Melanie Hoffman: Rooms for the rich

My parents always told me that money cannot buy happiness and that money cannot solve all your problems. But apparently, my parents didn’t know that at GW, this is untrue. At GW, a hefty sum of money can get you first dibs on the best campus housing.

This past week the Residence Hall Association announced the upcoming date for the annual Martha’s Marathon, which includes a housing auction night. I was actually pretty surprised to find out that if I wanted to fork over about $7,000 (last year’s highest bid was $6,800, and the year before that it was $7,100) I could bid for the best housing on campus next year for me and my friends.

The first thing I thought when I discovered this? “Only at GW.”

Sure, the auction may appeal to those students who have no problem throwing down seven grand that most likely comes from their parents’ wallets. For the average student, however, the idea of this event is incredibly unfair, especially at a school where over 60 percent of the student body receives some type of financial aid or scholarship.

Yes, the auction profits go to a housing scholarship fund (I would have a way bigger problem with the auction if the profits did not go to a good cause), but the main morals of the event are still way off. Essentially, RHA is telling students that if they have enough money, they can get what they want. Students who do have the funds to participate are learning that they can get their way if they just pay enough.

I am not the first one to have a problem with this auction. In 2003, housing officials cut the number of rooms for auction down to five because “the idea of 10 picks going to the highest bidder seems to make the system unfair for the thousands of students who cannot afford one of the 10 Martha’s picks,” said then-Director of Housing Services Andrew Sonn.

This year, according to the RHA Web site, “RHA is offering more rooms than ever before up for auction.” How has six years changed what’s fair and what isn’t?

Even though only 10 rooms are in the auction, those rooms are considered the “best” or “most desirable” on campus and should not be given to the students who simply have the most money. The best rooms should be awarded to the students who deserve them the most, like those with the highest GPA or most co-curricular involvement, not those with the best financial standing.

Apart from the live auction, the other half of Martha’s involves selling raffle tickets with only one winner, who then gets first pick of housing. Although the raffle tickets are more reasonably priced at $2 each, the event still favors those students who have deeper pockets and could buy hundreds of raffle tickets.

The entire event is simply unfair to the students who are extremely accomplished academically and deserve to at the very least have a fair chance at getting assigned to the best rooms on campus.

The most ridiculous part is that GW already has a great financial aid and scholarship program that does a pretty good job of making a private education affordable. Now, how about making a chance at the best campus housing fair and affordable?

The writer, a freshman majoring in business administration, is a Hatchet columnist.

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