Towards the end of August, after a long summer crammed with everything from internships to pool parties, students are eager to return to GW. The city has a kind of indescribable appeal in the fall, as the air gets that crispness that only September can bring, and students begin milling around campus once again.
Yet this year, much more than the leaves are changing around Foggy Bottom. Freshmen, not having much to compare their experiences to, may not even really be conscious that things are changing. But most returning students are well aware that they are coming back to a different university.
One of the most influential, and probably most exciting, changes facing the GW community this year is the arrival of the highly anticipated new University President Steven Knapp. Yet, even with the Commencement speaker controversy surrounding former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s final months in office, it is hard for GW to let go of a president that was a vital part of the University for so long and that did an immense amount of good for the school.
It is still far too early in the game for anyone to comment on how Knapp is doing as president, but I think that I speak for a good portion of the student body when I say that we are eager to see what Knapp will accomplish his first year in office. His choice to live in the Alumni house, in the heart of campus, is a promising start, as it will allow Knapp to be more directly involved with student life. But for now, all we can really do is wish him luck.
As important as this crucial change in University administration is, returning students will most likely find that the more subtle changes to GW are the ones that impact their daily lives the most. The fourth round of changes in as many years at J Street is bound to be the latest installment in dining controversies.
Underclassmen will feel the brunt of this change, seeing as now freshmen and sophomores are required to spend a portion of their GWorld money at GW dining venues. This will inevitably bring complaints from students who do not enjoy being told where to spend their money.
Many favorite dining options themselves are being altered, with brand name eateries being replaced by brand-less locations. As to whether these changes will do much to improve the quality of customer service and variety of food selection is another unknown.
J Street is not the only part of Marvin Center that has been drastically altered over the summer. Returning students will barely recognize the ground level of Marvin Center, which has been converted into office space (clearly something that GW was sorely lacking before.)
Dubbed “Colonial Central,” the space that used to contain District Market is now home to the offices of Student Financial Assistance, Student Accounts and the Cashier. While it might make the occasional visit to these offices more convenient, this change does not fully compensate for the common study area or lounge that many students were hoping for.
Other smaller changes that we are likely to see are the return of the GW Reads program, which makes free national newspapers available in residence halls, and “Colonial Invasion,” a basketball pep event. Both of these were cut last year because of funding reasons, and most students will welcome the return of both of these initiatives.
The changes don’t stop here: construction will begin on Square 54, we may finally get somewhere with the proposed four-by-four curriculum and the 20-year Campus Plan will come into effect. And freshmen, if these phrases don’t mean much to you yet, just give it a month or two.
Yes, a lot of things have changed at GW since we all packed our bags in the spring. That being said, change does not necessarily mean change for the worse. The very least we can do is give all of these changes a chance, before we bring on the petitions and Facebook groups. After all, how else can we expect to be taken seriously?
GW students have proven time and time again that when we don’t like something, we will not hesitate to make that fact known. I am confident that once students experience all of the new aspects of GW first hand, students will be very vocal about what works and what doesn’t.
So please, don’t hesitate to make your complaints known. But first let’s wait and see if there is really anything to complain about.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet contributing opinions editor.
This article appeared in the August 30, 2007 issue of the Hatchet.