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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Column: An open letter to President Trachtenberg

President Trachtenberg,

As a “stakeholder” in your University, I have some concerns that I want to share with you. I would have come to your office hours, but you only hold them once a month. I would have asked you a question at one of the town hall forums, but my questions were screened out. You are a hard man to get through to. So I thought I would write you this letter and I hope that you read it. I also hope that you understand that I write in the spirit of progress – I want my University to be a better place.

I found your recent letter to The Hatchet to be an unacceptable way of responding to criticism. You are the leader of this fine institution, a place where people come to learn and grow. You write that you “don’t object to criticism from GW stakeholders.” Although your words are always well chosen, your most recent letter to the editor was disingenuous at best. You don’t just object to criticism, you attack your critics.

In his column, Zej Moczydlowski attributed part of GW’s failure to rise in national rankings to your administration’s focus on short-term profits at the expense of academics. I can see his point. While academic cuts across the board included entire departments like Earth and Environmental Sciences, it is hard to swallow that you and your administration are getting paid more. Study space in the library is closed to make room for another Starbucks; the priorities seem clear. You write Mr. Moczydlowski’s concerns are just “shrieking in order to see if his lungs work.” Even worse, you call into question his integrity as writer. He did not distort the facts; all he did was disagree with you. You may not like or agree with his opinions, but you are wrong to attack his integrity and dismiss his concerns.

Beyond your disrespect for Mr. Moczydlowski and his point of view, your intolerance of student opinion is selling GW short. Back in November, when the Student Association Senate and Hatchet called for student representation on the Board of Trustees – GW’s highest decision-making body – you opposed the effort. At the time, you said that you “don’t see where students have the experience, be it in management, academia or just life experience that would add value to the board.” As such a powerful and respected man, you are certainly not threatened by the prospect of adding student voices to the mix. I suggest that you encourage discussion and dissent on campus. Campus discourse that includes administrators, faculty and students is good for everybody.

In a University environment, maybe we all have something to learn. Active and engaged citizens are not encouraged in an environment disdainful of student input. Involve students in the decisions that affect their lives. When we are wrong, show us and teach us how to get it right. That way we can all continue to learn and grow. As long as you consider students incapable of being your partner in making campus decisions, the rift between the student body and the administration will fester and grow. Students don’t have a choice – you were in charge before we got here and you will be in charge when we leave. On the other hand, you do have a choice. I hope that you choose to involve students, instead of excluding them. It is an amazing and special thing that GW students united to call for representation on the Board of Trustees. It is a shame that you continue to tell us that we don’t matter.

-The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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