Staff Editorial: An administration marked by silence

If knowledge is power then the University administration has demonstrated it singularly wields all authority on campus.

Since President Steven Knapp assumed his position as University president, GW has foregone transparency and has consistently chosen to keep quiet on issues that affect the community. We are tired of the silence, and we believe that lack of candor is harmful to the student body, as it deprives us of information that affects our lives at GW.

Currently the University will not release information on the University Police Department’s budget and campus patrols. A source in the department said the force cut patrols this year after seeing budget cuts, but a spokeswoman declined to comment.

This is a matter of student safety, and the University refuses to tell students about it. Reduced UPD patrols are concerning to the whole GW community, and the fact that the University refuses to release this vital information is troubling.

The administration has been notably opaque during its decision to hire Mike Lonergan as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team. After Karl Hobbs was released from the position, new athletic director Patrick Nero could have publicized a short list of coaches, but instead the entire process was conducted behind closed doors.

This lack of transparency also concerns us, as it leads us to believe that the vaunted athletics review is less of a conversation and more of a unilaterally conducted procedure. The University held a number of task forces and open forums about GW athletics, but they failed to consult attendees about hiring Nero or Lonergan. The athletics director and men’s basketball coach are integral to the student experience, and students leaders involved with athletics should have been given a chance to share their opinions on the possible hires.

By disregarding student and community input in making this decision, the University demonstrated a disheartening lack of concern for student thoughts.

The University is keeping its vital information from more people than just students though. Last month, The New York Times attempted to talk to administrators at GW Law School about its scholarship policy, and University officials refused to discuss it. Several other law schools’ officials, however, did speak to The Times about their policies.

In this case, the University had an opportunity to defend and elaborate on its program at the national level, but it chose to remain quiet instead. This kind of publicity does more damage than good for our image. With such an opaque front provided by the University, prospective students might not get what they expected when enrolling in the law school. As the University is not going public with information about its scholarships, students could find themselves thousands of dollars in debt for failing to meet its requirements.

The trend has been troubling this year, and we implore Knapp’s administration to make a conscious move toward becoming more transparent with its campus decisions.

Prospective and current students alike benefit from increased information flow about University activities, but the administration will also benefit from being more open with its information. GW has always been criticized for being marred by red tape. But this red tape is not just a result of institutional bureaucracy.

Knapp’s powerful and impenetrable public relations machine has made it such that when the University is confronted with the tough questions, it simply refuses to speak.

Rather than letting silence be the norm, GW administration should open up and let its information go public. This denial to speak to the media and students about controversial campus occurrences is troubling and seems tyrannical.

Open communication should be standard, not a rarity on campus.

Increased information is in the public interest and, while the University has failed to see that in the past, during the upcoming school year GW should move toward making transparency a priority. This is particularly prevalent as the University plans to move forward with some major initiatives, such as Gelman Library renovations, SJS reform and Science and Engineering Complex construction.

GW is our home and our lives for four years. We are affected by administrative decisions and so it is unfair that the administration is still quiet on these matters.

If this University wants an engaged and passionate community, then it must choose to be more transparent with its information and affairs.

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