When Michael Akin, the assistant vice president for the Office of Government, International and Community Relations, announced he would step down from his post, the future of community relations at GW was faced with a change. Akin is credited with playing a huge role in how the University interacts with the surrounding community leaving a large void for his department to fill.
GW said it has yet to find his replacement for the assistant vice president. We understand this process may take some time and an interim appointment will have to take his place. When the University does find someone from outside of GW to take Akin’s role, we hope the replacement will carry on Akin’s positive relationship with our neighbors. We also believe the next vice president can play an even bigger role in relaying community concerns to students.
In addition to the day-to-day fielding of complaints and explaining why the University makes certain building decisions, Akin’s successor should also consider creating a group to increase communication between neighbors and students. We too need a representative to work on our behalf and neighbors need to be sure that their complaints concerning students actually reach the students.
Currently, GW has an initiative known as Campaign GW. This group reaches out to community members about the University’s 20-Year Campus Plan. But this does not necessarily address the day-to-day issues that students and neighbors have with each other.
This new committee could take on the responsibility of passing on complaints to either neighbors or students, and could host open meetings for these two groups to interact. A dialogue could revolve around possible changes that these people want to see from each other, and may at least give the parties the option to make themselves heard.
In addition to these tasks, the group or department could also host events for everyone in Foggy Bottom that truly bring students and neighbors together. More events such as the Foggy Bottom Cleanup, and similar neighborhood initiatives could show the residents of Foggy that we as students do care about the appearance of this home and this relationship.
In all fairness, our University took over Foggy Bottom, forcing many residents to deal with thousands of college students on a daily and nightly basis. Residents do not simply complain about GW building the Science and Engineering Complex – they also complain about rowdiness, littering and noise. Students have their own complaints, namely those relating to vague laws with potentially severe consequences for students who violate the D.C.-wide noise ordinance passed earlier this year.
Akin’s replacement should acknowledge that the task of mediating between students and the community requires engagement with students. This relationship is largely a two-way street and changes can only begin with a better dialogue.