Kelsey Rohwer: Fewer fees please

Attending GW has many perks, including the remarkable city, local access to uniquely prestigious internships and research opportunities, and accomplished and knowledgeable professors. But perhaps the greatest perk for students is the DVD-rental program at Eckles Library on the Mount Vernon campus.

Just like taking out books, students who live on Mount Vernon can take out DVDs (if you live on Foggy Bottom, try asking that one Vern person you know). Students can take out DVDs for 48 hours and choose from an extensive collection with everything from the second season of “24” to “27 Dresses.”

But before you start sprinting to the Vern Express, there’s a catch – their DVD-rental policy. According to the Web site, “The loan period for Eckles Flix is two days or 48 hours. Late charges for these DVDs are $1.20 per hour. If a DVD is lost or stolen, the borrower may either pay the standard cost of any lost or damaged library material ($97.00) or replace the item with a new, exact copy.” In what situation is $97 the standard cost of any DVD?

I know late fees and some other charges serve a purpose. They give incentive for people to return books and DVDs on time. But the problem is, GW has so many of these fees that students are being sucked dry rather than being cut some slack.

GW has become very good at getting money out of its students. The late DVD fee is just the beginning. Replacing a lost GWorld card costs $25 and replacing a key costs $80. Overdue books cost a quarter a day, with a maximum of $10, while the fee for books that are late more than 40 days is $107 per book (including the $97 replacement fee). All of these fees add up to the point where all my weekend M Street funds are depleted.

At least one solution GW can offer to remedy the unreasonable fee policies at Eckles Library is to look for the money in other places. Students are asked to volunteer $50 for the ever-elusive library donation (thanks, Mom). What if our forfeited $50 covered potential late fees?

Last semester, I was an avid DVD renter. Tantalized by the selection, I would rent one a week. The week preceding finals I rented “P.S. I Love You,” failed to read the postscript, and fell prey to policy.

As any college student realizes, during the week before finals, mundane tasks such as returning a DVD (or showering) are thrown on the back burner. Without warning, during that fateful 71st hour, I received a charming e-mail from Eckles Library informing me that I now faced a fee of $27.60 for the overdue copy of “P.S. I Love You.” Where was the reminder e-mail at the 49th hour? Or the 24th?

I could have bought two DVDs for that price.

According to the outreach coordinator for Eckles Library, Robin Delaloye, “The entire reason for the higher fees on these items is to keep them circulating. The typical library system fine of a quarter a day isn’t enough incentive for most students to return the DVDs on time.”

I agree that some sort of fee should be put in place in order to ensure circulation. But we attend the third-most expensive college in the nation, and according to Forbes magazine, live in the 10th-most expensive city in the nation. Combine these numbers with the fees the University hands out like swine flu vaccinations, and you’ve got an extremely hefty bill on your hands.

Yes, the GW student is unlike any other, between the internship opportunities and the ability to walk by the White House on the way to lunch. But a GW student is still a college student with an ever-evaporating money supply and a desire for anything free. We are college students with busy lives, we don’t need to feel like our University is constantly trying get that extra few cents out of us. This is one place that GW could cut us some slack, and give us one less thing to worry about when things inevitably get hectic.

The writer, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet columnist.

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