By LEANNDRA PADGETT
This semester, GC’s Global Scholars read and discussed a book about the state of America by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum titled “That Used to be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World” it Invented and How We Can Come Back. The point of this book is that America has become fat and lazy, falling from its former international glory and threatening to lag behind other nations, most notably the superpower China. Specifically, the authors lay out four major challenges that the United States must face or risk being passed by on the international scene: 1. globalization 2. rapid changes in information technology 3. budget deficits 4. energy crisis/climate change.
It seems to me that there are uncanny parallels between the state of our nation and the state of our college. Georgetown is a great school with a proud history, but if we do not address some essential problems, how will we make it through the next few decades as an institution? I would alter the four challenges Friedman and Mandelbaum list into these four issues which GC is combating: 1. religious identity 2. facility deterioration 3. budget deficits 4. sustainability issues.
Our religious identity has been undergoing changes over the past few years. Since dropping Baptist affiliation, our Christian Identity Statement now asserts that the school is “[b]uilt on a Baptist foundation” with “commitment to the Christian faith” and encourages members to model their lives after “the teachings of Jesus Christ” (college website). The statement is clear, but the applications are not. What religious expectations should there be for faculty and staff? How are students of other religions and beliefs accommodated?
The second issue the college faces is facility deterioration. Many of the buildings are in need of renovation or replacement. Work is being done in this area—the economics building (which was in frightful condition) was demolished this summer, Rucker and Hambrick Villages have been constructed and Pierce Hall is being phased out (Pierce forever!!). These are the right steps, but progress can seem slow at times. Many of the buildings, especially the residence halls, are around the same age. What is the plan to deal with all of them in a timely manner?
Financial and sustainability problems are not new to the school, either. High tuition and low enrollment feed into a vicious cycle of monetary strife with no easy way out. As to environmental issues, groups like GSI (Georgetown Sustainability Initiative) do their best to raise awareness and make changes and everyone seems to support becoming a sustainable campus, but progress is slow and we are laughably behind in many areas.
So what is to be done? Are the United States and Georgetown both going to slip further into mediocrity and fall behind competitors until China and Transy rule their prospective spheres? Perhaps. Or, we can all step up to make the changes necessary for us once again to be at the top, to be our best. As mentioned, Georgetown is taking many steps in the right direction. We have a clear religious identity statement, are making facility renovations and have cooperative groups like GSI working to make environmental improvements. In addition, there are many miniature success stories of efforts being made around campus. Think of the Caf worker who makes specialty sandwiches of the day, not because of a Sodexo program, but because he wants to be creative. Consider the students who fixed up a study room in Allen with a stage to create a space for community. Look at the student tutors who put in extra time, not to rack up on their minimum wage earnings, but because they really care about the success of their tutees. This sort of innovation and effort are what makes this country and college great. As individuals, as members of the GC community, as American citizens, we must all commit to doing our individual best to improve where improvement is needed and persevere where commitment is necessary. Let us not be a people who only complain and point out flaws in the system, for flaws there will always be. Let us be a people who take steps to remedy the flaws and bring about a better future for those institutions about which we care.