Staff Editorial: Semester in review: Avoiding the illusion of progress

This is the first of a two-part editorial board series reviewing GW’s fall semester.

A series of initiatives this semester, many of them student led, leave us with high hopes for the University’s future. But campus leaders: Make sure that your achievements are substantive and that your progress is not merely an illusion. Creating change without constructive follow through leads to wasted opportunities.

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With new student health location must come money, staff and outreach

Student Association president Julia Susuni celebrated a huge victory earlier this month when University President Steven Knapp pledged to carry out one of her campaign goals: moving Student Health Service and the University Counseling Center to campus.

But moving these services isn’t the end of the road. In fact, it should be the beginning of a larger overhaul of health services to fill in existing gaps.

For example, after the six free initial counseling sessions, prices to see a therapist are high. This is frustrating, given that more than 90 percent of universities do not charge for counseling sessions, according to a report by the American College Counseling Association. Flu shots and drop-in consultations should be free: It doesn’t make sense for students to pay $25 for a short doctor’s visit just so they can prove to professors that they had the flu.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are housed in two different offices, so students who need medication are forced to set up separate appointments. Ideally, the move to a central location will facilitate more dialogue between a student’s counselor and the professional that prescribes his or her medication. And a new building should be an opportunity for administrators to increase staff across the board so that student wait times can decrease.

Moving SHS and UCC to campus will be expensive – and it’ll be a waste of time if other substantive changes don’t also take shape.

Moving beyond cosmetic changes at Gelman Library

After years of lobbying for changes to Gelman Library, students saw inspiring improvements to the newly renovated entrance floor this semester. Students can now take advantage of shiny new Apple computers, meeting rooms and study space.

But this isn’t enough. Knapp has aspirations of making GW a full-fledged research university for both graduates and undergraduates. GW can never reach that level with an underfunded library.

The University has pledged to increase the library’s $4 million budget for the first time in about a decade, an essential change following a blistering report in March from outside experts about the library’s failure to deliver. Student leaders should not only lobby for cosmetic changes to the library, but also real increases to Gelman’s budget.

Without updated collections and a fully staffed library, students won’t be able to find the material they need to conduct research. It’s a waste of time for administrators to pour nearly $300 million into a new Science and Engineering Hall if students don’t even have basic academic resources in the library across the street.

Finding true solutions to campus security issues

Nearly every parent who tours campus asks about GW’s safety and security. But campus leaders haven’t done enough to assuage these concerns.

GW is looking to lobby city officials to widen the University Police Department’s jurisdiction off campus. The move isn’t too unusual for a city school – but GW is doing it to appease Foggy Bottom neighbors, not to keep students safe.

Collecting GWorld information from noisy students in off-campus townhouses or apartment buildings might make community members happy, but it diverts resources away from eliminating campus crime.

Student leaders have taken security into their own hands, but even they are perpetuating an illusion of progress. The Student Association passed a bill encouraging administrators to repair blue lights. The problem? Most of the blue lights work. They are hardly used for anything other than Friday-night pranks.

Instead of routine political posturing, find genuine solutions. Start with lobbying for better ways to notify students of campus crime incidents more quickly.

A flimsy case for a student vote at Board of Trustees meetings

Amid a series of administrative scandals, members of the SA have clamored for a voice on GW’s highest governing body. Students should have a seat at the table to hold dishonest and aloof board members accountable, they argue.

But so far, students have yet to prove why they deserve to participate. What makes a 20-year-old an expert on important University-wide functions like billion-dollar budgets, capital campaigns and tuition hikes? So far, student leaders have not weighed in enough on these issues.

If student representatives care about these issues, they should make more noise about them.

Historically, SA members have expended efforts on student-life focused issues like space availability, free printing and health and wellness. While these initiatives are important, successful advocacy in these areas won’t convince administrators that students are qualified to have a vote on the Board.

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