Excitement and tension filled the air as the crowded room full of GW students watched the 2006 election results with bated breath. The Democrats had just taken control of the House of Representatives, and there were just four seats left to decide the Senate and control of Congress.
The exhilaration in the air was almost electric, right until the wound-up crowd was told that it was almost midnight, the Marvin Center was shutting down, and students would have to vacate the premises.
For most of my two-and-a-half months at GW, I have enjoyed my time and felt very welcomed by this campus. Sometimes, however, I and other students get the feeling that we are not really free to take advantage of everything it has to offer. At times, it seems as if students are a burden on campus, when in actuality, campus should be primarily focused on us.
There is something bitterly ironic about the fact that at GW – one of the most politically active schools in the nation as our admissions brochures and previous U.S. News and World Report rankings have boasted – students were not allowed to watch the election results past midnight in a student space. This decision was not arbitrarily made by the facility’s staff that night either; the College Democrats and the College Republicans, who hosted this event, were not allowed to book Marvin Center space past that time due to building rules.
Election night is our version of a homecoming game, when spirits run high and people want to cheer on their candidates together. GW does a good job of marketing this political spirit, so why couldn’t exceptions have been made for this highly anticipated occasion?
The issue here goes beyond just having the space for a political event past midnight. Students should have access to at least part of the Marvin Center for 24 hours a day. This building is touted as a student union; however, its inaccessibility adds to the fact that students usually just go there to eat and buy books.
It is clear that the Marvin Center is much more of a revenue source for the school than a place for students to congregate and enjoy downtime. The facility frequently holds outside conferences and events, and a generous portion of the building is committed to these endeavors. There is nothing wrong with the University trying to make money off its investments, except when students are left without a space that is truly theirs when they need it.
While the Marvin Center does include the bookstore and several dining options, this is where it stops resembling a student union; student offices and the fun activities in the Hippodrome are hard to find and they are seldom used. Furthermore, while student organizations are able to book the conference spaces for these locations, they must provide food through Marvin Center catering, which is far more expensive than ordering some pizzas from outside.
It is not just the Marvin Center that is making students feel unwelcome. The continuous conferences that are always going on in academic buildings are often difficult to navigate around on your way to class. Just last week, as my class was leaving our lecture in the School of Media and Public Affairs Building, I overheard two men who were attending a conference expressing displeasure at the fact that students were around. Students at a university – talk about irony. At times like these, it really starts to feel as if students are simply an inconvenience at the school.
Apparently my encounter at SMPA was not unique – several returning GW students have expressed displeasure at the fact that they can no longer access the seventh floor of the Elliott School of International Affairs building, as it is often used for University events.
It’s clear that hosting all of these conferences in GW buildings brings a fair amount of prestige and income to the University, but administrators must not lose sight of whom these spaces were built for. Ultimately, decision makers should have let politically inclined students party past midnight for one of the biggest events of the year, and students must be given more permanent access to the facilities built for them.
-The writer, a freshman majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet columnist.