Rachel Smilan-Goldstein is a 2015 alumna and The Hatchet’s former managing director.
I worked very hard in college. I kept a high GPA, worked long hours at student organizations and completed an optional honors thesis. I worked even harder to finish a semester early and avoid unnecessary additional debt.
You can imagine my shock when I received an email from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences last week that told me my application for graduation was denied.
“Upon review of your academic record, we have ascertained that you have not met all of the requirements for your degree program, and as such, your degree was not awarded,” the email read. “Although you may be disappointed, we encourage you to begin a course of action to accomplish what is remaining to complete your undergraduate degree.”
I knew this was incorrect: Over the past year I had double- and triple-checked that all my requirements would be filled by December. Yet the prospect of walking away from GW empty-handed devastated me.
With a mix of fear and anger, I emailed my faceless CCAS advising POD. One of the advisers told me my degree wasn’t marked as complete because I finished my last course – an independent study for my senior thesis – in January, not December. Now that the grade was in, they would award my degree.
I should have also gotten a sincere apology for the mistake, but I didn’t.
This unfortunate email came as the University is courting young alumni – and current students – for small donations.
Over the past three-and-a-half years, I have had a good relationship with the University: I earned scholarships, worked in two academic departments and found mentors among my professors. But administrators at the upper-echelons of this institution must understand that donation goals and alumni engagement don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, they are linked to your college experience, and at a private university like GW, this includes the kindness you would expect from basic customer service.
I understand mistakes happen, but when slip-ups of this magnitude come without apology, the culture of philanthropy GW seeks may never be attained. The next time I find GW fundraising paraphernalia in my mailbox, I fear my confidence in my alma mater will still be shaken, and the papers will quickly be sorted into a recycling bin.
If GW expects to make a dent in their goal of using alumni as a fundraising source, it must begin treating alumni – and current students – with a semblance of warmth and respect.
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