Kyle Spector: Remember the small stuff

As the class of 2006 faced their last final exams this week and last, there was a noticeable lack of pristine study space available. For students, a lack of physical space to study in can have a significant impact on their perception of GW’s educational quality.

Some intrepid students took up finals residence to study in GW’s best locales – the new business school or 1957 E Street – only to find themselves evicted when the buildings closed. Relegated back to the noise and overcrowding of Gelman Library, these students are sure to wonder why accommodations can’t be made to allow them to study somewhere else.

And so it goes every year. Gelman library fills up past capacity with over-caffeinated students, many of whom are using their roommate’s Adderall prescription to stay up the entire night to finish that last paper. Those lucky enough to get a group study room hunker down for what amounts to modern-day trench warfare – afraid to give up an inch of their study space, lest their academic rivals overtake it. Freshmen who cannot study in overcrowded Thurston must go to Gelman, where they are likely to find the same loud and obnoxious classmates that they were trying to avoid in the first place.

As students advance through their time at GW, their tolerance for insufficient study and learning environments only diminishes.

Too often, the physical space for academic success at GW just isn’t available, and students notice. During each of my six semesters at GW, I was in at least one classroom wholly inadequate for either the amount of students or the type of instruction in the course. Some of my classmates learned about international political theory while perched atop a table rather than a desk, and others tried to soak up the intricacies of international finance while sitting on the ground in a room that seemed to be breaking some kind of fire code.

I am not one to join the chorus of those decrying the administration for a lack of focus on academic excellence. In fact, changes this year to the Honors program and the recommendation to move to a four-by-four curriculum show some University commitment to improve its academic reputation.

For broader future issues of academic excellence, there are no easy answers. Giving current students the best possible experience with available resources, however, is an easy task.

With the reopening of Funger Hall and the addition of the Duqu?s Hall, classroom schedulers should have a little more space to work with to ensure that students are meeting in classrooms commensurate with their needs. GW officials should also seriously consider 24-hour access during midterms and finals to study areas in newer buildings as an alternative to Gelman. Surely, the costs of extra UPD patrols to police these areas are well worth the investment in positive perceptions about GW.

As the most recent GW alumni receive their diplomas, it is likely that many of them will look back to their four years at GW with a great sense of pride – a time when they were able to explore their own limits and push themselves socially, professionally and academically. It is just as likely, however, that many graduates will remember sitting on the floor during a lecture because of inadequate classrooms, or being kicked out of the brand new business school at midnight while studying for their last final exam.

Not everything that the administration does to affect the quality of education at GW has to be a broad or fundamental change. Sometimes, it’s the small things that matter most.

-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is the Hatchet’s senior opinions editor.

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