As the dust settles on another summer, the memories of carefree times and lounging poolside are fading away as classes and internships take their toll. For freshmen other memories are also receding: the whirlwind two-and-a-half days of Colonial Inauguration has been replaced with the start of a true GW college career. Indeed, this introduction to college-on-speed that some would say is the biggest and showiest in all of America often times loses sight that it is, after all, just an orientation.
Some people have the best days of their life at CI and others the worst but a majority just somewhere in between. A number of students complain about footing the bill for countless pairs of J. Crew khaki shorts while others dedicate their entire summers to welcoming the next class of Colonials and singing the fight song more often an hour than most of us will in a lifetime. But it’s not just about that. It’s not about loving or hating CI (that’s numerous columns in itself). It’s about having a logical discussion about such a massive endeavor in terms of costs, efficiency and effectiveness. We, as a GW community, need to have a serious conversation and address the question: Is CI the best investment for GW right now?
Let’s use this important juncture of change at GW to have an open debate among students, faculty and administrators. CI is on its way to becoming a great GW ritual, but that doesn’t mean that adjustments are off limits. As our U.S. News and World Report rankings slide and tuition rises, GW should be concerned with academic prestige rather than ice cream socials and free beach towels.
Now for me, the promise of a laser light show didn’t tip any scales when making my college decision. This famed example of both GW creativity and excess, which carries a hefty price tag, didn’t help me choose the right classes or organize a sensible schedule for my first semester. While it is a treat, it isn’t necessarily a functional addition to the barrage of thoughts entering a new freshman’s mind.
The fact is people attending CI are already accepted and ready to be active members of the GW community. CI doesn’t need to be, and frankly shouldn’t be, an admissions ploy. Orientations don’t factor into college ranking systems and hundreds of top schools across the country rely on a more traditional approach without half of their students transferring due to a lack of excessive spirit during orientation. A “typical” college orientation may not have the glitz and glamour of CI but can offer other appreciated perks like allowing freshmen to move into their own rooms perhaps a week early or eliminating additional long and costly trips for both students and parents. The bottom line is that it still gets the job done.
While CI creates many lasting positive memories for people (read: experiences that prompt alums and parents to donate those additional dollars), it fails to matter if your academic program gets axed or downsized during your GW career. Of course a university budget is an intricate matter, but there has to be a trade off somewhere as there’s only so much money to go around. Perhaps one of your favorite professors will choose to move on to a university able to offer a full-time position or your best friend may transfer because they cannot reconcile the value of a GW education for its cost. Last spring the University even decided to move $2 million from merit-based aid to need-based aid. Something has to give.
Would altering the current CI plan resonate elsewhere? To know, we have to ask and call for informative answers from the administration. Organizers should call for student and parent feedback long after their completion after CI, not just at the end of their sleepless experience of living in Thurston Hall. As a senior, I would like to know my diploma will connote academic achievement instead of thinking my tuition payments went to horse-drawn carriage rides around Foggy Bottom.
Any orientation experience is an important first step in a college career but it is not the be-all end-all. Freshmen still have four years to come to love GW (and experience EMeRG) and CI helps many begin that journey with a bang. Yet such a costly and sizeable endeavor must be actively debated as a contribution to an academic institution to keep it applicable and meaningful.
-The writer, a senior majoring in English, is The Hatchet opinions editor.