Doug Cohen: Creating a go-to student hub

The University’s effort to foster a greater sense of community is still missing a key ingredient.

The launching of the Center for Student Engagement and the revamp of the Marvin Center to include study space and a yoga studio are both admirable efforts to foster the identity and pride GW lacks.

But one missing element can truly transform campus identity: a classic college hang-out spot. The closest thing GW had was the Fishbowl, but that student space was permanently shuttered this fall to make way for offices and administrative space.

With the Hippodrome slated to shutter this year and WOW! Wingery already closed, the University now has the opportunity and available square footage to build a new community space. The administration should turn the fifth floor of the Marvin Center into a student coffeehouse and lounge to serve as campus hub.

There are already several popular existing spaces on campus that have similar elements of a coffeehouse. Everyday students flock to Starbucks, G-Dub Java and the Ivory Tower basement to eat or meet with friends. Unfortunately, none of these sites truly capture the essence of a university lounge or coffeehouse. Only G-Dub Java, the smallest of the three hang-out spots, is a truly GW-centric spot.

The new Metro Diner, a more inclusive J Street eatery, is what most resembles a coffeehouse on campus. Yet J Street does not have the same intimacy of such a venue and it is too high-traffic amid the commotion of the dining hall.

A new lounge would distinguish itself by combining and centralizing all of these different sites which are undeniably campus hubs.

There is something to be said for a the sense of community fostered at a place like Brandeis University’s Chum’s coffeehouse, a student-run venue that is open late nights, provides a variety of food and drink and hosts student performances. The University of California Davis’s coffeehouse serves over 7,000 students daily and offers performance space.

Coffeehouses like these are student-centered venues which can become the defining feature of campus. They can contribute to a unique identity for universities, making campuses more appealing to the average student.

GW needs the type of celebrated spot that can appeal to a large and diverse student body that often is strained by the pull of living in a big city.

A new coffeehouse would be a hub for students right in the center of campus, and it would truly complete the University’s goal of making the Marvin Center a student union. And with the University close to maximizing all of its available space on campus, the fifth floor of the Marvin Center seems to be the last opportunity for this endeavor.

–The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.
This column was updated on Oct. 6, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet erroneously said that “with the closing of WOW! Wingery and the Hippodrome, the University now has the opportunity and available square footage to build a new community space.” The Hippodrome will be removed and replaced later this academic year but is still open. WOW! Wingery is closed.

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