Gabriel Okolski: Beggars can’t be choosers

Earlier this semester, while strolling through the Ivory Tower lobby past midnight, I encountered a group of GW cheerleaders selling baked goods as a fundraiser. This was a much more welcome sight than the usual comatose University Police officer manning our lobby, and I purchased a late night snack from the team members.

Aside from the fact that I would take a swan dive off Memorial Bridge if any of GW’s female cheerleaders asked me to, it was quite refreshing to support a team earning their keep with some clever sales at an unusual hour. Even more refreshing was the fact that while many major student organizations like the College Democrats beg for more funding from the Student Association, a GW-funded team took it upon themselves to get the extra money they needed.

This University is a school known for its high costs – GW outsiders will automatically bring up our tuition in conversation, as if students on this campus have no idea that we’re finally No. 1 at something. Even so, the sense of entitlement that students feel when it comes to funding contributes to a financial mindset that hurts us just as much as our price tag. Perhaps this is why I was so happy to see those cheerleaders taking the initiative to sell some late-night munchies.

Sure, there are stand-out exceptions to this observation; plenty of students raised money for alternative spring break trips, diligent fundraisers often set up shop in the Marvin Center and I even bought some Au Bon Pain products from students braving the 20-degree February weather in Kogan Plaza. But as I write on my laptop now, looking directly at that location on a beautiful warm day, there is no student activity to be seen.

Instead, the main mode of obtaining funds for many organizations involves a highly politicized process with the SA. Each year, when these groups do not receive the support they hoped for, they act as if there is no other way to raise cash. This may not seem to be a big deal to those outside of said organizations and the SA. However, it may point to a larger issue on campus.

When campus food venues charge twice the market price, or when GW contracts an outrageously pricey studio to take and sell senior portraits, nothing happens. It may give students something to complain about during lunch, but ultimately we all pay, don’t question why things need to be this way and wait until the next time to get punched in the piggybank.

The lack of fundraising on this campus seems to be an indicator of a general dearth of financial self-reliance on campus. For example, with all the complaints about GW dining options, few seem to brave the campus boundary and seek out affordable places that are not on GWorld. Instead, students place demands on the University to provide more services, despite its relatively poor performance in this arena over the past few years.

It really is no surprise that GW is such an expensive place when students rely on the University for so many aspects of daily life – from an overpriced midday snack to photocopies that should be free to students in their scholarly pursuits. A general reliance on GW to support student groups and student services sends the message that we can be charged this much to go to school here.

Ultimately, the cost of attending this University is a function of supply and demand – if students are willing to pay it, GW will be willing to charge it. If we want our daily complaints to be taken to heart, it is essential that we change our habits. That means raising some cash when your student group wants to hold an event, not relying on GWorld for every single purchase and refusing to put up with the ridiculous extra fees that always seem to find their way onto our GWeb accounts (sometimes a simple phone call can get rid of these).

And to those pioneers and intrepid fundraisers, like the GW cheerleaders that I cherish so dearly and everyone who raised money to rebuild houses in New Orleans over break rather than enjoy a drunken week in Mexico, keep it up. Fiscal responsibility starts with students, and all of you are setting the responsible tone that administrators need to hear.

-The writer, a senior majoring in political science and minoring in geoscience, is Hatchet opinions editor.

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