Bring Bureaucracy out of the Dark
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 02:02
Last week’s announcement of the housing policy change for students studying abroad prompted a strong outcry from students throughout the Georgetown community. These outcries have seemed like the common response toward recent decisions made by the administration, and it has become clear that these announcements have little, if any, student input. These abrupt policy implementations are symptoms of a bureaucracy devoid of empathy for students, whom the bureaucracy is supposed to serve. It is the manifestation of an atmosphere of disillusionment that has developed between the Georgetown bureaucracy and the Georgetown student.
Whether it is the decision to raise the minimum GPA for Latin honors, explore the option of a satellite campus or change the housing situation for juniors planning on studying abroad, students are increasingly finding these notifications of unexpected change in their inboxes.
While many of the sudden decisions made by the administration are simply baffling, just as many are well intended and meant for the general good of Georgetown. But this does not change the fact that these decisions often seem to come out of nowhere. Because of the unexpected nature of these decisions, Georgetown students react drastically in the face of oftentimes necessary university oversight. These reactions, which include the “One Georgetown, One Campus” and “Students Against Restrictive Housing Policy” Facebook groups, ought to serve as a sign to the administration that student voices need to be heard when discussing policies that intimately affect student life. Sometimes these groups succeed in changing the administration’s decisions, but nothing seems to have changed in their basic decision-making process. Those doors are still closed to students’ input, and whatever little transparency the administration offers is meager compared to the effects these decisions have on our collegiate careers.
The basic problem with the administration’s decision-making process is that individuals whom the vast majority of students have neither met nor seen on campus are calling the shots. There is absolutely no way for students to provide serious input into this process, and there is no warning when the next policy shift will occur.
The administration has done its best to subvert student discussion on divisive issues by implementing them quietly over the summer, as discussed in the editorial, “No Break for Transparency” (The Hoya, A2, Aug. 27, 2013). The frustrating trend of little to no student input continues to showcase Georgetown bureaucracy as an uncaring, unemotional anonymous group, seeking to win over neighbors and alumni with little regard for the students it impacts. If the administration wants to change this reputation, the best way to curb future student unrest and concern about unpopular change is to incorporate students into the substantive discussions about policy changes.
The administration needs to strongly consider the procedures they employ in order to make them really fall in line with Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition of “women and men for others.” If the “others” are the students, then policies need to actually be made for the students rather than for those individuals who made them. To ensure this Jesuit doctrine is at the heart of every major decision impacting the student body, students have to hold an important role in the decision-making process. Instead of avoiding student dissent, the university needs to give us a voice and a chance to determine our college experiences. Right now, it seems as though our college lives lie exclusively in the hands of others.
What are administrators afraid of when operating in such secrecy? I implore Georgetown to open the doors to its decision-making processes; show the students that there actually is empathy, not disdain, within the bureaucracy.
Charlie Lowe is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.