Gabriel Okolski: Cutting music hurts GW

The “we-pay-$45,000-a-year-to-go-here-and-we-don’t-get-(insert personal wish here)” argument is inevitable at a school with such a high tuition. As a salty upperclassman, I have heard this line of reasoning many times, but have never used it myself. Now, however, it’s my turn to use this tired phrase about something that is really pissing me off.

This isn’t an issue that is affecting just me, but a number of students on campus. Over the past few weeks, the Music Department announced that it will be forced to cut beginner instruction in piano, and that registration for these classes will be put off until next year’s program is finalized (see “Cuts could hurt Music,” p. 1). Seems to me, and others in the department, that even bigger changes are coming, most likely the restriction of performance instruction to music majors or minors.

I am, of course, opposed to the potential widespread nature of these cuts, but I understand why they are happening: the University needs to balance its budget. I know that’s exactly what they need to facilitate an ambitious construction plan in the near future, but I think administrators are looking to the wrong place to balance the books.

When I signed up to come here, I expected a holistic liberal arts education. What could be more central to this sort of curriculum than one of the most highly valued arts of the ancient Greeks and Romans? The Columbian College’s emphasis on liberal arts is evidenced in my general curriculum requirements, which require me to take three credits of a creative or performing art. If the music program is gored, then a student’s ability to fulfill this requirement, and maybe even grow as a person, is severely hampered. Personally, I would have taken classical piano over interpretive dance any day.

What really frustrates me, however, is the fact that music is a highly popular program here. Though I could get no official comment from the department, several instructors told me that the demand for introductory lessons in piano, voice and other instruments is huge. Why is the University cutting a program that has waiting lists to get into? I don’t want to condemn any department, but I find it hard to believe that music is the prime candidate for downsizing.

Non-music students should care about the cuts in the Music Department. It is an attack on a true liberal arts education, and anyone studying fields such as philosophy, literature or fine arts should watch out. GW may indeed be looking to distinguish itself as a school for a specialized education in politics, journalism or other D.C.-centric fields, but if this is the case, the University should not be branding itself as a place for an overarching education.

If the University is indeed committed to a liberal arts focus, then there are some things that can be done. Why not do away with such luxuries as housekeeping for freshmen (which only ensures a messier room in later years), a program paying to put newspapers in dorms when they can be read for free online; or plasma TV screens that seem to be fornicating and multiplying while we aren’t looking? Why not simply charge students who want to take music lessons a little bit extra? I know I would surely be willing to pay.

I’m not naive enough to think that GW will scale back its development plans; administrators should refocus their priorities. The paper-pushers at the Columbian College may disagree with me on this, but there must be plenty of areas that cuts and readjustments can be made to ensure that the music program will face less of a downsizing than the one that is already looming. I think the problem is that music is not a priority, and it should be, since it represents an ideal that many students have a stake in. This is why I have no problem using the “we-pay-$45,000-to-go-here” complaint in this case, but don’t think that you will catch me using it ever again.

-The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.