Sam Salkin: Throw out freshman housekeeping

Unbeknownst to GW administrators, I have been working with a major television network to base a show here on campus – “Budget Survivor.” The premise of the show is simple. Every week, GW administrators vote to cut another program from the budget in an attempt to save the University from its own fiscal mismanagement.

Well, I’ll be honest, television executives and I haven’t been kicking back at The Prime Rib developing a cast of characters and side challenges. These days, however, GW is playing its own game of “Budget Survivor” with its cuts to popular GW programs. Episodes have included the GW Reads Program, Colonials Invasion and, most recently, a major music act for Colonials Weekend whose cut seems to be budget-related.

As much as I would have loved to have seen Adam Levine and Maroon 5 rock the faces off freshman parents during Colonials Weekend, I still wonder to what lengths GW will go to close the reported $8.2 million fiscal year 2007 budget gap. I think the best place administrators can make a difference before cutting other programs is by axing housekeeping in freshman residence halls.

When you think about it, there is no greater waste of money than the universal floor-vacuuming and toilet paper-changing all freshmen enjoy. GW advertises the program as useful for students to transition into college life. Honestly though, how many prospective GW students end their tour of GW and say to their parents, “Well, I really like Georgetown, but GW has maid service.” Truth be told, on all the tours I’ve given as a Student Admissions Representative, more parents gasp at the ridiculousness of the service than the convenience.

Selling housekeeping alongside our academic programs and the Washington experience almost undercuts GW. Can you believe that hearing “a lot of GW students intern on the Hill and get a great taste of living in a city” comes in the same sentence as “freshman enjoy housekeeping in their dorms?” By selling ourselves this way to GW, we couldn’t appear to be treating students any less like adults. Unfortunately, in the great scheme of things, this program does not make us look better than any other schools.

Furthermore, who says freshmen are incapable of picking up after themselves and taking out the trash? Freshmen try to get into the same bars as upperclassmen and navigate the city like native Washingtonians, and they should be required to clean up after themselves like upperclassmen.

To be honest, all I remember of my freshman housekeeping was being woken up to a knock and high-pitched cry of “housekeeping” every Friday morning at 9 a.m. Typically, I turned over and ignored it. The cursory service provided by housekeeping isn’t even worth the money spent on it. For some it may be necessary to maintain a clean living space, but I doubt the University will thrive based on clean dorms.

The choices behind program cuts may be for purely financial reasons, but the message sent conveys something about our values at GW. Unfortunately, it appears as if we care more about having our rooms cleaned once a week than being informed citizens in the nation’s capital.

Think of the academic cuts made at GW in past years. The music department and other programs in the Columbian College have had their budgets slashed. Earth and environmental sciences have dwindled from their former state and peace studies no longer exists. Yet we still have freshman housekeeping. Here we stand with the University making financial decisions that impact more than a bottom line. By cutting certain programs and keeping others, GW makes a statement about what we do and do not value.

I know that removing this service aspect of GW won’t make up for the budget shortfall, but it would sure help to make room for something much more valuable. In making cuts, administrators must take a harder look at the ridiculous programs we have before targeting other ones that benefit the school. Hopefully, the University will find a sensible way to overcome this shortfall so we don’t have to resort to revenue from reality TV shows like “Budget Survivor” to fill the gap.

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

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