University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said Friday he wants to cancel the May Monumental graduation ball to help pay for a Commencement ceremony that could cost $150,000 more than it has in previous years.
The announcement, which was made at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, comes nearly a month after the National Park Service confirmed that the Ellipse would not be available for the May 21 graduation ceremony. Trachtenberg called for the cancellation of the annual graduation party held in Union Station in an effort to offset the increased costs for Commencement; the cancellation is not yet final.
The University is planning on holding the University-wide graduation ceremony on the Mall in an area between 4th and 7th streets in front of the Capitol building.
Board members also participated in an ongoing discussion of the possibility of instituting a four-by-four course program, in which students would take four courses worth four credits each, rather than the traditional three-credit, five-course system. Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman will be taking trips to schools such as Tufts University in suburban Boston to research the implementation of a four-by-four system at GW.
The board also announced that since last year, the number of doctoral programs offered at the University has decreased from 52 to 34. More than $1.5 million will be given to the top five most popular doctoral programs. Cynthia Baker, the chair of the board’s Student Affairs Committee, also commented on the success of the University Writing program.
Baker announced that “eight to 10” suicide attempts have been recorded at the University this academic year, and 35 students are on a high monitoring system through the University Counseling Center. She did not say how many students attempted suicide in previous years. Three students have taken their own lives since February 2004.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees Charles Manatt also announced that a new financial assistant would be hired by the University to monitor spending of top University administrators, including Trachtenberg (see SPENDING, p. 1). Manatt said the adviser would be in place by the board’s next meeting in February.
The Board of Trustees, which meets three times per academic year, allows only the Student Association president and select members of the media to attend their meetings. SA President Audai Shakour, a senior, walked into the meeting on the seventh floor of 1957 E St. building with SA Executive Vice President Morgan Corr, a junior. Corr was going to advocate for student representation on the Board of Trustees but was asked to leave the meeting and was escorted out. After Corr’s departure, Shakour made no mention of the student representation issue in his five-minute speech to trustees.
On Thursday, Corr made a presentation to the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee arguing for student representation on the University’s highest governing body. Baker said she was impressed by the presentation and “is open to the idea” of student representation, after Friday’s meeting.
But Manatt said the body’s governing documents prohibit a student or faculty member from sitting on the board and said the group’s bylaws would have to be amended to allow such representation. He would not say if he supports representation, though he came out against the idea last year.
Trachtenberg, who is a non-voting member of the board, said he does not believe students should have representation on the board.
“The current balance for GW is working very well,” Trachtenberg said after the meeting. “Because the balance is working well it is not useful to compare our system to other state institutions that give representation.”
Trachtenberg said the board does not function as a congress with proportional representation of different factions among the University, and said putting a student on the Board of Trustees would create a snowball effect where faculty and staff would then call for representation.
“The role of the board is that of a superego,” he said, “that of a guiding star.