Staff Editorial: New policy strands student orgs

If you thought booking on-campus space for an event was hard before, it’s about to get a lot harder and a lot more expensive – so much more expensive, in fact, that you might have to hold a fundraiser. Good luck affording space for that.

Last August, the University implemented a policy that will charge student groups hosting events $100 to $425 per day, per on-campus classroom if the event involves non-GW participants. Under the new policy, events such as the International Affairs Society’s Model United Nations and GW Parliamentary Debate Society’s planned tournament – which involve hundreds of middle and high-schoolers – will be subject to thousands of dollars in unforeseen charges.

While it is understandable that the administration wants to take a streamlined approach to student organizations’ classroom use, this policy reduces student organizations’ programming efforts to mere business transactions. The University should be able to profit from its facilities by charging groups for using rooms, which it already does in venues like the Marvin Center and 1957 E St. The need to make a profit, however, should not be imposed upon GW students trying to hold events that enrich campus life.

GW needs to treat each student org and potential event as individuals. Prior to this classroom-charge policy, each organization’s plans were reviewed on a case-by-case basis, similar to Student Association allocations. Personalized review could factor in each organization’s budget and goals for the event. For instance, the GW Parliamentary Debate Society has already scrapped plans for a debate run with the D.C. Urban Debate League for inner-city high schoolers. With the Society’s limited budget, the classroom-use charges make the tournament impossible, despite its laudatory goals.

During the admissions courting period and Colonial Inauguration, student orgs are marketed as being the lynchpins of the student experience. Events such as Model U.N., which brings hundreds of high schoolers interested in political science and international affairs to campus, should be promoted, not hindered.

As it stands, the University’s classroom space crunch and random building operation hours makes it hard enough for student groups to utilize rooms. With additional restrictions and charges for the scarce rooms, the orgs will have to raise more funds and possibly cancel rewarding programs to make budget room.

Other universities, including the larger University of Maryland, do not charge student groups for classroom space, even if the event involves students unaffiliated with the university. It’s true that GW has a prime location for outside conventions and meetings, but it is first and foremost a university.

Ostensibly, the University is trying to make event planning easier, but easier for whom? Treating a student org like just another business renting space does nothing to correct the notion among students that GW is only out for the bottom line.

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