I take my pack off my shoulders and have a seat at a sidewalk table. Someone places a menu in front of me. After discovering that all of the items are written in a language beyond my understanding, I simply point out a dish at random. The meal is a pleasant surprise, as is the price. With my backpack returned to its rightful place on my shoulders, I walk back down the cobblestone streets and continue on my journey to discover people and places yet unknown.
What you have just read is the summer of my daydreams. The actual story of my summer consists of about equal parts work and sloth. Long nights cleaning tables in a restaurant and longer hours in front of the tube are not quite the same as backpacking through Europe. At summer’s end, many of my friends expressed the same sentiment.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is perhaps the man who could have saved my summer. In 2003 he attempted to create a summer semester at GW, one that would have required all students to take an average of four three-credit courses for 10 weeks during the summer after their sophomore year. The plan never came to fruition, but in light of my summer experience I think the University should consider revisiting the idea of a summer semester.
This plan would not eliminate summer as we know it, nor would it take away any of the other vacations that provide a necessary break from the fast pace of time in school. While it may seem as if students are losing from a summer full of school, they would indeed win.
If the University were to mandate summer classes, it would provide extra value to students over what they already get during the year. The summer could be used partly as an introduction to courses within students’ major programs and could also pull together the various general education courses taken during the first two years of school. It would also be a good time to take lab classes, as there would be less competition for those facilities.
In addition, it would be great for me to be here next summer with the entire rising junior class. It would make it easier for departments to focus on the faculty for a specific demographic instead of choosing professors based on who is here over the summer. The result is a higher quality of education in a unique environment that may provide students with a different sort of learning experience.
Education is the ultimate goal, and this plan would allow administrators to admit more students while creating new courses without increasing class sizes. The 10-week session would also help GW take the next step up in prestige and attract an even more competitive group of students than in the past.
Many of the objections I can imagine coming from my peers would deal with valuable time that they wasted over the summer. The 10-week experience would allow ample time for vacation, and many students who work over the summer have that much free anyway. Above all, a summer semester would be an experience that could better students intellectually and give them a chance to experience D.C. over the summer that they may not otherwise have opted for.
How much longer can an academic calendar based on students being sent to work on their parents’ farms over the summer remain feasible? Summer classes may very well become a reality of the future, and GW should do what it can to remain ahead of the curve. We have little to gain by preserving an archaic system, and we should follow the advice and guidance of the University president who built GW to be what it is today.
–The writer is a junior majoring in international affairs.