Staff editorial: Stories to watch this summer

If you’re not staying at GW this summer for classes or an internship, it’s easy to forget about things going on in Foggy Bottom and to tune out decisions that officials might make over the next few months.

Last summer, University officials made two big decisions while students were away from campus, including attempting to change Gelman Library’s hours and adding a new fraternity. Officials might make some more big decisions this summer – or at least make headway on them – and students can be on the lookout for stories that will likely come up over the next few months.

Finding a director of Mental Health Services
The former director of Mental Health Services, Silvio Weisner, stepped down last September after officials found out he was unlicensed to practice psychology in D.C. After almost eight months, officials have not filled the position and there have been no updates on the search for Weisner’s replacement.

While there are probably several reasons officials haven’t hired someone yet – such as top notch applicants not applying due to the inner turmoil MHS seems to be in – it’s unfair for officials to not tell students what’s happening.

Officials have made mental health a main focus on campus, and student organizations have followed suit, especially after three suicides on campus two years ago.

But now that GW has gone almost a full academic year without providing any information on the search for a new director, it feels like the focus on mental health has fallen by the wayside. If students’ mental health is really a priority for University officials, we should at least hear about progress on the search this summer. It would be better for officials to come forward, acknowledge they made a mistake with Weisner – and other MHS staff who were unlicensed – and tell us when they plan to fill the director position.

After a year of instability, a new MHS director could change how students view MHS. Officials should look to bring in another university’s assistant director or someone with commensurate experience who can balance and restructure MHS. The summer seems like the opportune time to hire a new director, when the demand for clinicians on campus is lower, and the new director could have time to get to know the department and make key changes.

Changes in the provost’s office
When former Provost Steven Lerman resigned, the University lost a provost that had close relationships with faculty, met regularly with students and was a known face on campus.

But Lerman leaving the post wasn’t the only change in the provost’s office this year. Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman has taken the initiative to make several important changes to roles in the provost’s office.

After Paul Schiff Berman, the former vice provost for online learning and academic innovation, stepped down, Maltzman consolidated his position with the vice provost for libraries. And when Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed resigned last fall, Maltzman changed the position to include community engagement.

As officials prepare to launch the provost search, they should spend some time prioritizing what they want from a new provost, and try to find someone who works well within the changes that Maltzman has made to the office. A provost should be an active member of campus who makes it his or her priority to engage with students and faculty members. The new provost should be able to come to the University and continue the changes that Maltzman made, while also finishing out the University’s strategic plan that Lerman penned.

With the next round of budget cuts coming at the start of next fiscal year in July, we can expect that the provost’s office will have to cut from the strategic plan, given that many of the strategic plan’s goals have already been cut and delayed during previous rounds of budget cuts. And perhaps, the provost’s office will undergo more changes throughout the next few months as Maltzman continues to lead the office.

Smoothing out kinks in the housing system
In 2013, officials announced juniors would be required to live on campus, starting with the Class of 2018. In the first year of the new mandate, juniors have been placed on the waitlist before freshmen have even gotten housing assignments.

This summer will be a waiting game for students on the housing waitlist to see where they’ll be placed. Some students, particularly rising juniors, might have some tougher waters to navigate. Not only are juniors forced to live on campus, but to be placed on the waitlist after not being able to move off campus is an unnecessary headache for these students.

As incoming freshmen get ready to move to campus, it’s important for them to be aware of the problems in the housing system. While they might end up getting a huge upgrade between their freshman and sophomore year housing assignments – since rising juniors no longer have housing priority over rising sophomores – they also might risk dealing with more cramped housing in the future if something doesn’t change.

Officials need to make GW housing more attractive, especially for upperclassmen. They have the opportunity to do that by adding better food options to the basement of District House, which will be open when students come back to campus in the fall. The University needs to give students a reason to want to be on campus, and right now, some students don’t have that.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Melissa Holzberg and contributing opinions editor Irene Ly, based on discussions with managing director Eva Palmer, culture editor Grace Gannon, homepage editor Tyler Loveless and assistant sports editor Matt Cullen.

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