From Housing to Safety, Georgteown’s Successes Tempered by FailuresFor parents of seniors who arrived on campus last weekend for a closer look at the

Georgetown college experience and perhaps in search of some reassurance that their hard-earned money is being well spent on their sons and daughters, The Hoya provided some less-than-sobering thoughts. Its Senior Parents’ Weekend Edition had the following to report:

Georgetown administrators are searching for ways to improve the efficacy of the Department of Public Safety following a series of race-related incidents on campus that attracted the attention of the local news. These include an evaluation of DPS and a series of training sessions to educate on proper procedure in dealing specifically with “hate crimes.”

The Department of Housing Services has been reluctant to provide any new information on potential solutions to the housing shortage that has left 237 sophomores with a taste of what it feels like to be in Purgatory. Director Karen Frank says she is “developing opportunities so students will have choices as to where they live,” but also that the university is not responsible for each student’s specific housing situation, and will not find a space for each person individually, because different students have different needs. (Housing has since found 100 spots for students in an apartment complex in nearby Arlington, Va., just 1.1 miles from home.)

Dean of Students James A. Donahue has read with interest a plan, The State of Sports Clubs at Georgetown, that seeks redress for students who participate in these sports, but can not use the university logo, mascot or name for their teams. While peer institutions, like Duke, UPenn and Notre Dame all recognize club sports to some degree, Georgetown does not, for reasons of lack of space, inadequate facilities and financial liability.

Discouraging news? Yes, but not entirely.

In each of the preceding cases, the university’s response to a problem – however adequate or inadequate a response it may be – was prompted by the community-oriented activism of the student body. The work of the Georgetown Unity Coalition, Students Demanding Housing Solutions and the GUSA sports clubs recognition committee has raised awareness of and promoted discussion on important issues in a semester where a sense of frustration seems to be the tie that binds.

In discussions on Georgetown’s campus culture, the focus often rests on the negative effects that bureaucracy can have on student initiative. Perhaps this can be rephrased in a more positive light: the resourcefulness and potential of the student body makes itself known, most palpably, in the face of conflicts. As one GUSA presidential hopeful recently remarked, a strong record of extracurricular involvement is practically a prerequisite for acceptance into a school as competitive as Georgetown, so the campus must be one of leaders. Indeed, the desire among the students to succeed and excel here is strong. While administrative restrictions can localize or disperse the fire, it can not extinguish it entirely.

In all likelihood, at least some students committed to these various causes will leave the bargaining table less than satisfied. Those that do should take comfort in the fact that participating in the discussion has its own merit, apart from the results. There is an inherent value to ordering one’s most deeply held beliefs, and clarifying the often blurry distinction between one’s sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice. This virtue is cultivated most easily through the exchange of ideas, especially with those whose opinions differ markedly from one’s own.

However, the university can provide its students with more than this. To do so, it must recognize that the only way to encourage the full potential of each student is to provide a community in which that potential can be realized. Right now, several factors work against that: enrollment is increasing at an irresponsible rate (50 more students a year for the next 10 years), the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Student Programs retain an overly large number of employees, and the Board of Directors continue to emphasize economic and real estate expansion without a clear source of input on student priorities.

The Feb. 22 issue of the Blue and Gray was, not surprisingly, more optimistic than last Friday’s Hoya. It had the following to report:

Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Health have approved the principal agreements that will lead eventually to a clinical partnership, and alleviate much of the university’s financial strain.

Georgetown has passed the $500 million mark in the Third Century Campaign, and is now two-thirds of the way to its ultimate goal, thanks to generous friends and alumni.

The department of art, music and theater has opened a new art studio – a $250,000 state-of-the-art computer classroom – that is, according to its designers, “unprecedented worldwide.”

Encouraging news? Yes, but not entirely.

For What It’s Worth appears every other Friday in The Hoya.

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