University officials listen to student concerns

Students voiced their frustration on topics such as academic advising and communication with administrators during a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Jack Morton Auditorium.

University President Steven Knapp, Board of Trustees Chairman W. Russell Ramsey, Board Vice Chairman Nelson Carbonell and Student Association President Nicole Capp sat before an audience of about 100 students and administrators to hear students’ opinions on such hot-button issues as alumni relations and the University’s transparency.

“I don’t think advising has really helped me as a freshman,” said Tabisa Wawelma, a freshman in the Elliott School of International Affairs. “The college is supposed to be focusing on me and I had to share my advising session with other students.”

Another freshman, Jason Lifton, also voiced his frustrations with the advising system. He said most of his advising came from GW sophomores, juniors and seniors.

Knapp said advising is a complicated issue for universities.

“So many students are moving across boundaries (to different schools within the University),” Knapp said. “It is hard to get the information exchanged between levels.”

The need for improved communication between students and the University was another highly discussed concern during the town hall.

Jana Baldwin, a graduate student, voiced her frustrations about communicating with GW administrators and drew applause from the crowd.

“Nobody makes themselves available,” Baldwin said. “The University is more poorly run than the United States Congress.”

Junior Andrea Criollo also commented on the communication between students and administrators. Criollo, who is involved in student theater, said she was not happy with the University’s planned construction of a theater on the Mount Vernon Campus.

“We have rehearsals till midnight and to make that trip back with all those costumes and props – I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Criollo said. “I don’t know where the theater students were involved (in this idea).”

Knapp said communication is the greatest challenge he faces as president. However, Capp said town halls are a great way for students to communicate with Knapp and other GW administrators. Throughout last semester, the SA held weekly town hall meetings, many of which included University officials.

“I think the best thing that we can do here is to ensure that (town halls) continue,” said Capp, a junior. “I think that students should be afforded the opportunity to talk to administrators.”

Students also voiced their concern with alumni relations. While many students said they planned to donate money to GW, some brought up the problems with alumni donations today.

Junior Dave Earl said it is important that donors to the University know where the funds are going.

“I want to donate, but I want financial transparency,” Earl said.

Sophomore Jasmine Gaskins said a lot of alumni feel disenfranchised.

“If we continue to build a relationship with them to let them know they are still a part of the family, they will give back,” Gaskins said.

Knapp said he has been reaching out to GW alumni since he has arrived in office.

“(I am) spending time with alumni, and alumni are passionate about hearing about the University, and meeting and opening opportunities with students,” he said. “It is not just bringing in resources from alumni, but making them a part of a community.”

At the end of the town hall, Ramsey said he was grateful for the students who participated.

“I thank and applaud everyone for coming out and being as passionate, articulate, and caring as you have been,” said Ramsey.

Carbonell was also appreciative.

“I think this has gone very well,” Carbonell said. “It makes me proud to be a GW alum.”

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