As GW officially becomes ‘need-aware,’ senators question lack of transparency

Sen. Ryan Counihan, SoB-U, co-sponsored a resolution Monday that called for more transparency from the admissions office. Tatiana Cirisano | Hatchet Photographer
Sen. Ryan Counihan, SoB-U, co-sponsored a resolution Monday that called for more transparency from the admissions office. Tatiana Cirisano | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Anuhya Bobba

Student Association senators blasted the University’s quiet move away from need-blind admissions Monday, fearing a damaging effect on the school’s reputation.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the Admissions Transparency Act, which called for admissions staff to speak at its next meeting and explain why GW had called itself need blind for years, while in fact, applicants’ financial need had always been considered. Out of 23 senators present, 17 supported the bill and six abstained.

The admissions practice, which impacted up to 10 percent of applicants annually, came to light in a Hatchet story published Monday.

The Senate’s longest-serving member, engineering doctoral student Will Rone, said the false messaging may be worse than last year’s “ranking gate.” The admissions office announced last November that it had been inflating the number of top students it accepted, causing it to be unranked from the U.S. News and World Report’s best college list.

“We really have to engage with higher leadership to see how this could have happened again,” Rone, SEAS-G, said.

The resolution’s co-sponsor, Sen. Ryan Counihan, SoB-U, also demanded “more context” about why the admissions office was again caught misrepresenting its practices. He added that it wasn’t clear whether the need-blind messaging was intentional.

“What I am tired of is the sentiment that ‘Oh, GW messed up again,’” Counihan, who chairs the finance committee, said.

The SA also sought accountability from admissions officials who misreported admissions data last fall, organizing a town hall that featured top officials including University President Steven Knapp.

Other members, including Sen. Daniel Egel-Weiss, U-At-Large, feared the resolution might attract more bad publicity. The resolution reads that the SA senators “formally applaud the admissions office for publicly accepting their mistakes,” and call for the office to continue their push for transparency.

Egel-Weiss said he hopes the resolution will be seen as a positive step in discussions between the SA and the University.

“I hope that people will read it as the Student Association commending the University for coming forward and moving on in a progressive manner,” he said during the meeting.

Senators contested the precise wording of the resolution during a 45-minute closed session, Sen. Nick Gumas, CCAS-U, later told The Hatchet.

Gumas added that he applauded the efforts of Laurie Koehler, who was tapped this summer as GW’s enrollment manager, to accurately represent the admissions process.

“Provost Koehler is doing everything that we can expect out of her,” he said after the meeting. “We are really happy to see an administrator who is working to mitigate the problems at hand.”

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