Jonah Lewis: How the Corcoran merger makes us cool

Media Credit: Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Much has been made about what the Corcoran's merger with GW would mean for the University's financial and academic future.

GW shocked students and much of the city by announcing its acquisition of the struggling Corcoran College of Art + Design last week.

Now that everyone’s had the opportunity to sound off on the financial and academic implications of all this, let’s talk about another pleasant upside for GW: This makes us cooler.

About 80 students major in the visual arts in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Small acting and music programs add some to the University’s artistic environment, but still pale in comparison to the freakishly large number of international affairs and political science majors wandering around campus in suits and ties.

That means while students at other city schools often look they just stepped out of a Brooklyn warehouse party, students here look more like the unassuming white couples in Lands’ End catalogs.

The few art and music majors being banished to the dingy halls and basements of buildings like Smith or Phillips means campus lacks a certain type of creative spirit. While New York University and other major city schools have flourishing artistic and hipster communities, GW, shall we say, is not exactly at their level.

The fraternity brothers traversing campus in salmon pants likely aren’t visiting art museums or drinking flat whites at hipster coffee stops. Many GW students much prefer Banana Republic to thrift shops.

There isn’t anything inherently wrong with GW students’ proclivity for being preppy and well-dressed. It represents the professional and political enthusiasm that inspires many to come here. GW students are invested in their interests and taking in all that D.C. has to offer – which doesn’t have a thriving hipster outfit scene.

While it’s great to aim high in life, there are only so many times I can stomach hearing a GW student talking about their future presidency before reminding them that the one internship they had junior year on the Hill does not automatically qualify them for political office.

At the Corcoran, it’s different. There, budding artists smoke and sculpt and paint. “It’s a really bohemian, avant-garde mentality,” one student told The Hatchet last week.

Yes, this is why we need the Corcoran, a bona fide arts school. The mentality of those students and faculty will bring a bit more diversity to our school. The two sides of the spectrum – the brain of an artsy innovator and that of an ambitious wonk – balance each other out.

There are plenty of ways to measure diversity, from race to gender to socioeconomic status. But students can add much diversity in our institution in terms of interests, personality and talents.

GW’s failure to maintain any significant communities of students not freakishly knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure threatens our academic cohesion and ability to exist as a world-class institution.

If the University seeks to grow and make a name for itself, we cannot continue to dedicate ourselves solely to the social sciences. With the construction of the Science and Engineering Hall, which will place research emphasis on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, we are partially working toward diversity – but we can still do more.

We must enhance GW’s dedication to the fine arts and creative fields of study that allow for a different type of academic study. If this merger succeeds, maybe we can save Corcoran from financial ruin while saving our own school from a frightening lack of creativity at the same time.

Regardless of what happens, at least we might finally get to hear about some of those cool new indie bands before our friends at Oberlin or Reed do.

Jonah Lewis is a sophomore majoring in political science and sociology.

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