GW listened to prospective students, now they need to hear out current ones

For some prospective students, “Inside GW” is their first experience on campus. These information sessions previously provided students with a day full of tours and fancy food, but after changes this month, students will see less glitz and glamour in exchange for more helpful information. Administrators pursued these changes after student input from last year’s “Inside GW.”

The University will host “Inside GW” sessions every weekday and on one Saturday to welcome admitted students to campus for a total of 21 sessions this month. This is a substantial change compared to previous years, when the school hosted five sessions. Aside from the frequency of the sessions, the programs will be more focused on academics, with information on course registration and mock lectures.

Cartoon by Grace Lee

The revisions to “Inside GW” are a welcome change from the old admitted students days that focused more on celebration rather than information. GW took a step in the right direction with these alterations, using feedback from prospective students to better cater to its admitted students. The University listened to what prospective students wanted to see. Now, it’s time for GW to set that as the precedent and listen to current students’ input on issues that impact their daily lives.

The University has a history of ignoring students’ voices, even when students provide their opinions. For example, giving students unlimited discounted Metro passes and including an 18th credit in the tuition – the first of which passed years ago as a referendum and the second of which has been a widely voiced student desire since well before this year’s referendum  – haven’t been implemented. Students should have a say in what happens at their college. They pay too high of a price – $70,000 and rising – for administrators to pick and choose when to listen.

By changing “Inside GW” through sessions that are academically focused to more accurately show daily life, prospective students will be better informed about what they will experience if they enroll. Even though college consulting firms expressed concerns that smaller sessions will imply that GW is a small school, they are exaggerated. Prospective students have done their research on GW and they shouldn’t worry that these smaller sessions will give off the wrong idea.

By being realistic with prospective students, GW is helping ensure they make informed decisions on where to spend their undergraduate career. Students who are on the fence about enrolling will find these sessions to be more helpful than the previous wining and dining. The changes to “Inside GW” should be appreciated by students because GW listened and reacted. But the University needs to take into account students opinions on day-to-day topics and problems. This year, the University has listened to student input on large issues, which is seen in the new dining plan, mandatory diversity training and changes to the Colonial Health Center – like the increase in free mental health sessions. Although it’s important to tackle issues like food insecurity, oftentimes the everyday issues are pushed to the side as officials focus on large-scale issues.

Students have asked for a variety of issues that have all been widely supported – and have yet to come to fruition. Going forward, officials should hear what students have to say on these issues. To start, here are a couple of issues in particular that administrators should focus on.

There have been several Student Association referendums that fell flat when they hit administrators’ desks. In the 2016 Student Association election, 73.5 percent of student voters were in favor of a referendum to give students a $250 WMATA pass that would allow an unlimited number of rides per year. At the time, administrators said the raise in tuition to cover the passes would be unfair to put on all students. But having this pass would cut down on transportation fees and ensure that students have equal access to the D.C. area. In 2015, more than 70 percent of students voted in favor of GW fossil fuel divestment at GW. While this editorial board does not happen to favor divestment, it’s notable that administrators have chosen to largely ignore the overwhelming student opinion.

Academic assistance is another area in which it is vital is to hear student voices. An issue that administrators haven’t pushed across departments is making syllabi available before class registration. Although this issue is focused on departments, students deserve to know what they are paying for before they register. Administrators must push offices to be more accessible and transparent by making syllabi public. The books on the syllabi are another issue. Administrators should address the accessibility of textbooks within Gelman Library to help students cut costs on expensive books that they only need for a semester. Although the University has launched the program “Top Textbooks” – which puts one or two required textbooks in Gelman – this must be increased in order to make a dent in student fees.

Lastly, it is important that the school be transparent with its student body. Recently, administrators have gained input from students through surveys, both on student leadership and sexual harassment. These surveys show students’ feelings, and the results should be made public in a timely fashion. The University should say what they will do with the information as well as how they will use the data they compile. For example, the University took almost a year to release the findings of a campus climate survey in 2016. Student opinions should also be included when the University is searching for new administrators. By including students on committees, their needs can be properly represented.

Administrators must address current students’ voices. The change in “Inside GW” is consistent with administrators’ efforts to make sure that current students have a positive experience at GW. “Inside GW” is an example of administrators reacting to improve the experience of prospective students, but that attitude must continue after enrollment. University President Thomas LeBlanc’s biggest goal is to improve the student experience. The first step starts with listening to our voices.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Irene Ly and contributing opinions editor Renee Pineda, based on discussions with managing director Melissa Holzberg, managing editor Tyler Loveless, sports editor Matt Cullen, copy editor Melissa Schapiro and design editor Zach Slotkin.

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