University starts GWAffirm

Students, faculty and staff now have the opportunity to voice their criticisms of any aspect of the University through GWAffirm, a Web site dedicated to gathering input about GW from its community.

Input posted on GWAffirm’s Web site will be used by the University when the Middle States Commission on Higher Education evaluates GW’s progress on the 14 of the organizations standards of higher education and the University’s self-defined weaknesses. GW will learn if it meets the standards and gets reaccredited as a university after the MSCHE visits GW in April 2008.

“Effectively, this is our license to operate,” said Forrest Maltzman, chair of the reaccreditation steering committee and a GW professor of political science.

The idea for a Web site to voice criticism began in 2002, when the University created the Strategic Plan for Academic Excellence – a list of specific goals for the University. Through this plan, the University created groups to look at furthering the quality of education, developing a stronger sense of community, facilitating faculty research and creating a stronger financial base.

This committee includes students, staff, faculty members and administrators.

GW alumnus Steve Rogers, the undergraduate student representative to the faculty scholarship and research committee last year, said his experience with group was “enlightening.”

“The highest levels of the administration worked with students and professors to discuss nearly every issue affecting the university, including many important to students,” he said. “You had vice presidents, professors and students discussing issues important to many students, such as GW’s tuition and even the housing program.”

The GWAffirm Web site also contains the Strategic Plan, noting the progress already made. While the plan praises recent advancements made by the University, such as doubling faculty research expenditures from $55 million in 1997 to $105 million in 2002, it also identifies shortcomings, such as service to the District and ties with alumni.

The University and the commission will also take into consideration the comments made about the self-study on the GWAffirm Web site, on which any GW community member can post anonymously.

“The goal for us was to get as much input from students as we could in one boat,” said Ross Mankuta, the graduate student representative to the steering committee.

Through GWAffirm, students as well as all members of the GW community can make their voices heard through such input and therein increase the likelihood of desired change.

Maltzman said, “Policies and suggestions that are based upon lots of input and transparency are better and more likely to be adopted.”

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