Staff Editorial: Keeping it real with students

The University unveiled a new plan to create a smarter and more effective alcohol policy for graduate and undergraduate students last week, an overhaul to be commended for its innovative and student-oriented roots.

Spearheaded by Assistant Dean of Students Tara Pereira, the revamp includes potential goals, such as altering Responsible Alcohol Management guidelines for law students, revising the “reasonable person” standard for student organizations and allowing cumbersome paperwork to be submitted online.

What is most encouraging about these changes, along with other recent overhauls Pereira has overseen this year, is the manner in which these reforms have been accomplished.

Pereira, with the support of Dean of Students Peter Konwerski, started and framed these reforms based on feedback from students. Not just Student Association leaders, but average students who otherwise would have gone unheard in the University’s bureaucracy.

This model of frank and direct conversation with students is laudable, and it should serve as an example of how the University must approach its students and its reforms.

Without hearing individual testimony and responses from students, Pereira said she would not have been able to grasp critical complaints and concerns about certain alcohol, drug and judicial policies.

Pereira not only reached out to large and prominent student leaders and organizations; she also made attempts to communicate and connect with ordinary students. By doing this, she was able to obtain a comprehensive view of student complaints and concerns.

Konwerski should also be recognized for not only allowing Pereira to carry out her vision, but also for supporting this crucial type of student-administrator interaction.

This appears to be a shift from previous administrative policies in the Dean of Students office, as Pereira has finally been encouraged and allowed to engage with students after Konwerski assumed his post in May 2010.

This form of communication can be seen in other student-life initiatives across campus. In particular, the new Center for Student Engagement is seeking to work directly with individual students in an exciting manner. Director of the CSE, Tim Miller, and his staff have been interacting with students on a personal level by touring dorms.

While each department in the University is distinct, administrators dealing with students or student issues should heed these models of effective outreach.

High-level administrators should always be sure to allow their staff to fully engage with students to receive the most informative portrait of students’ views on any pertinent issues.

But what these open lines of communication with students represent is the willingness of administrators to be truly innovative.

And in GW’s criticism shy administration, it is refreshing to see high-level administrators take risks that could have earned GW bad press, and pursue those ideas anyway, because it was what was best for students. Each staffer, employee or administrator who has an idea to better student life should be allowed to explore and push for new programs, even if it ends in failure, as the main goal of the University should always be making its student body feel educated, safe and satisfied with their time at GW.

Increased outreach is essential at a University that students often criticize for having a vast web of bureaucracy. By working with students on important issues that will affect their campus experience, opening networks of communication will clearly serve to benefit both students and administration.

More effective policies and plans will be formulated, and students will feel that they have more of an active stake in their University.

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