Diana Kugel: Focus on the big issues

College students are notorious for being chronically short on everything from money to time to sleep, but one thing that we never seem to have a shortage of is complaints.

As a columnist, I see it as my job to tune in to what’s happening on campus, to what people are saying, be it bad or good, and to put it down on paper. Since people tend to be the most vocal about things that bother them, it comes as no surprise that most of my – and other writers’ – columns focus on something that we find wrong with the school.

Each of the issues that we all complain about, whether it be in the newspaper or at lunch with friends, is clearly something that is bothersome enough to be noticeable. But sometimes, in the midst of loudly voicing our dissatisfaction with everything from exam schedules to housing to a lack of late-night coffee, we can also lose sight of the major issues facing our student body. At the same time, we can forget the reason that we are all at GW in the first place; we like it here.

At least we should like it here, especially for the amount of money that our parents shell out for us to keep returning each semester. Every student at some point had to have made a decision to apply in the first place. No one dragged us here kicking and screaming.

While the things that we complain about may at times be quite serious, we can’t let the smaller irritating details define our whole GW experience. Yes, waiting in line for 20 minutes for lunch at J Street is annoying, but is that really going to be what we picture when looking back on our college days two decades from now? I certainly hope not, because even though it sometimes gets swept under the rug in the midst of our hearty complaining, and at the risk of sounding like an admissions brochure, GW really does have a lot to offer.

All of this is not to say that our grievances and objections are at all unfounded or unimportant. There are definitely times when the administration overlooks a detail or underestimates the value of an eliminated program to the student body. At times like this, we have two options: whine and complain about it, or do something (forming a Facebook group does not count).

If all that we choose to do is complain about these issues, then they’re going to stay exactly that: complaints. If the issue is serious or significant enough, then it is vital that students take action in order to ensure change. From what I’ve seen during my time at GW, the administration is more than willing to sit down and discuss whatever students find inadequate or troublesome about the everyday running of the school. Living in a city with such a rich history of peaceful protests and civil disobedience, it shouldn’t be too hard for students to get creative when it comes to making a statement about the concerns that really matter.

There is really no excuse for ignorance, apathy or mere whining at a school that prides itself on its political energy and activism. Some of the best and brightest in the nation should be able to negotiate, petition, advocate and do whatever it takes effectively enough to see a wrong righted, especially when it is taking place right on their very own campus. Think of what we could accomplish if instead of siphoning precious energy into useless complaining, we redirected it all collectively towards seeing change where it really matters.

The trick is to know how to pick and choose our battles. Going to the mat for the real issues is not only our right, but it’s also our duty. However, it’s not likely to happen if every small inconvenience is treated like a matter of life and death for five minutes, then forgotten about. All the while, important issues are treated the same way, only with recurring complaining sessions. With the trivial grumbles, it might be better to make it our belated New Year’s resolution to simply let them go and focus on why we chose GW out of the multitude of colleges in the United States in the first place.

-The writer, a freshman majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet columnist.

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