Another $50,000, another year at GW. Welcome back to campus. The wheels have been turning in Foggy Bottom all summer long, but it’s time to shake off the rust and get back into college gear. In the spirit of turning our minds back to University matters, here is a list of issues to keep your eye on as the year progresses:
Affordability – Always one of the No. 1 topics, the price tag of GW and higher education in general must be addressed well into the future. University President Steven Knapp made this one of the central tenets of his first-year efforts, and the Board of Trustees last semester announced a five-year plan to increase GW’s affordability. This plan should not signal the end of the discussion.
Sustainability – Green initiatives were also a central issue last year. On Earth Day, GW joined more than 500 universities on the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment list, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and attain climate neutrality. In the most recent issue of their magazine, however, the Sierra Club includes GW as one of five schools with a failing grade for environmental sensitivity.
Campus safety – Debate over the University’s mental health policy persists following the conclusions of a campus safety task force formed after the Virginia Tech massacre. Between continued discussions over arming campus police and a rise in violent crime in D.C., campus safety will certainly remain an important issue in the months to come.
Elite enrollments and rankings – Last April, the Faculty Senate released a report titled “The Decline in Elite Freshman Admissions,” which indicated that enrollment of “elite” freshmen was down during the past admissions cycle. GW also failed to crack the top 50 universities once more in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. While plenty of doubt has been cast on the validity of the Faculty Senate report and administrators have downplayed the rankings, look for the debate on GW’s quality to continue.
Knapp’s sophomore year – University President Knapp’s first-year report card from this page was favorable, with praise for tackling critical University issues but also some criticism for a lack of campus presence. With his imminent move to Alumni House on F Street, look for Knapp to be a much more familiar face on campus this fall. Meanwhile, the critical University issues still have to be handled, but Knapp’s strong foundational year should aid progress.
Student study space – Always a perpetual problem on campus, the arguments over student study space and building hours will doubtless be renewed this semester. With few 24-hour areas and crowded study quarters in Gelman Library, student desire for more space will inevitably clash with the University’s bottom line of utilizing open spaces for revenue. Another CVS will go into the vacant 2000 Penn spot, and a student lounge in the old DJ’s Fastbreak spot should help to alleviate the study-space problem. Only more time will tell whether the student body will be satisfied with these decisions.
Dining – Is it fixed? Is it better? Is it worse? An agreement with service provider Sodexo was reached late last spring to allow freshman and sophomore mandatory J Street dollars to roll over between semesters, but this does not even begin to solve GW’s dining issues. Look for renewed frustration this semester over the limitations of J Street and GW dining in general and the continued existence of mandatory spending.
SA – Last year’s executive branch of the Student Association actually advocated on behalf of students and achieved change, making it a rare breed of student government in the past few years. SA President Vishal Aswani and Executive Vice President Kyle Boyer will be under intense scrutiny this year as they seek to continue the new tradition of SA advocacy.
Academics – Questions and complaints abound over the General Curriculum Requirements and advising system, especially in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. GCRs and academic advising are under review, and hopefully some possible solutions will be put on the table sooner rather than later.
Sports – The GW men’s basketball team is looking to rebound from a disappointing nine-win season in which they failed to qualify for even the conference tournament, and the women’s team will begin its first season with Mike Bozeman rather than Joe McKeown at the helm. Undoubtedly, the struggle between basketball and other University sports for acknowledgement will continue as well.
Community – Administrators remain concerned about flagging school spirit, prompting efforts such as the University-sponsored class competition, GW Olympathon. Following several incidents that caused religious and racial strife on campus last year, building community ties will surely remain a top priority on campus in the months to come.
Construction on campus – Major construction on campus includes the new dorm on F Street, the massive undertaking at Square 54 and the planned renovations of the Smith Center. Stay tuned for continued discussion about fundraising for these and other large construction projects, as well as the progression of the 20-year Campus Plan.
Presidential election – This once-every-four-years event has come around again. Not only will the campus be charged with even more political fervor than usual, but campaign events, speeches and inaugural fanfare will also provide excellent opportunities for University exposure and publicity. Hopefully, GW and its students will take full advantage.