No Break for Transparency
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 01:08
The end of summer: shorter days, pre-orientation programs and an opening to sweep unpopular news under the rug.
Over the past several summer vacations, a concerning pattern has emerged of the administration announcing contentious policy changes when the majority of students are away from campus. That tactic suggests a lack of administrative interest in hearing out dissent, which has proven particularly unfortunate on several recent occasions.
In June 2012, the administration announced the terms of the 2010 Campus Plan agreement. Although introduced as a positive development for the university and its students, a closer look at the agreement revealed a number of setbacks for student life — including the university’s decisions to convert townhouses on 36th Street to administrative offices and to housing 90 percent of students on campus by 2025. With students having been excluded from these final negotiations, making the announcement late in the summer added insult to injury for open dialogue.
This July, students received an email informing them of a ban on cars for undergraduates. While this provision of the campus plan agreement has already been public for one year, the administration offered no opportunities for discussion of its implementation. Then, The Hoya broke news that mascot-in-training Jack Jr. would not return to campus in the fall — a decision the university later said was made after months of in-the-dark deliberation.
The unpleasant substance of some announcements is inevitable. But the contrast between the timing of school-year announcements — like the April decision to lift the one-keg limit for on-campus parties or the March addition of free weekend shuttles to Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle that show the administration in a positive light — and less favorable news revealed quietly during summer months suggests an unwillingness to facilitate dialogue with students.
To be sure, students can increasingly stay connected to campus from afar, and this summer’s announcements did not slip entirely under the radar. Yet the trend is troubling. As with the new dormitory debacle last month, a little student input goes a long way to disinfect misguided university decisions. Unfortunately, the university has chosen in recent summers to keep too many decisions out of the sunlight.