New Year’s resolutions are usually a fluke but some of GW’s have been in the works for years.
2020 was rife with budget cuts, remote learning and continued pushes to change the names of buildings, like the Marvin Center and Fulbright Hall. Those issues did not go away when the ball dropped, but the new year does turn a new leaf for GW to start chipping away at some of its issues.
Here are New Year’s resolutions from The Hatchet’s editorial board for officials this calendar year:
Stabilize GW’s financial situation:
This coming year, the University should focus on steadying its finances.
We are still in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The University must work out a game plan to climb out of its financial hole and communicate its strategy to the GW community. This is a given, but officials shouldn’t engage in any big costly events — like nonessential events and travel — this coming fiscal year and focus should be kept on regaining what was lost.
The pandemic has been costly on GW as a whole, with financial losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic projected to tally $180 million. Students, staff and faculty need to know how the University will dig itself out of this financial situation.
Rehire laid-off staff:
This goal might seem tough right now, but administrators should commit to rehiring the hundreds of people who were laid off.
The University downsized several departments last year, slashing hundreds of positions filled by people who desperately need a job during the pandemic. Rather than creating and hiring for brand new positions, officials should prioritize giving jobs back to those who were cut off throughout 2020.
If the University can’t do that, we deserve to know why. Administrators owe it to their employees to treat them as more than just discardable pawns in their financial game.
Finally retire the 20/30 Plan
University President Thomas LeBlanc’s plan to turn GW into more of a STEM-focused school has not sat right with many students and faculty and resulted in faculty calling for LeBlanc’s resignation. The plan doesn’t prioritize what students want or GW’s comparative advantage – people aren’t as keen on coming to GW to study hard sciences as they are to study international affairs, political science, journalism and other key humanities fields. The plan was “rendered obsolete” in November, but officials should go further and eliminate all goals stemming from the plan.
The plan also dealt with cuts in enrollment in an attempt to make GW a more competitive school and increase our rankings. These changes would have made GW Whiter and richer, which this University does not need.
Get students back on campus this fall
The hope of returning to some semblance of normalcy this fall is practically the only thing getting us through a raging pandemic. We are all mourning lost experiences of our young lives and receiving a facsimile of an education in this virtual format. It is paramount that, to whatever extent safely possible, campus be reopened and students be allowed to return in the fall.
Obviously, the University cannot magically make the pandemic go away and should not take any step that would risk public health. Officials have rightly made that a priority throughout the entire pandemic. But what administrators can do is craft workable plans for various reopening scenarios – and communicate them to students well in advance.
If vaccination rates among students become an issue, the University could aim to inoculate students like GW did during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, as the editorial board noted in November. The University deserves praise for its effective, efficient and free testing policy currently in place for on- and off-campus students.
Act on student demands – replace the Colonials moniker
For years, students have been demanding that GW retire the Colonials moniker. Many student groups, including GW Black Defiance, the Black Student Union, Students Against Imperialism and more, have identified the Colonials brand as tacitly celebrating the blood-drenched history of U.S. colonialism and western imperialism. When hundreds of students consistently say that a moniker makes them feel unwelcome on their own campus, the University has the obligation to listen and act – full stop.
The Colonials nickname, while the most prominent, is not the only naming convention that students have found to be offensive. Student leaders have lobbied the administration to change building names that memorialize problematic historical figures, like the Marvin Center, Fulbright Hall and the Churchill Center. With the country’s renewed focus on attaining long-overdue racial justice, it is more important than ever to listen to activists and work to dismantle structures of oppression – this is one step the University could take to do just that.
By the time things return to normal, students will likely have been away from campus for a year and a half. When the hellish pandemic era is over, we should return to a campus that tells everybody that they are seen, heard and belong.
Give seniors a proper send-off and first-years a proper welcome
By the end of the spring, two separate classes of seniors will have graduated without donning a cap and gown at the National Mall. Many first-years – and even some sophomores – will have never set foot on campus as a student. The University must give those thousands of seniors the send-off they deserve to cap off their truncated college years.
What these efforts would look like will certainly depend on the trajectory of the pandemic. So far, the University has shown good faith in trying to bookend the GW experience for incoming and outgoing students. It will be key that administrators not lose sight of how important it is to leave no student behind.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Hannah Thacker and contributing opinions editor Andrew Sugrue, based on discussions with managing director Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, managing editor Parth Kotak, sports editor Emily Maise, culture editor Anna Boone and design editor Olivia Columbus.