Sam Salkin: Spread the faith, testify for GW

Monday night, I threw on a pair of khakis, a blazer and a power tie for the chance to do something that many at GW salivate over – testify in front of a Washington, D.C. government panel.

It wasn’t the Senate Judiciary Committee or the House Committee on International Relations. To be honest, it wasn’t even the Subcommittee on Livestock and Horticulture. Along with many other GW students, I headed to Judiciary Square to testify in front of the D.C. Zoning Commission on behalf of the University.

The overwhelming support from students, community members and alumni left the Zoning Board with more witnesses than they could handle, and they had no choice but to cut off the University’s testimony at 10:30. To be honest, I’m a little bummed out that I didn’t get to testify, but that isn’t what I’ll remember from this experience. What will stick with me is that my confidence in the University’s plan and the impact it will have on our campus, Foggy Bottom and the entire District of Columbia was enough to persuade me and a whole bunch of other students to miss out on the re-opening of the Superdome on “Monday Night Football” and the hit television show “Studio 60.”

It was great to see so many students participating, and proved to me that the often-touted epidemic of apathy among students isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. All I can hope for is that those students who remain indifferent to the campus plan consider the effects it will have on them.

What could possibly make more people willing to come out and testify or at least attend a hearing? Would another Starbucks on campus do it? How about turning the historic firehouse on G Street into a nightclub called “Five Alarm,” where the bartenders set drinks ablaze and wear fireman’s uniforms? Unfortunately, we as young people often like to support initiatives that will impact us immediately and don’t bother to pay attention to what will affect us in the long term.

If Congress held a vote tomorrow to lower the drinking age back to 18, we would descend on the Capital with six-packs in hand to show our support for the law. But if a law changed securities regulations, chances are throngs of North Face-clad coeds would stay at home for the day, even though some business students might wish, later in life, that they had spoken up.

The hearings on GW’s Campus Plan 2006-2025 provide us with an opportunity to come out and show our support on a proposal with real implications for our futures. This plan allows GW to build the facilities it needs to propel itself to better rankings and to become a more formidable academic force.

Through building a new science center and reserving the right to expand and improve other buildings on campus, GW is committing itself to creating the facilities needed to compete with and place among other top universities. This means that as GW’s ranking improves, so does the value of your degree. So when GW creeps higher and higher in those rankings, you can feel free to brag to your colleagues that it’s all your fault.

The part of the plan most exciting to me is the University’s commitment to employing transit-oriented development and smart growth on Square 54. At a time when edge cities such as Tyson’s Corner siphon jobs and revenue from the District, it is key to create a place inside D.C. that allows people to work, live and play in the same place. For those among us who own property in Foggy Bottom, expect to see your property values go up. For those of us that are disgusted by sprawl and want to see smarter, more sustainable growth, this plan offers a superb example that should make you proud of your alma mater.

This plan provides a win-win situation for all parties involved, and that’s why I’m going to go show my support again tonight as the commission hears testimony in opposition to the plan. Take tonight’s hearing as an opportunity to join the other students who have spoken out and shown up to support the University. Help to end that nasty rumor that college students don’t care and make a statement about our generation of Colonials.

-The writer is a junior majoring in geography.

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