The University administration held several master planning events this week intended to engage the student body on housing issues such as sustainability. While the Voice applauds the University for ramping up engagement efforts since the beginning of the semester, there still remains much room for improvement on the part of both administrators and students.
It is futile to merely increase the volume of the same type of ineffective engagement. We encourage the University to think of creative and organic ways for administrators and students to have conversations about both immediate goals such as the Northeast Triangle dorm as well as long-term campus goals. The current format of forums is helpful to a limited group of knowledgeable students who were insistent on engagement before the satellite campus referendum. Sessions are often attended by the same rotating group of interested students—GUSA leaders and student media especially—and rarely inspire constructive dialogue between students and administrators. These students, however, are likely to tire of the circular and repetitive nature of these discussions.
Part of the problem is that, although students are given ample opportunities to view preliminary designs, there is no metric for how much students’ input is actually taken into account. As has been made clear through the Campus Plan negotiations and continued discussions with the neighbors, the administration is beholden to various constituencies, and it is essential for students to know that the University acknowledges their concerns as a priority.
This semester of futile forums has shown that the problem of engagement is not one-sided. Most students are not informed enough to challenge administrators on important issues. Students who come to engagement sessions often need to be caught up on the basics of housing issues at Georgetown, and this needless repetition is an inefficient expenditure of administrators’ time. If students limit themselves to only wanting superficial conversations about the interior decorating of the Northeast Triangle, that’s all they will to get. If we want true engagement, we have to come to the table armed with knowledge of the Campus Plan and local politics.
There needs to be a holistic cultural change on the part of both the administration and students. With the construction of the New South Center and the new housing projects, there is a lot of change happening on campus. It’s up to students to capitalize on this opportunity to shape Georgetown’s legacy, and it’s up to administrators to truly listen.