30 minutes during rush-hour traffic.
Loehr’s other major complaint was the lack of dining options on the Vern.
The University also shut down the popular Sunday morning all you-can-eat brunch that was served in the Ames dining hall. Other renovations replaced the Pub, a miniature supermarket with a prepared food bar.
“They never should have renovated it,” Loehr said. “They only made it worse, not being able to buy fresh food to make really made it more of an inconvenience.”
Siegel said the University is expanding Colonial Cash venues near the campus to increase students’ options. Nearby CVS and Cr?me de la Cr?me now accept GWorld, and Jetties, a popular sandwich shop near campus, will soon be a Colonial Cash vendor, Siegel said.
A full day’s worth of activities at this summer’s Colonial Inauguration will be held on Mount Vernon in an effort to showcase GW’s second campus.
“This is the year we said, ‘we really want to make this a part of orientation,'” Siegel said. “We market the campus as a place to do activities, so we want to show freshmen all the opportunities.”
“Some people at CI on Mount Vernon will understand, ‘Wow, I can
take a shuttle ten minutes to watch a soccer game,'” Siegel said.
The unexpectedly large class of 2008 forced the University to house a number of students on the alternate campus even though it was not their first choice.
“We try to honor freshmen’s housing wishes as best we can,” Siegel said. “Almost all of (the class of 2009 Mount Vernon residents) will have chosen it either first or second on their list. This is due to a more manageable freshman class as well as a growing preference for the Vern.
Sophomore Emily Geise lived on Mount Vernon last school year because she said the Community Living and Learning Center lost her housing application. She said living on the Vern had advantages and disadvantages.
“For me, being in a small community was nice,” said Geise, who went to a small high school.
“Sometimes the shuttle got annoying,” said Geise, who took the shuttle almost every morning to get to Foggy Bottom for crew practice.
Some students said they enjoy the quaintness of the Mount Vernon Campus, especially to escape the commotion of the main campus.
Zachary Maurin, a junior, lives on Foggy Bottom but regularly goes to the Vern to study and socialize with friends.
“In talking to some people, they think that going to Mount Vernon for class or whatever else is too vexing, but really it is quite accommodating and well worth the short ride over there,” Maurin said.
He added the shuttle ride to the Vern’s athletic fields is more convenient than walking down to the Mall to play soccer.