Transparency. It is a word that is emptily thrown around by university administrators and has been for years. Though we continually claim to be making strides toward openness at Georgetown, the results do not back up the claims. Either those in charge have a drastically different interpretation of the meaning of the word or they think Georgetown is sufficiently navigable as things stand. Both are frightening propositions.

Fresh on everyone’s mind, the recent DMT-lab incident in Harbin Hall exemplified how harmful a lack of transparency can be. Admittedly, any response to a crisis of that nature will never go smoothly. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the university could have done better.

The university should have kept the student body up-to-date throughout the day, rather than waiting till 1:31 p.m. – more than seven hours after Harbin residents were first evacuated – to send the first campus-wide email. Many students, parents and alumni had gotten most of the information hours earlier from campus, local and national media. When there is enough of a threat to safety that a dorm must be evacuated, students deserve the right to be kept in the know. They shouldn’t have to hear the news from a third party.

Georgetown’s reluctance to share information is not a new thing, and the Harbin drug lab incident is merely the most recent example. As we have noted again and again, the administration does a poor job keeping students in the loop. The failures to communicate effectively with the campus community directly are compounded by the university’s dealings with student media. The Office of Communications is frequently reluctant and often downright uncooperative with members of the press.

Of course, departments have every right to choose not to share or even simply confirm information obtained by student journalists. But it is disturbing that the university feels the need to be so tight-lipped. It makes it easy for students to feel shut out of the very school they are a part of.

We were surprised when University President John J. DeGioia told student media at his yearly interview in September that he feels he “spends an awful lot of time engaged in the student community.” We beg to differ. DeGioia’s face should not be such a rare sight that students feel the need to have their pictures taken with him like some sort of whispered-about celebrity as happens at events such as the New Student Orientation barbeque. We understand that his and other top university officials’ time is needed for fundraising and interviewing the odd celebrity in Gaston Hall, but the upper echelons of the university should not be so distant from the students they serve.

DeGioia is just the tip of the iceberg in an immense, unreachable Georgetown bureaucracy. Armed with too many levels and too much red tape, the administration makes it absurdly difficult for the average student to get his or her voice heard at the top.

Simply put, more administrative integration with the core members of our community – students – would go a long way to increasing the cohesiveness and communication on the Hilltop. Georgetown could be seen as an old-fashioned, closed-mouthed sort of university, one that projects an elite, ivy-covered, Gothic-style image. Perhaps this pristine image accounts for the university’s tight seal on information flow. But in doing so it’s giving students, alumni and parents the wrong impression. It says to them that the university is untouchable, distant and above the needs of the student – and that doesn’t sit well with us, alumni or parents.

And while transparency may be one of the most talked-about issues at Georgetown, much of Hilltop happenings remain shrouded in obscurity. At the end of the day, the university is not irreproachable, but it has often made itself unapproachable. To succeed here, as in life, students must learn to cut through the red tape – but they shouldn’t need a saw to do it.”

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