Alyssa Rosenthal: A day of service to GW’s image

Brightening Schools, Building Community was the third annual Freshman Day of Service catchphrase.

But a more fitting slogan might have been “Brightening Images, Building Rapport.” Instead of focusing on what is significant about Sept. 11, the University chose to focus on our media image.

With the help of top Obama officials such as Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Faith Adviser Eboo Patel, GW projected an air of grandeur.

But this ended up being a show as after students sat through speech after speech about how wonderful it is to do service, they barely performed two hours of good deeds.

More than 2,300 students, faculty and administrators attended the “servication,” the nickname given to the combined Sept. 11 Day of Service and Freshman Convocation.

But even with such a great turnout, it appears more time was spent organizing speakers than getting the actual volunteers to do service.

Information given to Day of Service leaders like myself was just the bare basics, leaving much to the imagination of the site captains and their upperclassmen volunteers.

To the credit of the University, it didn’t ferry us to low-income areas in posh Greyhound buses like it did last year. But the degree of inadequate information created problems and frustration for students.

By giving an actual description about projects, leaders could let their participants understand the environment they would be in.

This blatant disregard for giving any information could easily have been avoided had someone taken a few minutes from finding officials to come and instead shifted their attention to the 2,300 other people attending.

Students who went to Ballou High School also heard more speeches upon arrival at their site, further limiting their allotted “service hours.” And officials and administrators were seen taking more pictures than actually helping in the community.

By the time dinner was served, volunteers were antsy and uncomfortable about being forced to discuss interfaith service, a required but not forewarned component of the Freshmen Day of Service, when it was not common information during sign-up.

These are put just a few examples of how the University pushed actual service to the back-burner to give priority to publicity.

I think it’s fair to say that as it stands, not many freshmen feel like being lectured at.

It is time the University sets its priorities: service for the sake of service, not service for the sake of appearance.

Alyssa Rosenthal, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.