Dan Grover: GW’s campus doesn’t foster community, and that’s OK

Cartoon by Juliana Kogan

People talk about the lack of school spirit here a lot. It’s something I’ve discussed with friends, incoming students and even with family back home.

Despite all that discussion, it took me a long time to come up with an answer for why GW’s spirit is so lacking. It wasn’t until a conversation with my professor and some friends last week that things clicked.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Dan Grover

GW doesn’t have the physical campus for school spirit, and it never will. And that’s OK – actually, I think it’s good. GW students don’t crave a traditional campus experience because we’re too busy growing up. It’s a good thing that the University’s setup helps us with our individual goals, not community goals.

GW orients itself to push students out of Foggy Bottom. And we see that in its marketing. Even the list of 101 Things to Do at GW – which GW promotes on My.GW – highlights activities around the city. We are constantly told to pop the Foggy Bottom bubble and make the most of our time in D.C.

Media Credit:
Cartoon by Juliana Kogan

I’m not saying we should get more student space – that’s a tiresome argument. But we should recognize that because there’s no home base for students outside their residence halls, there’s a lack of physical space for students to create community here. Rather than complain about J Street needing to be a living room, we should be proud of what makes our school unique.

It does, however, also mean that every time officials try to create a sense of community on campus – like for a basketball game – they have to create a hashtag or social media firestorm. They will always struggle to drive student interest.

But this lack of community can be a positive for students. It forces GW students to become adults faster than schools that tailgate every weekend.

If you told me four years ago that GW would have me keeping an Excel spreadsheet for my budget, spending more nights cooking than eating out and memorizing the city, I would have thought you were crazy.

My time here has forced me, and many of my friends here, to rush into adulthood. When we go home, there’s a disconnect between the people we were and the people we’ve grown into. That makes me feel like some of my friends from home are still in high school. The campus schools they go to are more rural and the state schools keep them surrounded by people from our hometown. Essentially, they’ve spent another four years doing what they did in high school, just in a different place.

I don’t think it’s an accident that a university oriented toward the city attracts students who are more interested in their individual development. GW students are relentless in their pursuits of what they find inspiring, like community service and careers. I even think students here want a university like GW, where the emphasis is overwhelmingly on growing as a person, rather than to belong to a community.

That makes us unique. It makes us spectacular for following our dreams and making ourselves into the individuals we want to be. We aren’t interested in coming together as one large group because we have things to do in the real world.

It’s important for us to stay focused on the smaller communities that we make through our internships and student organizations. We take the time to put passion and hard work into what will make us better and more successful people.

We should find pride in the small communities that we create here. And we should be proud of the personal growth that we achieve because our school forces us to act more like adults, and less like high schoolers. It took me four years, but I can finally say I know why my school doesn’t have “spirit,” and I am proud of that reason.

Dan Grover, a senior majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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