Many students graduate from GW with excess funds on their GWorld cards that ultimately get forfeited to the D.C. government.
Students should undoubtedly have the right to receive their own money back after graduation, but since they don’t, administrators should at least provide students with options to donate their excess funds. Some students, rather than forfeit their money to the bureaucratic black hole that is the D.C. government, might be incentivized to go on a somewhat frivolous spending spree at various GWorld vendors before they graduate. But donating the funds to local non profits would be a better use of the excess money students have.
With GWorld, students cannot directly donate to local D.C. non-profits, and even if they make the effort to buy items using GWorld to donate to organizations, they only have access to fewer items that are more costly than at other stories. In alignment with its claimed dedication to community service and engagement, the University should start looking into ways for students to easily donate their excess GWorld to local organizations.
I attempted such a fundraiser this fall, helping orchestrate a partnership during the past semester between the Christian fellowship group InterVarsity, and Miriam’s Kitchen, a non-profit in Foggy Bottom that serves the neighborhood’s unhoused population. The general plan was to gather a group of students to buy all the items with GWorld needed for the fundraiser at CVS and then package those items to deliver to Miriam’s kitchen.
Although successful, the fundraiser ended up being substantially more difficult than it needed to be. Our goal was to compile 200 gift bags filled with supplies like razors, toothpaste and soap to be handed out near Thanksgiving to Miriam’s Kitchen’s guests. The total cost of these 200 gift bags, if everything was bought online, would have been about $400, but using GWorld at CVS the total cost would have been about $3,000.
Even if we managed to raise $3,000, we could not, in good conscience, direct the donations of students to such a colossal waste. Instead, GWorld donated by students would only pay for razors and the Ziploc bags, which were about the same price as the online options. Students who lived off campus or were otherwise not bound by GWorld bought the rest of the items in bulk from Amazon. With the generosity of the leaders and members of InterVarsity, we raised a total of $508 combined from both GWorld and other donations, and delivered 200 pre-packaged gift bags to Miriam’s Kitchen. But for a fundraiser that started with the goal of trying to put students’ excess GWorld to good use, we spent far less GWorld spent on that fundraiser than hoped.
The generosity of GW students is incredible. But the barriers imposed by GWorld prevented us from fully taking advantage of that generosity by imposing needless inefficiencies and limiting the choice of items that could be donated.
There are a hundred solutions to this problem, but the most straightforward one is having the GW office carry out a program they already have in place. The office rents out GWorld machines to student orgs for fundraising purposes. But when I asked if InterVarsity could borrow one for this fundraiser, they said no, and that they had closed down that program. Allowing students to donate their excess GWorld to student orgs for fundraising would have solved most of the problems imposed by GWorld in this fundraiser. Instead of students having to go through CVS to buy items, student organizations would instead have access to websites like Amazon to buy a wide variety of cost effective items.
Alternatively GW can partner with food kitchens around D.C. in the same manner that Swipe Out Hunger began last fall to help alleviate food insecurity for students. Or they can just give us our money back at the end of our time here like most normal universities across the country.
At present, such a large-scale initiative is almost impossible because the current GWorld system actively prevents students from using their own money for the good of the D.C. community. To enhance the University’s mission of community service, GW should allow students to donate their GWorld money.
Sam Swinson, a junior majoring in political science, is a columnist.