It’s a sight that has recently become all too familiar: angry posts from students about GW on social media. Complaints about Storage Squad, calls for divestment and campaigns to fire University President Thomas LeBlanc have become regular fixtures of student discourse. Last month, more than 2,000 students also signed a petition demanding GW refund half of last semester’s tuition on top of room and board. The collective resentment has reached a point where we’d rather see GW go under financially than stomach a month of online classes.
It seems many of us students have a vendetta against GW. At any inconvenience or University policy we oppose, we often resort to trashing GW on social media until our issue is resolved. When we are frustrated, especially now with COVID-19 derailing our lives, it can feel like we have no choice but to strike out at GW to be heard.
But before doing so, we should consider the big picture and be grateful for all that we do have here. In gaining this perspective, we will not only have a more worthwhile college experience but set ourselves up for greater happiness in life going forward.
We easily forget how lucky we are that our University not only is prestigious but genuinely cares about its students, offering funds and services for almost any cause or need. GW has always been there for me when I asked: whether I needed emergency funds for a flight home, financial support for my unpaid internships, accommodations for my disability or food assistance late in the semester. GW’s counseling services helped turn my mental health around, and the health center even waived my student insurance charge because I could only afford Medicaid. Unlike several other universities, GW has also taken it upon itself to pay for and organize the storage of our belongings this summer. And this isn’t even counting the top-notch academic resources and career advising we’ve continued to have access to during this crisis.
Try to bear in mind, before posting about how awful GW is, how fortunate you are that our University takes our well-being seriously; and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.
Now, there will inevitably be hardships you face and policies you disagree with at GW. In addressing these, the University does its best to listen to student input. Student activism led to a free 18th credit, free printing and laundry and even Dining Cash four years ago. But by the same token, there are simply times when the people qualified to run an educational institution need to make decisions independent of students. We easily delude ourselves that, since GW does not act on our every whim, those in charge must be trying to sabotage us somehow. Officials actually work hard every year to give us the best experience possible and are doing their best in service of that goal now given the current circumstances.
Let’s be more thankful and supportive toward GW’s administrators, professors and employees in the future instead of just complaining about every clerical error or item the movers break. Criticize our president’s analogies or endowment choices if you will, but don’t negate the significant and consistent diversity and sustainability commitments we as a school have already made. When all is said and done, GW must, every year, try and balance the diverse priorities and values of 26,000 students, as well as faculty and alumni. GW will never meet our exact standards for a perfect world, and if we hold it to such a standard, we won’t ever be content.
I know the current situation is aggravating for us all. I was disheartened that my study abroad and summer job were taken from me last-minute due to COVID-19, and once I got home I could do nothing but spend my time agonizing about what would come next. But I thought then about all I had – all the people, things and experiences my life has given me so far, and how it was and would always be enough. Even if all my worries do come to pass.
Be grateful, be satisfied with what you have instead of constantly lamenting what you don’t. Don’t take for granted the multitude of things that have gone your way and obsess over changing things you don’t like. If you let feelings of outrage control you and depend on external outcomes for your survival, you won’t be able to create your own happiness in life. I know, because I’ve acted this way myself for many years, that we all deserve better.
By all means, keep objecting to times you’ve been wronged or policies you oppose. But always, in the back of your mind, be grateful for all the time and resources being devoted to you at GW. It’s a tough proposition for all of us- there isn’t much to cheer about or look forward to in the months ahead; and plenty to regret the loss of. At the end of the day though, no matter how horrible our lives or the state of the world may seem, we are some of the luckiest, most privileged people in the country.
Let’s start showing GW some appreciation instead of looking for reasons to fight it.
Filip Vachuda, a sophomore majoring in international affairs and economics, is an opinions writer.