On an average day, about 600,000 people call the District of Columbia home. For inauguration weekend, D.C. is expecting a flood of anywhere from 3 to 5 million people. The question now: What to do with them?
It’s no secret that GW is in the center of the city, and we boast about it often. Well, with this prime real estate comes the responsibility to help students deal with this unprecedented influx of visitors. While millions of temporary inhabitants are just here to celebrate President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration and to see the city, the GW students who call D.C. home will still need to be able to go about their day while participating in inauguration events.
GW Housing Programs has been ahead of the curve in laying out plans for inauguration weekend and letting students know what to expect. The rest of GW must follow suit, sooner rather than later. Once all safety procedures are in place, the University should seek new and more effective ways to reach out to students with all this vital information.
The current plan consists of utilizing the Campus Advisories Web site, Infomails and press releases to keep the campus community informed, but this unparalleled event requires more user-friendly information access.
The Campus Advisories site is all well and good, but the inauguration merits its own high-profile site. This is a great opportunity for GW to provide a central place to go for all things inauguration, specifically tailored to GW students.
No one is exactly certain what to expect, but Foggy Bottom will be dramatically different for several days. GW authorities know the scope of their security plans and may consider promoting a sense of awareness and urgency in students.
GW Housing can be commended for clearly outlining guest policies well ahead of time in an e-mail sent out last month. What students may not realize is that the deadline to register guests is looming – Dec. 12 is the last day to submit a request. Had a central inauguration Web site been established, this is exactly the kind of information it could have publicized for students.
The biggest concern is going to be safety and security. With so many people concentrated in one area, students need to know what to do to stay safe, beyond keeping their GWorlds with them. In the worst case scenario, if some kind of emergency should happen, GW will be in the eye of the storm. GW needs to prepare students well beforehand, just in case.
As for attending the inauguration itself, students may not be aware of the rules of what not to bring. Items like thermoses, posters and umbrellas will not be allowed in security areas. For those students with plans to camp out for better vantage points, think again – it’s not allowed. Camping laws, times to arrive, where to go for security checkpoints – all of this is information that could easily be adapted for students. Throwing these facts onto the same Web site would simplify the trip to the Mall.
Such a central site could be a go-to source for GW students and families, especially on the day of the inauguration. Live updates of especially crowded Metro stations and security concerns could help manage Inauguration Day madness. This is a big opportunity for GW to step up to the plate and offer a valuable service that could lay out a successful model for future large-scale events.
With droves expected to descend upon the city, it is hardly even possible to overreact. To put this event in perspective, remember the photos from Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall? All those people crowded together as far as the eye could see? That was about 250,000 people.
Now imagine millions. Scared yet? GW must go beyond the usual Infomails and advisories to help us prepare.