Best and worst from this week’s headlines

The D.C. Council passed two amendments this week breaking a stalemate in the plan to expand GW Hospital in Foggy Bottom and a new facility in Southeast D.C.

While this is a positive step forward for the District, other recent news has shown a problematic trend closer to home. The Virginia Science and Technology Campus and College of Professional Studies have been without a permanent leader for nearly a year, and officials confirmed last week that they have not started the search for a new dean.

Here’s the best and the worst from recent headlines:

Thumbs up:

The District has one of the nation’s lowest rates of uninsured people, yet the Southeast region sees high rates of infant and maternal mortality and lower life expectancies than most other areas of the District. These disparities are furthered by the lack of adequate medical care in the area, but a new facility operated by GW Hospital could ease the issue.

The plan for the facility has seen twists and turns over the past few months, but amendments passed by the D.C. Council this week will help the University and the District move forward to provide much-needed medical services east of the Anacostia River.

While this solution doesn’t assuage the concerns of all critics, it will put the needs of Southeast residents first. Residents of Foggy Bottom are rightfully concerned about potential disturbances that come from expanding the GW Hospital, but the health crisis in Southeast D.C. can only be solved if there is a hospital that allows residents to be treated nearby, and these amendments are a major step toward achieving that goal.

Thumbs down:

Thirty miles from Foggy Bottom, the Virginia Science and Technology Campus can be forgotten by students. As the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses have expanded, the VSTC has struggled to find its identity. The former dean of the campus – who also oversees the College of Professional Studies – stepped down nearly a year ago and since he left the post, the University has yet to hire a replacement or begin the search.

It is not uncommon for the University to leave important positions vacant, but it is worrisome. The University failed to find a permanent leader for the Colonial Health Center for a year after the former director resigned and GW eventually handed control over to the dean of the student experience – who is not a medical professional.

While conducting a thorough search is vital for finding the right leaders, it is important that the University act quickly. The University currently has three schools led by interim deans and while an interim leader can manage day-to-day operations, fixing big picture problems requires permanent commitment from an individual.

The University has invested in fostering community on the VSTC by sending food trucks to the campus and renovating student spaces, but these changes aren’t enough to create an identity.

The VSTC needs a leader that can shape the campus for the future and further integrate it with the University. This cannot be done with temporary leadership. While the University might be aiming to change the role, it is more important to change the culture of the VSTC.

The University cannot continue to put aside searches for new leadership, especially when it comes to growing areas of GW, like the VSTC and CPS. To move forward, the University needs to immediately begin the search for leadership.

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