Viewpoint: A Commitment to Student Space

Provost Steven Lerman, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz address how the administration is working to expand student space.

February 11, 2013

We are writing to address the current dialogue surrounding the issue of student space at the George Washington University.

We agree that student space is an important element of campus life and creates opportunities for our community to come together to meet, study and interact. The real question is what investments in such space will provide students with the most effective opportunities to work together. We believe the best approach is to integrate student spaces into our new buildings and renovations, and this is the approach we have been pursuing.

Whenever we plan new construction and on campus renovations, we seek to provide student spaces that serve a wide range of student needs. These include gathering places in residence halls, academic buildings, libraries and wellness facilities. We believe these types of spaces lead to enhanced learning, discovery, productivity and innovation.

Our commitment to increasing and improving student space is demonstrated in our recent projects as well as in the plans for current building projects now underway. Duquès Hall and Ames Hall were built with many common spaces that serve students’ needs. Embedding collaborative student space has also been central to our designs of the Science and Engineering Hall and the new School of Public Health and Health Services building and to the renovation of Gelman Library. In addition to incorporating such space in our academic buildings, we continue to build and develop the student academic residential community from the redevelopment of Crawford, Schenley and West End to the recently completed West Hall, which contains a blend of residential units, creative space and informal student gathering space.

Student space that is spread throughout the campus reflects an understanding that such spaces serve more students than a model that focuses the location of such space in a centralized location such as the Marvin Center. Perhaps nothing better illustrates this than a comparison of older academic buildings such as Corcoran Hall and new academic buildings such as Duquès and Ames halls. 

Although there will always be a need for large central venues, given that we do not have unlimited resources, we believe that the approach of embedding spaces for student use in our recent and ongoing capital projects is a far more cost-effective and immediate way of meeting student needs. Building out space in the Marvin Center is part of our long-term capital plan, but even under the best of circumstances, it is a costly project that would be in the more distant future. Our plans for the new Square 77 residence hall call for incorporating student space that will serve the entire campus community.

Over the years, we have continually demonstrated our commitment to increasing and improving student space on campus through our past projects, and we are dedicated to making student space an ongoing priority for the long-term. We will continue to engage in dialogue with the Student Association, other student leaders, faculty and philanthropic contributors to the university regarding further investments in the student experience including our physical facilities.

Steven Lerman
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Louis H. Katz
Executive Vice President and Treasurer