Doug Cohen: Creating a new campus hub

For a school that is located in the heart of Washington, D.C., this University has done an excellent job at containing what could otherwise be a sprawling campus. Despite its best efforts, however, the school is still missing a nucleus where students can gather – other than the library or J Street.

For this reason, the University should provide funds to create a remodeled Fishbowl, which would be able to act as a traditional student center. The Fishbowl is a small, student-run space that serves coffee, provides board games and hosts open mic nights, and is used by numerous student organizations. In a sense, it is a very small student union, and helps to make campus seem more communal and tight-knit amidst the large backdrop of Washington, D.C.

There are very few places to just sit in a relaxed setting while drinking coffee or grabbing something to eat. Our existing dining establishments and coffee shops could potentially serve that purpose, but they are too crowded and small to do so effectively. As a result, students gather across a disconnected number of locations on campus with no desirable central setting to congregate.

Campus needs some sort of entity that combines the atmosphere and advantages of G-Dub Java, Starbucks and the Marvin Center. But attempting to expand, build or change the current nature of these places would be fruitless for numerous reasons.

A remodeled Fishbowl could have a coffee bar and a small pub, which would be able to serve a variety of drinks and food with plenty of space to sit and relax. It could also have multiple floors with open space to study or hang out. As the Foggy Bottom Campus lacks a place for student performers and organizations to perform and prominently host events, an expanded Fishbowl would provide a much greater opportunity for students to showcase their talents and student orgs to become more visible. Since the Fishbowl is student-run, students will have the ability to help design and plan any new venue.

A great example of this student-center prototype is the University of California Davis Coffee House. Over 7,000 students come daily to the UC Davis CoHo, which is a popular hangout and dining spot on campus. It has affordable food and drinks that offer variety compared to the traditional dining halls, and it is open when most other food venues are closed. It hosts student performances, rents out space to student organizations and employs over 250 student employees.

The vastly under-utilized Veterans Memorial Park provides plenty of space right next to the existing Fishbowl for expansion. Why not expand the Fishbowl into this space, leaving some room for a patio in the new building?

Obviously, undertaking this project will take money. Yet just because the University has not specifically allocated funds for any such project does not mean that we should not seriously consider this venture, as it is time that money is spent to help refashion student life on campus. Creating a new Fishbowl will go a long way toward making the school seem smaller and giving campus a stronger identity, and attracting more students to GW.

Doug Cohen, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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