The first in a two-part series examining GW’s new president
As the inauguration and week of celebration of University President Steven Knapp approaches, the coming week promises a whirlwind of activities meant to reflect the values of the GW community and its new leader. Amid the sheep, talent shows and galas, it is vital to step a take back and take a critical eye to Knapp’s presidency in its infancy and offer suggestions to move forward. Knapp has had to deal with a host of un-expected and challenging obstacles in his first months as president and has managed to come out in a favorable light considering the circumstances.
Knapp has already been inaugurated through a “baptism by fire.” Within the first semester of his tenure, Foggy Bottom has seen the “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” postering controversy and over the past few weeks, a spate of hateful words and symbols. Both instances have attracted their fair share of local and national media attention, often critical and often offering harsh words targeted to Knapp and his administration, often unfounded.
In these situations, brash comments and an instant reaction is what some members of the community wanted to see, Knapp wisely kept a reserved stance while reiterating that hate of any kind would not be tolerated at GW. It is often easy to jump the gun, but there is also something to be said of waiting until all of the information is present before presenting statements to the community and media. Knapp has offered his comments, but has allowed entities like Student Judicial Services to fulfill their purposes with full faith and minimal interference. This page commends Knapp on his use of restraint in these difficult situations.
Of course we must not allow these isolated incidents to define our semester nor the beginning of Knapp’s presidency. A notable trend in these past months has been the development of a fair share of task forces meant to examine issues ranging from security to mental health to environmental sustainability on campus. The initiation of such entities show Knapp’s commitment to finding what actions, from a host of different standpoints, are needed to better the University before implementing any sweeping reforms. Hopefully these task forces will be more than just talk, that their suggestions will be taken seriously and provide ideas as to how to improve GW.
These two examples showcase how Knapp has indeed kept his part of the bargain in being a “listening president.” From Foggy Bottom community relations to laying out policy specified to particular bodies such as the faculty, Knapp has made his policies approachable and open to suggestions.
Similarly the upcoming inauguration activities will focus on the University rather than Knapp alone, highlighting what makes GW special and Knapp’s personal plans to improve the University. This is quite a departure from the spectacle that was former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s farewell tour last spring. If anything we can be sure we won’t be seeing masks of Knapp’s face handed out to students. This page appreciates this refreshing change in tone – one that puts the University in focus instead of in the background.
Without doubt this next week will provide fun and its fair share of patented GW flashiness, but a presidential inaugurations do not happen too often around Foggy Bottom. A little pomp and circumstance is welcome, but the real business of implementing new ideas must be appreciated as well.