Justin Peligri: The consequence of losing trust

There’s a funny little thing about trust. You have to earn it.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Justin Peligri

As The Hatchet’s opinions editor, I’ve tried to make sure that each piece of writing and analysis we publish is interesting, original and – above all else – fair. And when it comes to admissions and financial aid, we’ve often given our leaders some benefit of the doubt.

Yes, tuition is high, but the University awards nearly 60 percent of its students some form of financial aid. Yes, tuition is high, but it’s also fixed, so it won’t increase during undergraduates’ four years.

And yes, tuition is high, but GW is need-blind.

Or, at least, we thought it was.

Our understanding of the facts changed this week when newly-hired Senior Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler told The Hatchet that the University does, in fact, consider an applicant’s financial status if they are in about the bottom 10 percent of the qualified applicant pool.

We accepted a need-blind framework, and it turns out it was a lie. This forces the question: What other blind faith do we place in GW’s leaders everyday?

In light of a slew of seemingly endless controversies at GW – an unranking, a junior housing mandate, a dean firing – some students might argue that another scandal is merely par for the course.

Others say that maybe we should have suspected our “need-aware” status all along. GW’s endowment is relatively small compared to its peers, and the University has to make up for lost ground somehow.

But regardless of the reasoning behind it, the University lied. It lied in a way that affects hundreds of applications each year.

This all comes after University President Steven Knapp has worked tirelessly to convince us that GW is affordable despite a staggering sticker price. Given GW’s high cost of attendance, Knapp has made finding ways to pay for college a crucial tenet of his tenure. Those promises were undercut in light of this week’s revelations.

We were completely misled here. So what else is fabricated?

Do the current, former and prospective students of GW really have all of the facts? I hope so. But after a breach of confidence this explosive, none of us can really know for sure.

So senior associate provost Koehler, welcome to GW. Thanks for taking initiative so early in your tenure, and making an effort to play it straight with students about the way that admissions really works here. But know that you’ve entered an environment where prominent leaders – past and present – evidently don’t view honesty as the best policy.

Know that one of your main responsibilities is to turn that trend around.

Because as opinions writers, we know our analysis means nothing if we don’t adhere to the facts. Otherwise, we’re nothing more than your burnt-out uncle, sitting in the corner of the room at family gatherings, moaning and groaning about problems that only exist in his imagination.

Facts matter. But as the opinions editor, I wonder whether we know all of the facts and if there will be more lies in the future.

The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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