Want better housing next year? Just make sure you’ve paid your library fines, and double-check that you’re not a bigot. GUSA hopes to combat the destructive forces of discrimination through What’s a Hoya, a program that will incentivize students to attend University-approved seminars for a slight boost in housing points.
The topic of the first seminar will be “Women and Men for Others,” which will focus on mentorship. After that, the topics will be “Cura Personalis,” which will center on safety and well-being, and “Community in Diversity,” which will discuss issues of pluralism. The goal of the program is to make students more aware of issues affecting the campus community. After an hour long session, students will have to take a test online to assess how much they learned.
This entire exercise misses the point of how a university should promote healthy ideas. When information about any of these topics is presented to students in a school-assembly sort of way, the material goes down like medicine. Georgetown students love to engage with new ideas and challenge their preconceived notions. We do it every day in class, and, for most of us, it’s why we came here. A program with a quiz afterward doesn’t resemble that form of inquiry.
What if a freshman reads over the topics and determines that the topics wouldn’t be worthwhile for her? She would have to go anyway—wasting her time—just to make sure she doesn’t end up in the basement of LXR. If the goal is to make campus a more accepting and healthy environment, then I doubt this program is the best way to do it.
My reservations with regards to the idea extend past worries about lost time. The larger problem is using the housing system to encourage people to attend. Every freshman has a stake in the housing system. Having a better or worse dorm won’t determine how enriching your experience at Georgetown is, but it’s important. There are message boards and Facebook groups devoted to trying to get the best space possible. People care about it.
So, when students go to What’s a Hoya, they make the housing selection of their peers relatively worse. The more people attend, the relatively worse each non-attendee’s selection number will be. Such a consequence resembles what happens to students who violate the code of conduct. Not going to a seminar shouldn’t result in what could effectively be a housing sanction.
Say, for the sake of argument, that there was a way to identify all the bigots in University housing with 100 percent accuracy. If one of the goals of housing placement is to promote diversity awareness on campus, should we place these students in the least desirable rooms on campus? It would serve the same purpose. While some of my more authoritarian peers might disagree, I would object to such a penalty. Under any sort of codified penal system, no one should be penalized for what they think under any circumstances.
I appreciate that the organizers plan on including a variety of perspectives to inform the discussion. As I’ve written before, trying to exclude certain points of view in a university setting runs counter to fostering intellectual dialogue. I find it suspect, though, that organizers plan on including a segment on “establishing positive neighborhood relations.” I wonder who pushed that through. I’m sure the events will contain a lot of valuable information otherwise, but it remains to be seen how much these sessions will be more of the administration-approved talk on not breaking the rules.
In the end, there are a lot of initiatives that would make the undergraduate community stronger. All people have their pet projects, but not every program is worthy of tapping into the housing system. Should we reward freshmen with .1 housing point for every weekend they abstain from binge drinking the next 3 months? It would surely make many Hoyas healthier, which is undoubtedly an important goal. The problems with such a scheme would be that it wouldn’t benefit everyone equally because not everyone drinks an unhealthy amount.
What about giving students with the best improvement in GPA the best housing numbers? It would only help students get better grades, which would arguably benefit students more than What’s a Hoya. The problem, however, is the same: It would help some students more than others.
I remain suspicious whenever GUSA is given a new tool to accomplish their ever-ambitious initiatives. I doubt that every freshman would stand to benefit from What’s a Hoya, and incentivizing everyone to go to these sessions is bound to waste at least some people’s time. Instead of holding students’ hands, GUSA should focus on getting students to want to learn about these issues, which, after all, are still important.
Wanna give Connor housing points? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org