Student space was a focus for Student Association executives last year. It has been the primary focus of the student leadership this year. And it is going to be the central tenet of nearly every SA candidate’s platform for the upcoming year.
The debate over this issue isn’t ending anytime soon. But Provost Steven Lerman and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz wrote a patronizing public response Feb. 11 to the cry for more space, essentially denying the calls to turn the third floor of the Marvin Center into a student hub.
Instead, they argued, student space will be incorporated into new campus construction projects like the Science and Engineering Hall and the “superdorm.”
“We believe the best approach is to integrate student spaces into our new buildings and renovations, and this is the approach we have been pursuing.”
While it is reassuring that administrators are at least including more student space in future projects, the letter sent a message to students that their input isn’t a priority.
Students obviously have valuable insight when it comes to issues like campus space. The Marvin Center is supposedly GW’s student union, but the University has traded both the old Hippodrome bowling alley and the wingery on the fifth floor for more office space. And in response to more than 4,000 signatures on a petition to the Board of Trustees to open up more student space to create a greater sense of community, administrators have virtually turned their backs.
For any meaningful conversation, student ideas must be taken into account. The whole purpose of the SA is to take the pulse of the student body and lobby on behalf of the average Colonial. But these student leaders can only do so much when administrators won’t meet them halfway. Student feedback, especially from the SA, can complement the administration’s plans and initiatives.
Students’ concerns should not be brushed off. Collaboration is necessary in planning the future of campus. Universities exist for students, and their feedback should hold weight.
The administration’s opposition to student input puts an end to any SA lobbying efforts on this hallmark issue, which is frustrating, given that collaboration between the student representatives and GW officials has a led to past successes.
In the 2009-2010 academic school year, former SA President Julie Bindleglass and Executive Vice President Jason Lifton pushed the conversation about renovating Gelman Library. And then in May 2011, the board allocated $16 million to upgrading the aging building.
It is essential that the University remain receptive to student concerns, instead of writing a passive letter of dismissal.