No matter what changes are made to J Street and no matter how many offices are given to student groups, it is abundantly clear that the Marvin Center is not and will never be a true student union. Constructed decades ago, the center was not built to handle the explosive growth of the student population in the past few years. Accompanying the population growth has been a significant expansion of diverse student organizations with one common need – space in which to operate. In this respect, the Marvin Center is not an adequate student union. To address this issue, GW needs to make a concerted effort to provide more space for student groups and streamline the process for finding meeting space.
According to a University report from last year, thousands of requests for space in the Marvin Center go unfulfilled each year. A majority of the requests, for 7 p.m. or later, are desperately needed for student groups to meet at a time agreeable with the busy work and class schedules of their members.
Because of GW’s location in downtown D.C., it is not likely that there will ever be a significant amount of extra open space available on campus for groups to use. In recent years, however, a variety of new buildings – the School of Media and Public Affairs, the Elliott school, and soon the School of Business – have opened on campus. The classrooms and other rooms in these buildings provide great venues for student groups. While many of them are available for use, the process to request the rooms is difficult and varied for each venue.
A major goal of the University’s Strategic Plan for Academic Excellence is the improvement of student life. One tangible way to accomplish this goal is to take a more liberal approach in the allocation of University space to students.
All University spaces – including the Marvin Center, classrooms and conference rooms – must be viewed as potential meeting areas. To complement an expansion of available space, the University must streamline the process for acquiring space.
Marvin Center scheduling should turn into a one-stop location for students to request meeting space. To accomplish this, the available space around campus could be logged into a database run out of the Marvin Center scheduling office. Such a database would serve students without impeding the University’s ability to rent out space to private groups for profit.
Private groups could still approach the Marvin Center, Elliott School or other buildings to rent out rooms. Students, however, would go to one location to check for the availability of space anywhere from a Phillips Hall classroom to the Alumni House. Then, requests from students could be logged into the system accessible by the various locations participating in space allocation. Such a system would both simplify the process for students to utilize more space and provide the officials in charge of renting out space a clearer picture of how much space students need.
The University has made a serious effort to improve student life on campus. While this has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of student groups and events, these groups are being stifled by a lack of areas in which to operate.
A real student union is not feasible with the space and financial concerns involved at GW. In light of this, the University must be willing to make a real effort to accommodate the needs of a burgeoning student population by viewing the entire campus as one large inter-connected student union.