Political commentator and comedian Jon Stewart opened his Colonials Weekend performance on Saturday by discussing GW’s school colors and asking the audience, “What is buff?” Though the majority of the audience laughed in response, I couldn’t help but overhear the girl sitting behind me point out to her friend that “everyone makes that joke.”
The girl’s comment made me wonder what previous Colonials Weekend performers have mocked GW. Better yet, what are the qualities of GW which students, rivals and the general public all poke fun? Are they just jest, or do they contain a certain truth?
This question led me to compile a list of GW’s quirks, anomalies and “sore spots,” ranging from the least to the most legitimate. As the following list exemplifies, while some qualities make GW unique, others are somewhat of an embarrassment.
Hail to the buff? – Ah, the oft-mentioned school colors. We hail them and wear them proudly at the few events we actually attend. To answer Jon Stewart’s question, according to the American Hertiage Dictionary, buff is defined as “A pale, light or moderate yellowish pink to yellow, including moderate orange-yellow to light yellowish brown.” According to the GW Spirit Program’s Web site, the University chose the colors buff and blue in 1904 “to commemorate the colors of the uniform that George Washington wore when he resigned as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on December 23, 1783.” So while it isn’t referring to, in the words of Robin Williams, “the color of George Washington’s fake teeth,” “buff” is significant and based in tradition. It also sets GW apart from other yellow-bearing schools.
George and the Hippo – Every school needs a mascot, but does GW really need two? Ask most GW students, and their answer will be “yes.” While George is our official representative at games and University functions, the Hippo has assumed the role of the “unofficial” mascot. Ever since former University President Steven Trachtenberg dedicated a statue of a hippo to the University, the GW community has integrated the animal into basketball games, merchandise and other aspects of student life. George is a traditional (though slightly creepy) figure in the realm of school mascots, but the Hippo is just plain cute. GW’s affair with another mascot may be unconventional, but who are we to judge true love?
GW? Do you mean Georgetown? – Possibly one of the most frustrating aspects of attending GW is dealing with people who assume GW and Georgetown are the same school. A favorite is the play-on-initials some people have made by claiming “GW” is short for “Georgetown wait list.” While many GW students may have applied to both schools for their similar location and overlapping academic focus, many current Colonials, such as I, did not apply to be Hoyas. GW thus faces the task of raising our national profile while keeping our University distinct from neighboring schools. And if I get asked, “Do you mean Georgetown?” one more time, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.
Red tape – As a high school senior flipping through lists of the best schools in the United States, a common complaint concerning GW was the prominence of red tape. As a current student, I too have encountered the frustrating maze of offices, administrators and paperwork that comes with simply paying a bill. GW should make a considerable effort to better consolidate the numerous administrative branches. Though D.C. is notorious for bureaucracy, getting my AP credits counted shouldn’t be harder than passing a health care bill.
Politics and science – GW is known for its highly charged political atmosphere, but a common criticism of the University is that it is too focused on political and international subject areas. While it is important for a school in the heart of the nation’s capital to excel in these concentrations, GW must break out of the one-track mindset and focus on other majors.
Jon Stewart: GW’s “$80,000 tuition” – The most commonly criticized and arguably most legitimately flawed facet of GW is its high tuition. Previously known as the most expensive school in the nation, many people, including Jon Stewart, have joked about the shockingly high amount of money Colonials and their parents spend on a GW education. But in the midst of a recession, high tuition is no laughing matter. GW must be willing to combat the negative publicity surrounding its high tuition in order to ensure favorable application and retention rates for years to come.
Some of GW’s features can (and should) be the punch lines for various jokes. As the above list details, sometimes they are quirks, sometimes they are anomalies – but much too often they are underlying issues that GW must address.
The writer, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
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