Letters to the Editor

Strong academics require solid infrastucture

I’ve had better Valentine’s Day cards than Andrew Siddons’s open letter to me on Feb. 15 (“An open letter to our benevolent leader,” p. 4). He finds my book of letters and the accompanying cartoons from The New Yorker not exactly side-splitting, believes my priorities are upside-down or out-of-date and seems relieved that I will be stepping down soon. This, mind you, is offered with “tongue firmly in cheek” and after he has wished me well. God save me from him when his tongue is elsewhere and he wishes me ill!

There’s no sense in trying to reverse Mr. Siddons’s opinion of me and my tenure by arguing each point. But here are a few broad observations about GW and higher education.

Investing in infrastructure and academics is not a factual dichotomy or tension. GW’s campus-wide electronic network, the trading room in Duqu?s Hall and the first-rate instructional rooms in the Elliott School of International Affairs’ new building, to name just three examples among many, serve the academic ends of students and faculty alike. They are not monuments to donors or to themselves, but academic amenities.

There is also no doubt in my mind that building infrastructure has contributed to creating a better faculty and a more accomplished group of students. It is unlikely – and that is understatement – that the high school standings and SAT scores of incoming freshmen would have improved as much as they have in the last 19 years without being able to offer them the academic amenities that make study and learning more efficient, more engaging and more profound. Nor would GW have attracted the faculty we have in the last generation without rehabilitating dilapidated teaching facilities and building new ones.

And without fundraising (which is usually the chief reason for my “globetrotting,” combined with recruiting excellent students from abroad; I was trotting when Mr. Siddons’ editorial ran, thus the slow response), GW would still have only the 24 endowed chairs we had when I arrived rather than the 80 we have today.

When Steve Knapp assumes the presidency this summer, he will certainly work in his own way. But as he opens a new chapter for GW, I am as sure as I can be that adding new endowed chairs and the physical means for supporting study, research and scholarship will always be on his mind. I also imagine that to raise the funds to support these academic ends, he will trot the globe, if necessary, to find the money.

As for the letters and cartoons, what can I say? If you can’t take a joke ….

-Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, University President

UPD changing crime notifications to the community

In response to the recent opinion piece “Communicate to stop confusion on campus,” (Mar. 5, p. 4) I would like to clarify details about our notifications process and announce an additional tool that we have implemented.

Regarding the assault in the Academic Center on Feb. 20, 2007, the University Police Department posted orange crime alerts in the lobby of every campus building within a few hours after the report was received. After the incident, we received feedback from several members of the community indicating that they had not seen the posted crime alerts.

In one case, a parent called to say that her daughter, who lives in a residence hall, did not see the crime alert. I sent out an officer who confirmed that the alert was still posted in the lobby. Nonetheless, we take feedback from the GW community seriously and are concerned that some people never saw the alert.

We have revised our protocol, and we will now also send a blast e-mail of any crime alert to all members of the GW community, in addition to posting them in campus buildings. We hope that by utilizing these tools, students, faculty and staff will see the information and take the proper precautions. In the future, please keep an eye out for orange posters in the lobby of GW buildings. We have asked departments to eliminate the use of orange paper for general posting purposes, so that orange paper will draw people in to read the contents of the alert.

In response to concerns about the lack of communication about the Townhouse Row theft investigation, we provided The Hatchet with a statement about the conclusion of the investigation as a medium for communicating the status and results of the investigation with the entire GW community. Also, UPD provided the Office of Risk Management with the list of affected residents, who will be contacted by ORM.

We want to assure you that we are doing the best we can to continue to investigate all campus crimes and incidents, to conduct security surveys to improve the physical security of the campus and to communicate with the GW community. Please take the time to read The Hatchet, the crime alert posters and the crime alert e-mails. In addition, you can keep up with what is happening in and around the campus by reading the daily crime log on the UPD website at gwired.gwu.edu/upd.

Thank you for your support and cooperation. Together we will continue to make GW a safe campus for all members of our community.

-Dolores Stafford, Chief of University Police

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