Vern residents say they are often left out of student organization activities

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Freshman Harrison Kidd is one of more than 30 students who said their student organizations are not accommodating to students who live on the Vern and that they sometimes take hours out of their day to travel to and from meetings.

Updated: March 5, 2019 at 12:13 a.m.

When freshman Harrison Kidd had Student Theatre Council rehearsals on the Foggy Bottom Campus last September, his commute back to the Mount Vernon Campus late at night often took close to 45 minutes.

The Vern Express operates on a 30-minute schedule later in the night, and by the time he got back to his residence hall, Kidd said it was too late to start studying. By October, his trek to and from practice became time-consuming and negatively impacted his academics, so he moved to Thurston Hall where he said his ability to get involved in campus life was “20 times better.”

Kidd is one of more than 30 students who said their student organizations are not accommodating to students who live on the Vern and sometimes take hours out of their day to travel to and from meetings. Vern residents said they want to become more involved in campus life but are sometimes left out of meetings or events because they are held on a campus a car ride away.

“I try to be involved in as much stuff as possible that I’m interested in,” Kidd said. “I just found myself unable to do that with the Vern.”

Freshman Alexandra Lay, who lives in Clark Hall, said she is a member of the fencing team and the Alpha Delta Phi Society. She said that while Alpha Delta Phi hosts about half of its recruitment events on the Vern, getting to events hosted in Foggy Bottom requires more time and effort than what is required for those who live on the campus.

While a student living in Foggy Bottom could take a five-minute walk to their residence hall at 2 a.m., Lay sometimes takes an Uber back to the Vern once her night has ended, which typically costs about $10, she said.

“I’d rather pay to get a ride directly back to where I’m from than wait a half hour in a dark Vex,” Lay said. “When you’re the only one going back, it’s significantly more uncomfortable.”

Lauren Babinetz, who lives in Merriweather Hall and attends GW TRAiLS trips, said student organizations often do not come to the Vern and do not advertise their events with fliers like they do in Foggy Bottom residence halls. She said student groups should host a student organization fair on the Vern in addition to the two offered in Foggy Bottom every academic year.

“I feel like a lot of the time when you’re trying to join an org, it’s a lot about the people you know or the people you’ve come across that are in the org, and that personal connection makes you want to join,” she said.

Dahlia Haddad, a freshman living in West Hall, is currently the director of public relations and secretary for club sports and participates in the Improv Sketch Comedy Group and club soccer team. Haddad said that while traveling to Foggy Bottom can be “annoying,” asking student organizations to host meetings on the Vern is unreasonable because the majority of students live on the main campus.

“It’s a catch 22,” Haddad said. “It’s like going to the suburbs to host a music festival because all the music festivals are in the city and all the suburban people have to commute in.”

Student leaders said that it can be difficult to host events on the Vern because there are few rooms to hold meetings, but student organizations could better market their activities on the side campus.

Bridget Anzano, the president of GW College Democrats, said that while the group does not table or hold events on the campus, members tried to expand their reach to the campus by using their freshman representative for the Mount Vernon Campus to communicate with Vern residents.

“That’s to make sure there really is a voice from the Vern represented,” she said. “Since more of the board is all older and don’t live on the Vern, we make sure that we have at least one voice.”

Anzano said many students who hold leadership positions are upperclassmen and may have forgotten about their experience on the campus. Still, she said the organization can engage more students by tabling and hosting more events on the Vern.

Brian Toscano, the president of GW’s March for Our Lives chapter, said one of the subcommittees of his organization schedules meetings at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays because the group has several Vern residents and wants to accommodate them while they are in Foggy Bottom. The club has 30 members, roughly one-third of whom live on the Vern, Toscano said.

He added that while the organization held a voter drive on the Vern last fall, it is difficult to host more events on the campus because meeting rooms are not widely available.

“Logistically, all of our resources are on Foggy,” he said. “We have so many rooms available in the Marvin Center that it just makes it easy to schedule any room in there and go into it to have the meetings.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
A previous version of this article stated that Lauren Babinetz is a member of GW TRAiLS. She frequently attends TRAiLS outings but is not a member. We regret this error.

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