Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown Must Convince Its Students That It Cares

Now that we’re seniors, I find that my friends and I are reflecting on our Georgetown experiences more and more. Even with a semester left, we see the writing on the wall.

Our time on the Hilltop is nearly over.

We seem to have settled on one issue: Does Georgetown care about its students?

any have decided that no, Georgetown is not particularly invested in the experiences of its undergraduates.

Without qualification, I can say that many members of Georgetown’s administration and faculty do care about students. From my own personal experiences, I know that Dan Porterfield, senior vice president for strategic development, Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J., assistant dean of the College and Todd Olson – yes, even Mr. Keg Ban himself – care about students and the quality of their time here at Georgetown. So, too, does JT III. I also know by word-of-mouth that Jim O’Donnell, our provost, and John Q. Pierce, our registrar, are also deeply invested in the lives of Georgetown students.

Some pretty powerful folks mentioned in that last paragraph, yet this feeling persists.


For one, students are far too often rubbed the wrong way by impersonal, even unfriendly, experiences with services like the Student Health Center, Housing and Facilities. They feel as though these operations should exist to help students, yet students are treated like an unwelcome burden when they require that help.

For another, many students, especially those in the College, are dissatisfied with academic advising. Advisers are spread far too thin. If a student has an urgent issue, he or she can make an appointment, but there is little regular communication. During preregistration, all you need to do is send your adviser a quick e-mail, and poof, you’re done.

To be sure, students can do a better job of seeking out guidance, but it is comforting to be approached by the university to make sure everything is going well.

A third reason why students may feel as though the university does not care is the notion of accountability. We are held accountable for our homework, our exams, our dorm rooms, our behavior at parties. The university doesn’t always hold itself to the same standards. On larger initiatives, such as the Davis Center and Epicurean & Co., it rarely meets deadlines. On smaller ones, like a facilities work request, it can take far too long to get the help you need. All the while, the university operates under a maddening cloak of secrecy and rarely takes the time to explain itself. I’m looking at you, DPS.

Fourth and finally, I think students feel that the university doesn’t care because they feel that its president doesn’t care.

John J. DeGioia gets a bum rap sometimes. By most accounts, he is a good fundraiser – which is crucial – and has a vision for Georgetown’s place in the world, which in the 21st century, is important. He helps the university in many, many ways.

But as far as I can tell, his interaction with students is minimal. He meets with the student press once per semester. He teaches, but he mostly lectures and leaves the other stuff to a TA. When something huge happens, like last year’s hate crime, he makes a public appearance and speaks to students, but on an everyday basis, he’s invisible.

I think he went to Leo’s once or twice with GUSA – there was a photo-op to prove it – but he never just shows up to shoot the breeze. I’ve heard he attends basketball games, but I don’t know that he has ever come over to the student section to say hello. He is on campus an awful lot, but I’ve never heard of him just chit-chatting with students. Maybe he does these things, but no one I know has ever seen it.

Serving as the president of Georgetown is an extraordinary responsibility. I don’t believe that it is unfair to expect our president not only to fundraise and set a vision for a global university, but also to spend more time with students. The leader sets the tone, and until DeGioia falls in line, no one else can be expected to follow suit.

I’m not sure where exactly I come down on all of this. Like I said above, I know there are individuals who care about students, and I wonder how exactly that is different from the university as a whole caring about its students.

But I also agree with each of the specific grievances I’ve just outlined, and more than anything, I think the university needs to do something about this perception that it doesn’t care.

So, it’s time for Georgetown to get its act together. I know this isn’t easy, and I apologize for sounding preachy, but let’s bring change to our part of Washington.

Get rid of the secrecy. Start explaining yourself, Georgetown. You ask your students to be accountable; start doing the same.

Emphasize courtesy. I know it sounds corny, but ask your employees to be a bit more cognizant of how they speak to and treat students. I’d be willing to bet that students will reciprocate.

Figure out a better advising system. I know, it will almost certainly cost money, and Georgetown doesn’t have a lot of that. Having more comprehensive advising will require a creative solution, and I cannot say that I have a good one. For starters, though, instead of having freshman, sophomore, junior and senior deans, why not have deans that follow a set of students for four years?

Finally, Dr. DeGioia, you need to engage your students more. Make sure you are at Mr. Georgetown, Rangila, Cherry Tree Massacre and the Syracuse basketball game. And don’t just be there. Congratulate the performers. Mingle with the crowd. Ask us how our Georgetown experience has been. I realize this is adding to what must be an already brutal schedule, but your job demands it.

ost of the students with whom I have spoken say that, despite it all, they’ve enjoyed their Georgetown experience tremendously. For all its flaws, we have a beautiful campus, smart, engaged, fun students, talented professors and a true asset in our D.C. location. But we feel connections to the people we have met here, not the institution itself. For that to happen, students need to feel like the institution cares.

Bailey Heaps is a senior in the College and the outgoing editor in chief of THE HOYA. He can be reached at

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