As the college careers of members of the Class of 2011 are set to begin in a few months, there are vital issues that will impact their time at GW that have been debated long before they submitted applications to Rice Hall. Another round of dining changes, possible academic restructuring and the beginning of President-elect Steven Knapp’s term as University president are all variables that will converge to help define this freshman class’s tenure in Foggy Bottom.
When students step foot into J Street this September, both their dining options and dining plans will have a new look. This will be the fourth revamp of J Street in as many years, highlighting the continued dissatisfaction from students about campus dining. Officials have also implemented a plan to require members of the freshman and sophomore classes to spend a certain amount of their GWorld funds in campus restaurants and eateries, something no current GW student has been mandated to do before.
The frequent changes concerning campus dining have become a continually disappointing matter for students. While University and Sodexho officials and also Student Association representatives are not shy about soliciting viewpoints from students concerning dining options, the revamps have constantly missed the mark and lost the interest of hungry students.
Perhaps this year will be the year they get it right, but gauging recent history, the elimination of many popular existing eateries in J Street and further reducing operation hours, the chances for pleasing students through their stomachs doesn’t seem promising. The University’s tactics in dealing with dining changes have been largely profit driven. Instead of looking to please the student body, the University appears to be a slave to large food-service providers such as Aramark and Sodexho. Aramark’s premature departure in 2006 represents the failure of Marvin Center dining among the growing off-campus dining options. This year’s strong-armed tactics by the University could may result in a stronger business model for Sodexho but will likely be a detriment to the student body.
In the academic world, the incoming administration will be required to make a decision on University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s proposal for GW to move to a four-by-four class structure system. Instead of the current five classes at three credits each, a four-by-four arrangement would require students to take four classes at four credits each.
The faculties of the Elliott School of International Affairs and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, two of GW’s largest colleges, both voted in the spring to postpone any votes until the beginning of Knapp’s term while the Faculty Senate made it’s recommendation not to endorse such a plan.
In this third attempt by Trachtenberg to institute a four-by-four system, the approach to faculty members seems to have come up short in eliciting support or even providing essential information to those who would be at the ground level of such a change. Students have more questions than answers on the subject. It will now be Knapp’s responsibility to examine the proposal not in terms of costs or rankings, but in gauging what is best for the GW student.
Coming from an academic background at Johns Hopkins, Knapp offers hope to see a renewed focus on academics in Foggy Bottom. While real estate and community planning issues, endowment funds and fundraising are no small elements of the GW community (or any of the top universities in the country), many are clamoring for academic success to be at the forefront of GW’s reputation. It would be disappointing for this valid concern to stray from the mainstays of Knapp’s term as president.
That being said, it would be futile, if not impossible, to attempt to say what will happen in the coming months. With the possibilities of changing personnel at every level of the administration, ranging from academics to student services to the treasury, it is up to GW students to be alert that big changes could be coming their way.
We’ll all be along for the ride together. For the Class of 2011, welcome to a new stage of life and a new era at GW.