The class of 2006’s last year at GW included the usual mix of scandals, new University initiatives and student complaints. The following is a roundup of some of the important issues that affected members of the GW community during the past academic year.
Classes began in September with a buzz surrounding the dismissal of Michael Schaffer, a professor of a popular human sexuality class. Initial speculation about his departure pointed to a negative evaluation written by a female student. The University later agreed to meet with Schaffer and explained that his dismissal was due to the easy nature of his class and not its subject matter.
Another imbroglio unfolded in mid-November, when Student Association President Audai Shakour denied allegations that he sexually harassed a female student. Student Judicial Services cleared Shakour in January, but the controversy stalled the SA for a few months and contributed to its inefficacy.
Earlier in November, the SA failed to pass an increase in the student fee, and Shakour’s highly publicized student Web portal was completed months late with an $11,000 price tag. In addition, a nitpicky debate over the organization’s constitution consumed the SA. The election of Lamar Thorpe and Josh Lasky to the SA’s top posts, however, has the potential to buck some of this trend toward failure.
University intrusion into students’ lives also marked the past year. In October, the Community Living and Learning Center contracted an outside company to conduct health and safety inspections in residence hall rooms and authorized the confiscation of prohibited items. In the past, Community Facilitators conducted these checks, and students were able to send prohibited items, such as candles and halogen lamps, back home.
CLLC also abandoned a database that CFs used to track student behavior after the existence of the database was reported to The Hatchet.
In December, a report revealed that the University Counseling Center was considering sharing information from private student sessions with administrators. The University’s counseling system took another hit in March, when a former student sued numerous officials after GW removed him from housing and barred him from campus because of confidential information he shared with a counselor. This year, University concerns over liability seemed to trump concerns for student privacy.
Even so, there were some bright spots for students this year. CLLC announced they will designate next year’s dorms by class and re-tool CF positions to reflect the needs of each class of students. These actions are positive steps to provide students with more independence and a favorable dorm experience.
In another positive move for students last month, the University announced that Sodexho will replace Aramark as GW’s official food provider. The new contract could mitigate student complaints about Aramark’s poor service. Also, proposed bar and restaurant in the Hippodrome might transform the Marvin Center into more of a true student union.
On the academic front, GW made some significant decisions. In addition to initial planning for a four-class, four-credit system that could create a more rigorous curriculum if adopted, administrators pledged to make the University Honors Program more selective.
With these gains came certain losses – administrators are making plans to make up for an $8.2 million budget gap this month, and the University filed a lawsuit to block the unionization of adjunct professors in January. Regardless of their necessity, these measures definitely create a negative perception in current students of GW’s academic priorities.
President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s announcement in April that he will retire after next year and become a professor overshadowed the rest of the school year. Trachtenberg’s contributions to this school were invaluable; it will be a challenge to find a leader as capable as he was.