Staff Editorial: Colonials Weekend lineup lags without celebrity headliner

Colonials Weekend is coming, and upperclassmen may notice something a little different about this year’s schedule for the weekend: There’s no big-name celebrity headliner.

Last year, the University brought Jon Stewart to campus, and in 2014 Seth Meyers performed a comedy show. Prior to that, musical groups like Train and The Fray were the headlining performances during Colonials Weekend. Although the weekend technically has a headliner this year – officials said that Acapellapalooza is the weekend’s main event – the decision to not bring in a big-name performer is a letdown.

Performers like Stewart and Meyers were huge draws for families and students. Tour guides listed these performances as #OnlyAtGW moments, and the acts made our parents weekend different than other schools’. Students may have the chance to see unique political speakers throughout the year, but seeing the Colonials Weekend performer was a way for families to have one of those experiences together.

We’re not sure why officials didn’t bring in a big headliner this year. Tracy Arwari, director of student support and family engagement, said staff make programming decisions on a year-by-year basis.

“Each year, the University reviews our programming to gauge which experiences are most beneficial,” Arwari said.

At other universities, traditional parents weekends might include a big football game or teaching parents how to sing the university’s alma mater. Students at GW are different, because we mostly don’t rally around sports, so we don’t expect activities like that. But bringing in a big-name performer was a way for families to create memories together at GW, and it was an interesting thing to tell our friends at other universities.

This year’s schedule focuses on the “student experience,” which Arwari said was a purposeful move by officials. Arwari declined to comment on whether outside performers would be back at Colonials Weekend in the future.

But a lot of events on the weekend’s schedule – like “Understanding the Internship Experience” and “The Library’s Role in Academic Success” – don’t seem like events you’d want to do with your parents or other family members when you only have a few days together. As students, we already stress about internships and going to the library. We don’t need to add stress to a weekend with our parents.

It was also disappointing to see guest lectures were taken off the weekend’s schedule. Although it’s debatable whether the lectures drew large crowds, they gave parents a clear picture of the types of professors that teach students. If the University really wanted to highlight the student experience, it doesn’t make sense to eliminate lectures, too.

If officials couldn’t bring in a big-name performer for financial reasons, there are still ways the University could better utilize GW’s resources and location. Only one walking tour is offered during the weekend – a tour of African American sites throughout Foggy Bottom. The University could have added more walking tours around various areas in the District for families to experience other sights and neighborhoods. And although officials did plan an exciting trip to the U.S. Naval Academy, the tour is already sold out requires the trek to Annapolis, which is about 40 minutes away.

As of now, the weekend officials planned just doesn’t seem to have enough activities for students and their families to actively engage with one another. And that’s disappointing. Traveling to D.C. – especially for a family weekend – can be hard for some families because hotel prices and travel expenses are so high. Parents need an incentive to make the trip worthwhile.

We know that not every Colonials Weekend can attract a name as big as Jon Stewart. That’s OK, but we want to know why officials made this decision and whether it’s a new trend. Not every family is invested in Colonials Weekend, but for the ones that are, the lack of a headlining performance might be a bit of a letdown.

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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