Among a scatter of disjointed headlines, one pattern spilled into this past week. GW has changed its dining hall plans – again.
In a major step back from its original plans, the University announced none of the new dining halls will open by the start of the fall semester, even after officials stressed they would address food insecurity on campus. Meanwhile, interim University President Mark Wrighton made some moves to fortify GW’s leadership, appointing four officials to positions in his administration.
Outside of GW, a storm blew through the District that severely damaged many homes and roads. And in pandemic-related news, D.C. maintains a low caseload, but the rise of the BA.5 variant threatens danger.
Here is the best and worst of this week’s headlines:
Wrighton’s hires last Friday featured picks who can set GW on the right path for the future, equipped with valuable leadership experience in higher education and the District. University of Vermont General Counsel Sharon Reich Paulsen will serve as executive vice president and chief administration officer – a new position with oversight of far-reaching leadership of administrative functions. Treasurer and vice president of finance Bruno Fernandes will also take on the role of CFO, carrying extensive D.C. government experience that helped GW secure the U-Pass system last fall. Sabrina Minor is now the permanent vice president for human resource management and development and chief people officer after serving as the interim. And Ellen Moran is now the vice president of communications and marketing after the position lasted two years without a permanent staffer.
D.C. ended its COVID-19 contact tracing program after more than two years due to a decline in total cases and rise in the availability of at-home tests. The District only recorded 281 cases per 100,000 as of July 15, according to DC Health data. As students return to campus within the next month, I hope the number of COVID-19 cases continues to remain low to ensure the safety of the GW community.
Despite original promises, GW announced Thursday that the construction of the three all-you-can-eat dining halls in Foggy Bottom will be delayed due to “global supply chain issues” that will force students to experience the dining halls in a “hybrid approach.” Freshmen who signed up for a dining plan must unfairly switch to a fall semester plan that costs $2,700, even though many other less expensive options exist. Students in all other grades will receive $1,670 in dining dollars and revert to GW’s traditional dining system. While GW’s email attempts to reassure students that their dining balances will update automatically, the reality is that the University took away students’ ability to choose how to dine on campus. The new system hints at better food security with more freedom for students to set their own diets, but the delay only serves up a huge upset for the student body.
The District experienced a heavy and turbulent storm Wednesday, causing more than 230,000 homes to go without power, mainly in upper Northwest. The storm included strong winds, rain and hail that brought down trees onto roads, houses and electric installations. University of Maryland canceled some classes with power outages, and D.C. residents found themselves trapped in cars with trees that fell on them. The D.C. community is still working on cleaning up and recovering as some remain without power still.
Unfortunately, despite a lack of COVID-19 cases in D.C., a new variant BA.5 is still on the rise in the United States. It is the most contagious variant yet and is responsible for over 50 percent of current COVID-19 infections, according to Yale Medical. Just as we prepare to move on from this pandemic, new variants develop and even those who recently got COVID-19 are at risk again. While there is no evidence that shows BA.5 is more dangerous or that it causes more serious illness, we should all be continuing to be cautious and practice preventative measures.