Imagine walking into the building that houses your community at GW – your Greek chapter, student organization or even your academic department. Except, the building is falling apart: The ceilings are crumbling, there’s a rat infestation, and the basement is unsafe and inaccessible. The University could provide quick, surface-level fixes with new couches and TVs, but it has declined to say when the building was constructed or last renovated.
You have to use the building the way it is to keep your community going. It serves as the hub for all the offices relevant to your group, access to rooms in the Marvin Center is limited and no one’s dorm room has enough space. You have no other choice.
Your go-to spot on campus likely doesn’t look like this. But that’s the reality for students who call the Multicultural Student Services Center home – and it’s a shame. This is a problem the University should work to quickly rectify, and we hope to see the Board of Trustees allocate the necessary funds for a full-fledged renovation at its May meeting.
But in the meantime – we have a bone to pick with the student body.
GW students are notorious for expressing their opinions about campus issues – think Commencement speakers, Spring Fling performers and Colonials Weekend headliners, to name a few. This semester, students tweeted and protested so much in response to unexpected construction in City Hall that GW shelled out $400 to each resident for the inconvenience.
This past week, more than 800 people signed an online petition demanding that the Science and Engineering Hall stay open later than 10 p.m. so students can study late in the new space.
There’s an issue prime for activism in the form of the MSSC, but most of the student population has been silent.
Now, that’s likely because many students will never step foot in the MSSC building – GW’s population is about 60 percent white – but, clearly, we have the energy to get loud about the issues that matter to us. It’s time to apply that same enthusiasm to this issue.
If students are vocal about this issue, it could make a difference at the May board meeting, when the new capital budget is approved and the $2 million it would cost to renovate the MSSC might be allocated.
Students who frequent the MSSC are already deeply frustrated about the problems that have been plaguing the building for years. But we haven’t seen any real widespread outrage, like petitions with clickbait titles or furious op-ed submissions – all of which tend to go hand in hand with other GW controversies.
Those who don’t frequent the G Street building should care for the sake of caring – to demonstrate that they’re allies. Most students here will never know the experience of walking into a classroom and not seeing anyone who looks like themselves, or of living in a building with few people from similar backgrounds.
For members of minority groups on this campus, the MSSC can be a temporary home. Just like any other student, they have the right to a happy and healthy college experience. But a deteriorating, unsafe building can offset the benefits that come from finding a community as a student – like higher graduation rates and strong mental health. Even Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski has identified the mental health of multicultural students as a priority when GW has hired new counselors.
An entire college experience won’t be weakened by occasional jackhammering or a less-than-ideal graduation speaker. But it will be weakened by not having a community.
That’s why the University goes to such great lengths to integrate freshmen and transfer students into the student body, and why it encourages everyone to join student organizations – to make a big pond seem slightly more manageable. But that’s hard to do when the one central location meant to facilitate it is in complete disrepair.
And making the MSSC into a safer, more inviting building will benefit more than just the students who use it. Having a robust and stable community for multicultural students is highly marketable during the admissions process, and could even attract more diverse students. Of course, that’s not the primary reason for this good deed to be done, but it’s one the University might see as an added positive.
The MSSC also serves and is frequented by LGBT students. But those students have plenty of other spaces on campus: Organizations like Allied in Pride have offices in the Marvin Center. For multicultural students, this townhouse might be their only gathering place.
Unlike some, the students who use the MSSC don’t have hordes of people to mobilize for signing petitions when something goes wrong. To bridge the gap, everyone at GW who considers themselves an ally needs to step up.
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, sports editor Nora Princiotti, design editor Sophie McTear, copy editor Rachel Smilan-Goldstein, senior designer Anna McGarrigle and design assistant Samantha LaFrance.
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This article appeared in the March 2, 2015 issue of the Hatchet.