Students urge GW to address campus space crunch

The Student Association will look to stir up a campus-wide push for more student space on campus this week, continuing a year-and-a-half battle.

Before the Board of Trustees meeting next month, the SA will “dorm storm” every building on campus and hold a student space rally Thursday with enough free food for 1,500 students. The group hopes to get more than 5,000 signatures on a petition asking the Board of Trustees and University President Steven Knapp to build up the Marvin Center third-floor terrace and reserve the future basement of the superdorm for study and lounge areas.

SA leaders have blasted the more than $300 million allocated toward academic buildings recently, compared to $17 million spent on GW’s library and Marvin Center student offices.

June 2011
The University’s Hippodrome, home to a student bowling alley and WOW Café and Wingery, closes on the Marvin Center’s fifth floor.

September 2011
The Fishbowl, a hang-out hub on the corner of 22nd and G streets, is replaced with administrative offices.

February 2012
Then-Student Association President John Richardson lobbies for fourth floor Marvin Center construction at the Board of Trustees meeting.

May 2012
The Board of Trustees sets aside $225,000 to renovate the fourth floor of the Marvin Center and expand student organizations’ offices.

September 2012
SA President Ashwin Narla and Executive Vice President Abby Bergren submit a 22-page proposal outlining 10 ways to allow greater use of campus space, including turning academic halls into study rooms at night. Administrators agreed to few demands in full.

January 2013
Narla and Bergren amp up lobbying with a second proposal, a student rally and a petition they hope will get more than 5,000 signatures.

Sen. Ryan Counihan, SoB-U, who drafted a resolution this week condemning the University’s lackluster approach to increasing student space, called it an “ultimatum” for administrators to take their voices seriously. The senate passed the bill unanimously.

“It’s been a perpetual issue. The fact that it’s perpetual shows that it wasn’t dealt with before,” Counihan said. “The Student Association is definitely taking a more aggressive approach, because we’ve gotten nowhere over the past year and a half. Space makes students happy and makes them more likely to give back to the University.”

Last semester, the SA sent a space proposal to administrators’ desks, pitching 10 ideas, including 24-hour access to academic buildings and the elimination of fees for student organization events. The University only partially agreed to the plan, giving students access to seven conference rooms in the Marvin Center after business hours and allowing students into Duques and Funger halls until 2 a.m.

SA President Ashwin Narla said those were positive gains, but students need to see a more serious commitment to space.

Narla said the lack of space hampers students’ experience at GW. Narla said if GW pledged to carve out more space for students, more students would “love GW and not love being at GW because it’s in D.C.”

The executive duo sent a second proposal this month. Narla said he and Bergren met with Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz last week and will meet with other administrators over the next two weeks to discuss this plan.

This is the second year the SA president has campaigned for student space at a Board of Trustees meeting.

To draw in student support at the rally, sandwich shop Jetties will provide free sandwiches, and the SA will spend about $500 for pizza, Narla said.

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