Staff Editorial: Welcome to Colonials Weekend

Media Credit: Cartoon by Jay Fondin

Dear GW parents,

Welcome to campus, or if you’ve been here before, welcome back.

If the last time you visited Foggy Bottom was during move-in weekend, you might notice much has changed on these campus streets. Much has gone on behind the scenes, too, from dean departures to school mergers to heightened anticipation for the upcoming basketball season.

We’re editorial board, a group of staff members from across The Hatchet’s many sections, with the exception of news. We’re students just like your kids are, with parents just like you. With Colonials Weekend upon us, we wanted to do something we haven’t done before – write directly to parents.

The ed board gathers weekly to produce editorials about issues affecting GW’s campus, students and community. Our first duty is to students, to be a voice on campus for what our peers care about while using our knowledge as Hatchet staffers to support our opinions.

When you’re not on campus, it’s difficult to keep up with the day-to-day goings-on. You can sign up for as many parents listservs or follow as many GW Twitter accounts as you want, and attempt to pry bits of information from your children, but you may still feel like you’re just getting scraps of news rather than the full picture.

That’s our job: to provide context to the stories that call for it. To be the best GW parent you can be, you should stay knowledgeable of the issues that will affect your students’ time here. Don’t settle for surface level, or you’ll only be getting part of the story.

A focus on mental health
Most parents probably cite their children’s health as a top concern. Thankfully, the University has prioritized students’ mental and physical well-being this past year, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

GW committed to moving Student Health Service and the counseling center from K Street to the heart of campus, a relief for many students. It also brought counseling services to the Mount Vernon Campus after three students committed suicide there last semester. The community surrounding the Vern has looked to help, too, offering students relief from daily stresses with a program called “Home Away from Home.”

The student body has been doing its part as well. In the spring, the Panhellenic Association released a mental health and suicide prevention guide for students involved in Greek life. Then, the Program Board and the Residence Hall Association dedicated September to mental health awareness and planned free events for students.

Though well-being will always be a concern for every parent, you can rest assured that the GW community is keeping mental health awareness a dominant part of the campus conversation.

Making sense of safety trends
You probably knew when you sent your kids to college that they might, just might, occasionally experiment with drugs and alcohol. When The Hatchet reported that drug and alcohol violations have skyrocketed by almost half over the past year, your fears were likely confirmed.

But the University’s top security official told The Hatchet that the increase stems from more enforcement on the part of campus police, so your kids aren’t necessarily partying that much harder than past students.

And that likely won’t change anytime soon. Although marijuana decriminalization will appear on the D.C. ballot this November, GW officials have repeatedly told The Hatchet that the University will continue to enforce federal laws, which prohibit the sale or use of the drug.

If you’ve signed up for text or email alerts from the University, you might think there have been more assaults happening on campus this semester – five reported so far this academic year.

Still, about 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, so it’s actually encouraging that students are alerting law enforcement when these incidents do occur.

GW has looked to improve its sexual assault policies and responses in the last several years: The University meets almost all of the White House’s standards for sexual assault prevention, which should leave students – and parents – feeling more confident that GW is making prevention a priority.

We’re still waiting for the University to choose new Title IX coordinators and fill a position that has sat vacant for 11 months, but in the meantime, the campus community has stepped up on its own. Some Greek chapters, as well as the athletics department, have started bystander intervention trainings, and plan to hold more events throughout the semester. We’ve also seen a strong showing of anti-sexual assault student activism on campus.

The long and short of it
Grade school kids, especially moody teenagers, are notorious for shrugging off their parents’ questions about their lives. “What’d you do at school today?” is often met with a simple, dismissive, “Nothing.”

Now that we’re older, we recognize how frustrating that might have been, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily better about it. It’s up to you, our parents, to not let the trend continue now that your kids are at college.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Robin Jones Kerr and contributing opinions editor Sarah Blugis, based on discussions with managing director Justin Peligri, culture editor Emily Holland, sports editor Sean Hurd, copy editor Rachel Smilan-Goldstein and design editor Sophie McTear.

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