Marissa Fretes: The value of a ‘Vern vacation’

When I was a prospective student, the idea of the Mount Vernon Campus mystified me.

Advertised as a small, secluded, picturesque haven apart from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced D.C., tour guides and students used the Vern to convince us that GW has it all: a vibrant city life and – if you seek it out – a space with peace, quiet and grass.

Since coming to GW, that image has been somewhat warped. Now, when someone says “the Vern” I think, “wasteland on the other side of the Earth.” City girls like me don’t do well with that much isolation.

But with Ames Hall re-opening next semester and playing host to hundreds of students every day, the University needs to change what the Vern is in students’ eyes and give students a reason to go there beyond Introduction to American History.

The University should make major publicity changes to the Vern’s identity in order to further integrate it with the Foggy Bottom campus; it should maintain its message that the Vern vacation is a needed retreat for everyone.

The newly revamped Ames Hall will hold 26 courses next semester, 19 of which are geared toward freshmen. These courses will draw a huge number of freshmen to the Mount Vernon Campus next semester. With all the University Writing courses going to be held there, virtually no freshman will be able to go without taking at least one course on the Vern.

Students can tell the University’s existing publicity of the Vern – which seems to relegate its residents to a sort of summer-camp environment – is a bit staged. But the Vern really does have appealing qualities that even the city-seekers like me would jump on the shuttle for.

And highlighting those instead is an important shift the University needs to make.

If every student is going to visit the Vern, then the old concept of the campus as a peaceful, quiet getaway from the fast-paced life of Washington has got to change. But while the image of a much-needed reprieve from city stress might not be exactly the same with hundreds of additional students milling around, it doesn’t have to disappear entirely.

Some students might not admit it, but eventually we all need a break from Foggy Bottom. The fast lane gets tiring sometimes, and the fact that peace, quiet and perhaps privacy are a shuttle ride away is ideal.

Just because administration is trying to foster increased campus integration doesn’t mean the campuses’ images have to mirror one another. Instead, the University should work on relieving the Mount Vernon Campus of its stigma among Foggy Bottom residents, while maintaining its peaceful brand.

This is also an excellent opportunity for the University to play up the value of Eckles Library, which often has more study space than Gelman library during finals, or the number of sports that are played on the recently re-turfed Vern field. The Vern as an escape – not a part of the main campus that is just a shuttle ride away – is a more convincing image. Just think of the students after a night out who wouldn’t mind a trip away, even if it were just for the all-you-can-eat brunch.

Because even we city kids could use some quiet.

Marissa Fretes, a freshman majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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