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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Diversity, equity official to leave GW in July
By Jenna Lee, Assistant News Editor • June 8, 2024

GW must provide students with the means to succeed this fall

Officials had good intentions to return everyone to campus this fall. But without a coherent national response to the pandemic, fall plans going awry was inevitable. Administrators worked in our best public health interest to decide against in-person classes and now bear the responsibility of ensuring quality education this fall.

GW’s original plan to have a residential experience was not completely unrealistic. After all, most residence halls are within walking distance of a massive metropolitan hospital, there’s no communal dining hall on the main campus and most halls do not have communal bathrooms. But being in D.C. and attracting students from all over the world brings a huge threat to the number of COVID-19 cases in the District. Not only that, but we can’t really trust students with social distancing when night falls. Look at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which faced an immediate rise in COVID-19 cases upon reopening. Expecting students who have been starved of social interaction for months to comply is a challenge in itself and places an undue burden on immunocompromised students, staff and professors.

Students need to understand that while taking classes at home this fall isn’t ideal, it’s much safer than physically being on campus. And as we transition into an entirely online semester, officials need to provide students with the means to succeed in their classes. GW should focus their efforts on providing students living at home with financial relief and implementing a flexible grading scale, as it’s done in the spring to alleviate academic stress from home.

For many universities, keeping students off campus this fall brings a detrimental financial burden to the school’s finances. But as a relatively wealthy institution, GW has some loose change to dole out to students despite losing millions of dollars this fiscal year. Officials should encourage professors, donors and family members to contribute any funds they can to assist students who are less fortunate. Students working from home may need to pick up extra jobs to help their relatives and need as much assistance as possible on top of classes. GW can continue pushing for donations to funds like Emergency Student Assistance Funding, the GW Cares Student Assistance Fund and the Ron Howard Assistance Fund. Any money that can be used to support students must be used for exactly that purpose.

GW must also ensure the quality of classes is held to the same standard as if the classes were in person and work diligently to ensure students do not fall behind as a result of the circumstances. Officials must answer Student Association calls to implement a Pass/No Pass grading scale to alleviate the stress of a virtual semester and the burdens it inevitably causes for some students. Officials cannot assume that their students are in living conditions suitable for online education. They also can’t pressure students to try just as hard in class as they would have on campus if there are circumstances out of their control. Schools like the universities of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Massachusetts-Amherst have listened to those calls, and the University should too. For the sake of students’ mental health and well-being, GW must alleviate the grading scale.

GW must also be transparent about issues impacting students as we approach the semester. Students should not have to find out about changes to their financial aid packages through the SA’s Instagram – the communication must be more streamlined from the office to students. The mistake of miscalculated packages creates an undue burden for many students already dealing with the hardships of the current moment and the switch to virtual learning. Dealing with the transition online should not be coupled with a complete unawareness of situations such as complications with financial aid packages. The administration must ensure transparency and openness to students.

The University can and should provide students with the resources to have a successful online semester. Students should be their first priority above finances and any other issuing plaguing GW during the pandemic. Moving forward this semester, officials need to pay attention to students’ financial aid concerns, actively distribute funds to students who need it and ease the grading scale for at least the semester.

Ella Stern, a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication, is an opinions writer.

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