Hey, where are you living this year?”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
Via Facebook and cell phones, e-mail and texting, this kind of exchange was all too common amongst GW students throughout the summer. At the same time, during tours for prospective students, GW portrayed the Mount Vernon campus as a heaven on earth – with its tranquility, picturesque scenery and only a “short ride” away from the main campus – to those who would have to live there.
After nearly a full semester as a resident of the Mount Vernon campus, I can assert that the Vern is not as bad as students rumor it to be, but is not the bed of roses that the school markets it as either. The differences between the two campuses can especially be felt as final exams roll around, when student schedules become exclusively focused on studying.
It would be an overstatement to say that the commute to Foggy Bottom is the bane of existence for Mount Vernon residents. The Vern Express is usually clean, comfortable, cool in summer and warm in winter. The drivers are courteous, friendly and accommodating.
The most frustrating thing, however, is the massive amount of time that the commute consumes. Officially the ride is supposed to take 15 minutes, but during rush hour that turns into half an hour, and if it’s raining you can count on a good 45-minute drive. Around finals time, Mount Vernon students can’t easily meet with study groups at late hours without the extra hassle, and the same goes for those who need to study and do research at the Gelman Library.
While there is little that can be done about the actual 2.8 miles that lie between the two campuses, the school could better control the schedule of the service. While plenty of students up and about at 1 a.m., especially around final exam time, the shuttle only comes once every half hour after midnight on both weekdays and weekends. Perhaps if the shuttle came every 15 minutes until 2 a.m. at least on Friday and Saturday nights – a plan that is under consideration – it would alleviate the problem of students having to wait an hour to get home.
Apart from having to deal with the daily commute, Mount Vernon residents also find themselves at a disadvantage when it comes to dining options, in that there are almost none on their home campus. While the food offered in Ames Dining Hall is actually quite good compared to school food standards, the same thing day after day gets old really quickly, and students are out of luck after it closes.
Ironically enough, the dining hall will be open for fewer hours during finals week because of “reduced business.” This is potentially the time when these spaces need to be open late the most, as hungry students require food and drink to fuel their late night study activities.
While students on the Vern have delivery options for late-night study cravings, there are far fewer available compared to the establishments that deliver to Foggy Bottom. At the very least, Ames hours could be extended during finals to make up for some of this gap.
Another issue for Vern students is isolation, as the distance between the two campuses discourages many from taking part in University-sponsored events. Around finals time, the main campus enjoys the long-awaited Midnight Breakfast, however there is not much going on from a programming standpoint to keep us Vern residents from going crazy during the exam period.
The solitude and peacefulness, however, can actually be a benefit during this stressful time. Students do not have to deal with distractions and can focus on their final exams. We also have comfortable residence halls to study in, and our own library for those seeking extra peace and quiet.
There is plenty that the University could do to make the Mount Vernon campus more convenient, especially around finals time. Perhaps, if such actions are taken, sooner or later, students will be more excited about living on the Vern.
-The writer, a freshman majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet columnist.