Gabriel Okolski: The case for consistency

I’m damn proud of my GWorld card.

Throughout nearly four years of scratches, swipes and abuse, the card has barely faded and still lets me pay way too much for food around campus. Even the picture is unchanged – it still shows a bright-eyed, idyllic freshman whose spirits had yet to be broken.

Unfortunately, the same consistency cannot be attributed to the humble institution that had its own little part in breaking those spirits. During the same four years, a wide number of critical services and programs have experienced major change, from a J Street overhaul and subsequent tweaks, to changes in the way students choose their housing.

While our generation may seem to have a hopelessly short attention span and a bad case of hyperactivity, the University that we attend should strive to provide a more consistent experience to its students. In the end, constant tweaks and larger changes to familiar policies and programs only serve to upset students, and they erode GW’s image as a stable academic institution.

For the decision-makers in Rice Hall, using the University’s programs as an experiment to find the best mix of services may seem like common-sense business. Of course, it is admirable to strive for the best possible system that will best serve students. But the view on the ground for students seems to indicate that there are limits to the benefits of change.

Quite honestly, if I woke up one day during my freshman year to the GW that exists today, I would be very confused and temporarily lost for quite some time. It’s even a problem for those of us who have been a while – a friend recently suggested getting dinner at J Street, and I had to remind her that the place is barely open at the dinner hour any more.

I’ve heard complaints from a number of students on similar changes, from the new and very different iHousing program to the relocation of the key depot from Thurston Hall to New Hall to other changes in offices. Communication about some of these decisions is often weak or non-existent, and students must discern what is going on through personal experience and word of mouth.

While constant evaluation of current initiatives is necessary for a healthy and happy GW, frequent changes of major programs and departments is probably a bad way to give students a positive experience. Frequent overhauls only frustrate the student body and force students to continually adapt to situations for which they are unfamiliar.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the changes brought significant improvement to an area of GW, but this often is not the case. A prime example of this is the J Street renovation, which resulted in a space that students have chosen not to frequent as much as the food court of four years ago. Perhaps University officials also believe that students will value novelty, as indicated by the hip new marketing campaign for iHousing. But once the allure of a new amenity or service wears off, students will just be left with confusion as to why the old system was changed.

In the future, when planning to overhaul major policies and programs, administrators must make a stronger effort to understand that students are seeking something stable and constant throughout their time at GW. Rather than completely replacing an aspect of the University that is drawing complaints and accompanying it with an attractive advertising campaign, planners should seek to gradually improve such areas.

Perhaps the best example of this GW mindset involves all the changes to University housing, including its selection, the organization in charge of dorms and the older students in place to mentor residents. Many student demands for housing cannot be accommodated at all without hurting some other group, and other demands deal with practical issues such as a seemingly unresponsive repair service. Reasonable changes could easily have been built into the former system without the total overhaul of departments, functions, and titles.

This sort of mindset should pervade GW initiatives in the future. Thankfully, I was not forced to buy a new GWorld during my time at GW; however, if current policies are any indication, the introduction of a new color card each year would not be a far stretch of the imagination.

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

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