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Andrew Pazdon: GW’s skewed endorsement criteria

I’m not often left speechless.

But I was stunned this summer when the director of the Center for Undergraduate Fellowship and Research told me I shouldn’t waste anyone’s time applying for a Rhodes Scholarship and sent me away.

The University should consider all interested candidates for scholarship endorsements and make the endorsement process more transparent.

Administrators and officials control who can receive the endorsement needed to even apply for the Rhodes, Marshall and Mitchell scholarships. But unlike our market basket schools which open up the process to every interested student, GW self-selects which candidates can even interview.

The scholarship and fellowship offices of both Northwestern University and New York University said candidates who submit a complete application and meet the minimum standards are given the benefit of an interview.

This seemed to be GW’s policy as well, but it seems the University’s policies change at will and without warning. When I looked over the summer, the policy regarding interviews for endorsements, according to the only written record – the Center for Undergraduate Fellowship and Research’s website – was that anyone submitting a complete application would receive an interview. But this policy changed and the University didn’t tell anyone. Not even the people interested in applying.

The website now says GW will give out only select interviews. Marc St. Hilaire, the coordinator for the GW Center for Undergraduate Fellowship, said this had always been the University’s policy even though it seems to have suspiciously changed ex post facto. University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the policy was changed because of the “increasing amount of applicants.”

St. Hilaire told me that going abroad was a strike against students, as they won’t have contributed to GW during their time away from campus. He said applicants should be “GW-centric” in their undergraduate careers. I don’t remember that line at the Study Abroad fair.

St. Hilaire said that the majority of policies for the endorsement process don’t come from his office. The inner workings of the process, and how transparent GW is about those processes, is controlled by the offices of the president and the provost. President Steven Knapp and Provost Steve Lerman ultimately have final say over the details – and they’ve chosen to make that information available to insiders.

Most of what I’m saying about the scholarship endorsement process is conjecture based on my experience. Unfortunately, conjecture is the best that can be attained when facts are kept closely guarded.

Sherrard declined to release the specific members of the selection committees, saying the “committee broadly represents the GW University community.”

When asked for historical information and statistics on past applicants and endorsees, St. Hilaire was tight-lipped. He said it was the policy of the University to not say how many students have applied and received interviews or endorsements. He also declined to comment on specific aspects of the process beyond making an application, such as who makes up the endorsement committee.

There is an informal University faction that manages scholarship endorsements with a disregard for integrity, passion or academic motivation. The secrecy surrounding the endorsement process does a disservice to those who apply because it encourages a pack mentality. Don’t study abroad, don’t have internships, spend your life on Foggy Bottom serving GW.

The University does not comprehensively support students to achieve some of the most prestigious scholarships. And that should leave you speechless too.

–The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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