Travis Helwig: Thank you, Vishal Aswani

The GW bureaucracy views the student body in terms of profit. Luckily for the student body, Student Association President Vishal Aswani can see beyond the numbers.

A little more than two months ago, the house I grew up in was destroyed in a fire. My father had lived in the house for almost 60 years, and it was devastating for my family to lose everything we owned and the memories that went along with our things. Our financial situation became immediately unclear, and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to complete my senior year at the most expensive university in the country.

Within two days of the fire, we contacted the financial aid office and the dean of students. We filled out all the appropriate paperwork and hoped and prayed we would receive enough aid to allow me to finish my time in Foggy Bottom. A full month passed. Despite our circumstances, the University hadn’t awarded my family anything extra. Not only had my hopes to return to GW been diminished, but any sense of pride I had in my school was gone. We had asked to at least be called back with an acknowledgement of our situation.


A random dryer malfunction had taken our house, our cars and our century-old pictures. Now it was destroying the years of hard work my parents put in to allow their son to attend George Washington.

It seemed almost silly at the time, but I decided to call the SA president.

When we finally spoke, his tone was solemn. He apologized for the way the GW bureaucracy had treated my family. As I rambled and stuttered, trying to hide the fact I was begging for help, he said something I will never forget. Calmly, he said, “You don’t have anything to worry about, Travis. You will be back here in the fall.”

Vishal proceeded to map out how he would get this done, assuring me that President Knapp would be notified if necessary. I would have been content with the fact that someone at the University had acknowledged our hardship, but he went beyond that. Within five days of our first phone conversation, my financial aid had been dramatically increased. What we had asked the University to do over a month earlier, Vishal had completed in less than a week.

The majority of complaints about GW usually stem from a single overarching problem: The administration forgets there are students attending the University. It is the students who desire smaller class sizes, more lounge space and the five-year-old idea of wireless Internet. If not for the student body, a university has no need to exist. Perhaps it’s time that the University stops worrying about what shopping mall they can fit next to the hospital and starts to worry about what their students need. Perhaps they should take notes from Vishal Aswani.

The SA has never been perfect, but President Aswani has shown me he is committed to working for us. While my family still has not received a phone call from any official at GW, Vishal Aswani actually resolved our problem. If my situation is any indication, we will have a different type of SA president this year. He will work for us regardless of what the University is doing to prohibit progress. He did it for my family and I know he would do it for yours.

From Donna, Douglas, Jessie and Travis Helwig: Thank you, Vishal Aswani.

The writer, a senior majoring in sociology and theater, is the founder and editor of The Colonialist blog.

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