Phillip Ensler: How ‘Thirsty Thurston’ won’t dry up

After reading about GW Housing Program’s plan to house a variety of student communities in Thurston Hall next year, I could not help but laugh at the absurdity of having substance-free students living in the place unofficially dubbed “Thirsty Thurston” by GW students. The decision to place such a community in Thurston is obtuse for a range of reasons and is inconsiderate to the living preferences of those who seek to live in a substance-free living space.

For starters, despite what Housing Director Seth Weinshel says about Thurston’s amorphous ability to be “different [each year] based on the people that live in the building” (“Thurston to house honors, engineering students,” May 10th, p. 1), many students choose Thurston as their freshman residence because of its reputation as a more socially active dorm. In turn, residents are offered many benefits, particularly getting to know so many fellow freshmen. Yet Thurston’s identity is unequivocal: it is a social nucleus where drinking and pot-smoking are common realities. The overall demeanor and reputation of Thurston does not change each year simply because a new class of freshmen occupies its rooms.

In picking Thurston to house substance-free students, Housing either acted naively or engaged in an egregiously flawed publicity campaign to promote Thurston as a place that can properly accommodate students who desire a dorm environment devoid of substances. It is unfair to place students who seek the comfort of knowing that their living community is free of alcohol and drugs in a place where drinking and smoking are inevitably more prevalent.

Housing needs to be as accommodating as possible to all students. Throwing students who desire to live in a substance-free environment into Thurston is like dropping a person who is allergic to peanuts in a Skippy factory-the individual is effectively placed in the very space that infringes their personal needs. It is inconceivable that Thurston can offer a truly insulated and safe area for students who wish to remain away from the booze.

Moreover, Housing erred in its decision to place the honors, engineering and seven-year B.A. and M.D. students in Thurston. Although there certainly are some students from those communities who would gladly reside in Thurston, the University has previously made the deliberate decision to house such students in “quieter” dorms such as Lafayette for specific reasons. Students enrolled in such programs-as well as those seeking a substance-free environment-generally prefer more reserved living quarters. Thurston is everything but reserved and it is unwise to force such an amalgam of communities to concurrently reside there.

In making Thurston the new home of such a variety of communities, the University failed to live up to its commitment of providing adequate housing options for students with special circumstances. Students’ housing is fundamental to their comfort and sense of safety on campus. Living in a space in which students feels at ease is imperative to their success in school. GW has a responsibility to provide proper housing for all its students-particularly freshmen-and the decision to make Thurston the all-purpose dorm was a misguided decision.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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