Jarred Stancil: Stop housing transfer students in Mitchell Hall

High school applicants to colleges begin one of most agonizing waits of their lives this week, now that they’ve slaved over admissions essays and nervously pressed “submit.”

But the due date for prospective transfer students isn’t for a few more months. In that time, they will have to think long and hard about whether or not coming to GW is right for them.

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And here’s the truth: It might not be.

Administrators told The Hatchet last week that transfer students would again be housed in GW’s version of solitary confinement: Mitchell Hall. As a transfer student myself, I can tell you that part of being new here that isn’t too enticing.

In Mitchell Hall, known for its single rooms and communal hall bathrooms, students who most want to meet new people and integrate themselves in the GW community instead get isolation.

The prospect of living in Mitchell didn’t faze me at first. At Seton Hall University, the school I transferred from, I had a roommate and two suitemates. The stark contrast Mitchell provided seemed appealing: I wouldn’t have to worry about being a good roommate, I thought. I could operate on my own schedule. It would be just like having my own apartment somewhere in the city.

Shortly after moving in though, the novelty wore off.

The hallways were quiet all hours of the day, with people either holing up in their rooms or heading out to socialize somewhere else. I knew that to meet people, I had to spend as little time in my room as possible.

GW Housing Director Seth Weinshel told me in an email that the reason transfers are all housed in the same place is “to allow for those transfers wanting to connect with other transfers the opportunity to do so.”

Well, why should that be in Mitchell? To give administrators the benefit of the doubt, maybe the move aims to keep the cost down for transfers because some other living options for upperclassmen are more expensive. And it’s not like it’s easy for GW to make living decisions on a campus crunched for space.

But with the hall’s collection of singles interspersed with a few two-person suites, Mitchell makes for a much more disconnected atmosphere than most residence halls on campus. That undercuts administrators’ community-building goals.

The move is especially contradictory in light of the University’s broader effort to create stronger ties to the University by mandating that more students live on campus. Administrators approved the construction of a massive “superdorm” to improve campus cohesion and build more affinity groups. But inexplicably, they’re excommunicating transfers in this plan.

Administrators got it right in previous years.

Two school years ago, transfer students were housed in Lafayette Hall. And if the University’s goal is cohesion and connection – as Weinshel said it was – Lafayette is a strikingly better option. It is centrally located near many campus hubs like the Marvin Center and Kogan Plaza. Plus, it guarantees each student a roommate and suitemates, limiting the amount of time that new students are forced to spend alone.

If GW is going to grow a so-called “transfer community,” it needs to either revise its goals, or change the ways it tries to meet them.

In Mitchell, there are some floors that have developed strong social ties, but this certainly doesn’t achieve the goal of a more integrated transfer community. Mitchell is also one of the farthest residence halls from the center of campus. That doesn’t help at all.

As a Mitchell resident, I’ll find reasons to stay out doing errands, just so I can run into people I know. And when I’m sick and have to stay in most of the day, I generally won’t have a single interpersonal interaction.

That’s an introduction to GW that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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