Cheque this out

By the

February 15, 2001

This weekend is Senior Parents’ Weekend. The Senior Class Committee has extended the invitation to parents of seniors to “take part in some of the events that they have enjoyed during their years at Georgetown.” The primary event, however, appears to be parting with a large sum of money in exchange for inclusion in the weekend’s activities. While such a trade of maximum cash for minimum goods may offer parents an accurately sour taste of the Georgetown student’s financial life, it is a tragic transformation of a potentially positive event into one that is focused solely on the bottom line.

If two parents wanted to attend all of the weekend’s scheduled events, spend two nights at the Grand Hyatt Washington (which the invitation deems “Senior Parents’ Weekend headquarters”), and pay for three days of parking, they would have to foot a bill of $510. This figure excludes the purchase of a student auction ticket, which costs $40. It also assumes that the hypothetical couple passed up the opportunity that the invitation provided to become a “Gold Auction Sponsor” for $120 a head.

The price tag attached to Senior Parents’ Weekend clearly ignores that there are Georgetown parents for whom $510 is an insurmountable barrier to joining their child for the weekend during which they are supposed to come “closer to your senior’s Georgetown experience.” The figure above is the bare minimum cost of the weekend and does not factor in other expenses such as travel and meals. Although there are undoubtedly Georgetown families who could sew dishrags out of $100 bills for their abundance, the Senior Class Committee should have formulated strategies for making the weekend more inclusive of all families.

In addition to transforming the weekend into an exclusive social gathering, the Senior Class Committee’s pricing of events detracts from what should be the purpose of the weekend: for parents to attend events with their children during their final year of college. The fees instead let parents in on the dirty little secret that upwards of $30,000 a year in tuition (however it is being paid for) does not provide them with an all-access pass to the university. The Senior Class Committee should not ask parents to pay $35 a piece to register for the weekend. Nor should they charge parents for merely attending the Senior Auction. It is understandable that the auction is a fundraiser, pure and simple. The charge of $40 solely to be present at one of Saturday night’s major events, however, tells parents that they cannot choose whether or not to help with that fundraising; their attendance indicates their acquiescence.

The removal of the registration fee and the auction admission charge are two basic methods by which the Senior Class Committee could redirect part of the focus of Senior Parents’ Weekend from extortion to enjoyment, as well as provide more families the opportunity to attend the weekend’s events. Until then, parents should remember to keep their checkbooks handy.

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