Staff Editorial: Students need updates on shared space projects

Shared student space isn’t a new topic of conversation for GW students. And after continued student concerns, University officials have prioritized adding shared student space to District House affinities, the District House basement and the first floor of the Marvin Center.

But unfortunately, officials set expectations too high for getting new student spaces this year. Many students thought they would return to a completed District House basement with new food vendors that were announced earlier this summer. Instead, none of the vendors are open yet, and there’s no exact opening day on the books.

Media Credit: Cartoon by Lauren Roll

Students also thought that the renovations in the Marvin Center, which were a major priority of last year’s Student Association administration, would be complete by now, allowing the converted J Street area to be used as a central meeting space on campus. Instead, students walk through a boarded up walkway to use what used to be J Street as a campus shortcut, not as a place to hang out. There’s no food or coffee in what used to be J Street, either, so there isn’t much of a reason for students to gather in the Marvin Center to socialize.

We know that eventually students will have more spaces to spend time together once these construction projects are over. GW is clearly in the midst of a transitional period, and what’s to come looks promising. Once the vendors in District House have opened and the renovations in Marvin are complete, there shouldn’t be a shortage of student space.

GW isn’t completely at fault for lingering construction. But it’s not ideal for freshmen who need ways to socialize and build communities or for upperclassmen who expected new places to chat with friends over food. To ease students’ frustrations and give them something to look forward to, officials should provide us with more information about the projects’ progress.

Starting college is an overwhelming experience, even for the most extroverted people. Without a hub on campus for students, especially for freshmen, there’s a chance students will feel less connected to campus. Of course, some freshmen might make a more concerted effort to meet people, but there are many students who might be more inclined to stay in their residence hall rooms.

Regardless of whether upperclassmen liked or hated J Street’s food as freshmen, everyone spent time there to grab a bite between classes or to get out of our residence halls. We were forced to go to J Street through the old meal plan, but it was a quintessential part of the freshman experience.

That’s not to say that there aren’t other spaces for students to get together on campus. But for freshmen who don’t have access to the Thurston Hall basement or don’t live on the Mount Vernon Campus, where residents hang out in Pelham Commons, building a community as a freshman is more difficult. This goes against the recent message GW has tried to send about community-building.

The current junior class was the first junior class mandated to live on campus. Juniors were promised a brand new dorm with dining features and common space that would make living on campus as an upperclassman enjoyable, and right now juniors do not have on-campus perks.

Of course, University officials can’t always control how long it takes vendors to get permits to move into District House or if renovations fall behind schedule. But the University can make the lack of student space and food options better for us this semester.

Until the basement of District House opens, and the Marvin Center’s renovations are complete, officials need to provide students with more information. We need something to look forward to, and if the University gave us an opening date for District House vendors and the Marvin Center’s first floor, then maybe students would be less likely to focus on the lack of space now. Telling us that these spaces will be available “in the fall” isn’t enough.

And nice gestures don’t hurt. Until these community spaces are open, University officials should consider extending the hours the Science and Engineering Hall is open and making the Marvin Center homier by setting up coffee in what used to be J Street. Until we can enjoy the comfort that these additional spaces will eventually add to the University, the little space we do have could feel a lot more homey.

University officials need to understand students’ frustrations with the lack of student space on campus. Until areas under renovation are in full working order, officials should provide students with more information on the renovation process and add some perks along the way.

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, homepage editor Tyler Loveless, contributing sports editor Matt Cullen and copy editor Melissa Schapiro.

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