The other day I found myself in every upperclassman’s worst nightmare: I was hungry and heading to a meeting in the Marvin Center. You can imagine the rest of the story. Reluctantly, I wandered into J Street, trying with all my willpower to remain optimistic.
“It must have gotten better,” I told myself. “Surely after years of complaining, poor food service and Student Association talking points, there must have been improvement.”
Somewhere between being extorted for every dollar in my wallet and digging into the clearly subpar food, I realized I was mistaken.
The underlying issue with J Street and dining reform at GW is that by the time a student learns the complexities of the program’s faults, he or she no longer cares about J Street.
Well, now I’m a senior, and I’m still willing to say J Street dining is a disservice to students, and GW needs to stop managing the issue and focus on fixing it. If you want to raise the quality of J Street, the answers are simple, but will require a serious commitment.
First, the horrendous, CNN-spouting Washington Monument in the center of J Street needs to be taken down. This inane addition to J Street makes it impossible to expand the kitchen sizes on the first floor.
As an old motto of GW-insiders goes, “The day they put the Washington Monument in Marvin was the day they stabbed J Street in the heart.”
The University also needs to completely do away with mandatory spending. J Street is centrally located in a building that hosts GW offices, student org headquarters and almost daily special events targeted at college students who tend to eat fast food. If a restaurant or contractor cannot turn a profit in J Street, it probably learned business on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Let’s stop subsidizing what should be an easily profitable venue.
GW continues to manage the problem instead of solving it. The University expanded the buffet and has been trying various vendors over the past few years, but these efforts merely distract from J Street’s more pressing issues. I’m sorry to say that a little bit more lettuce and a new taco stand aren’t going to make students happy with mandated dining.
With so many obvious problems, why haven’t there been tangible improvements? The problem lies in the fact that by the time a GW student understands all of the issues with J Street, he or she no longer cares. These are the implications of the system in place. When our student representatives are elected, prospective freshmen don’t vote. This means at most, only one group of voting students face another year of J Street money, and these students only have to spend half of what they had to pay before. Ask an SA candidate if he or she cares more about appealing to incoming, non-voting freshmen or to the ever-elusive graduate student vote. The candidate probably tiptoes around the question, but we all know who gets into the platform first.
GW has shown very little interest in actually solving this problem. We have a system that prevents students with a vested interest in the issue from being heard.
Most students don’t realize that if they have enough credit to be a semester ahead of their actual attendance, they can get out of mandatory spending for that semester. I encourage everybody capable to take advantage of that fact. Spend your mandatory money, but no more. There’s no reason to be ripped off and come back for more, unless you are that unlucky junior or senior who really doesn’t have time for anything else.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet senior columnist.
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