You know, the more time I spend at this “George Mason” place the more I realize that despite its respected Public Policy department, it has some real troubles with its own public policy. When I first came here, I thought college was just absolutely wonderful. But as the “euphoria-of-newfound-freedom” and such wears off, the ugly face of public education is rearing its head again to me—but this time, it’s costing LOTS of money.
Now sure, I knew that the school had its problems with things like consistent temperature controls, keeping the electricity on, and maintaining its internet connectivity, but since these didn’t strike me as pervasive policy problems I let them be. I complained when appropriate to the correct authorities and went about my business.
But in the days, weeks, and now months following September 11, 2001, George Mason twice demonstrated for me that its leaders and its rules have a strange anti-American streak, and beyond that a general disregard for its own policies (at least the logical ones) and an especially disturbing money-hungry drive to keep you in school for time beyond the initial four years.
In a pleasant bulleted form, I will now run down my laundry-list of experiences and problems with George Mason University in hopes that maybe, just maybe, the president of the school will click the link I’m going to send him and take a look :-)
- School on September 11 and 12—The first warning sign that something was amiss in the administration at GMU came the day-of the September 11 attacks. I was in class while two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York, and that’s just fine, but from the 9:00 a.m. attacks on to nearly 3:30 p.m., that’s over 6 hours for you math majors, GMU was still insisting that classes would not be canceled. THE SCHOOL IS TWENTY MINUTES AWAY FROM THE PENTAGON. Countless students at GMU, dare I say over 50 percent, are related to or know somebody who is employed or contracted in that building. When all evening classes (4:30 on) for the day were finally canceled, it was because commuter students would have trouble making it to class due to the chaotic local traffic situation. School should have been canceled as soon as word of the Pentagon attack made the news, and should have remained canceled through the 11th and through the 12th. Period. To continue holding classes in such a traumatic time, especially when part of the trauma occurred locally, was inconsiderate, offensive, and definitely un-American.
- The Great Flag Incident—Now I am willing to accept that an intelligent person could conceivably do something so stupid as to hold classes in such a time, but ever last ounce of faith I had in the American nationality of the GMU administration was swept away in the weeks that followed. A look through my “What’s Up!?” archives will turn up something that I’ve since dubbed “The Great Flag Incident”. The gentlemen living in the dorm room immediately adjacent to mine happened to have a full-size American flag which they chose to fly hanging from the wall above their window in support of the War on Terrorism and as a show of patriotism. Now GMU has a large number of middle-eastern students, and they often show support for “peace in Afghanistan” and the “Palestinian State” and the like, I don’t see why anybody would not be permitted to fly the American flag. I mean, after all, we are in America right? Well apparently GMU property now has some kind of territorial exemption from the United States (and its First Amendment), as my neighbors were ordered to remove their flag because it might offend those middle eastern students. We fought this, vehemently, and before too long they and I were meeting with the Area Coordinator of student housing who was trying to explain to us that the flag was a violation of housing policy (for fire protective purposes), but it could stay. Well, first off guys, I’ve read this policy and it says nothing can hang FROM windows. The flag was hanging from the wall. Second, if it were really a violation you wouldn’t let it keep flying. Nice try on the coverup, really, but you haven’t convinced me that you are patriots at all. I do hope that the phone calls you got from the office of the Virginia Secretary of Education and various other political entities made you a little nervous about enforcing such policy in the future.
- Mac or Cheeze—George Mason University has a set of minimum computer guidelines listed on the website of the campus computer store (“Patriot Computers”). These requirements clearly indicate that both Windows/Intel configurations (this being the cheeze) and Macintosh configurations (this being the Mac) are acceptable for use at GMU. As many of you know, I made the smartest move of my life (other than continuing to chase Melissa for as many years as I did) and switched to Macintosh back in August. Now I enjoy computing, I have reliability and speed unlike anything Wintel side ever had to offer, and my computers just plain look better. I was under the impression, having read the university guidelines, that these computers would meet my needs. But this semester, both my Statistics 250 (intro to statistics) course and my Government 300 (political analysis) course require the use of Windows based software. Now had I a little more leeway in my courses (this will be explained in other parts of the rant) I’d have either dropped these or refused to do the assignments in Windows, but since I don’t feel like creating any more trouble for myself I’m doing the work on GMU computers. But believe me, every assignment includes (on every page, in the footer) a very terse comment about university minimum requirements not agreeing with their course requirements. So let me sum this one up clearly: SUPPORT ALL PLATFORMS LISTED AS ACCEPTABLE. We all know darn well (or we should) that Macintosh provides a simpler, more stable, and more powerful computer environment and I should not be required to subject myself to blue-screens-of-death and instability for classwork. Period. I left those days behind me for a reason.
- Oh You’re Behind? GREAT!—I have recently experienced quite the interesting little thing here at GMU which has caused me to seriously consider taking a pair of courses at the local community college (NOVA) rather than giving in to the twisted GMU policy. Let me explain. You see, last semester I had a bad semester. Though my cumulative GPA still hovers near to 3.0, my semester GPA was slightly under 2.0. Apparently GMU considers this grounds for academic warning, and as a side effect they’ve limited my course load this semester to 13 credit hours. Now I admit it, I failed Economics 104, so I’m three credits behind. But this 13 credit limit sets me back ANOTHER three credits, so now I’m six credits behind and three of those are because of a stupid GMU policy. I can tell you exactly why they did this. You see, at this point I MUST either go to summer courses or stay an extra semester past my 4 year goal. For me this means a lot of extra trouble, but for GMU you know what this means? It means MORE CASH. When I take 12 credits (as I am) they charge the same as for 15 credits, but then I have to pay them AGAIN to take that course they wouldn’t let me take. No wonder they want to limit my credit load, the more they set me back the more extra money they get to take from me later. Talk about cold, money-hungry, and unethical. So the Scott Bradford solution is I’m looking at NOVA courses (I’ll of course make sure beforehand they’ll transfer in to GMU) so though I’ll finish my education at GMU, they won’t get one damned cent from their little swindle. Let me tell you though, one more money swindle and I am gone. You can forget my tuition money, my textbook money, and whatever other money you people insist on taking from me. One more swindle, and that’s it. This is your warning.
- As the Smoke Clears (or not)—If you’ll remember from one of my previous rants, I despise having to smell cigarette smoke in public places. You have every right to smoke, but you do NOT have the right to expose me to the toxic byproducts of your sick little habits. For as liberal a school as GMU is, politically, I’m surprised that they still allow public smoking. Most liberal states have the right idea (believe it or not) and have begun to outlaw this practice while GMU still remains in a toxic haze that leaves me coughing and gasping for breath at times. A day never goes by on this campus without my getting a huge whiff of the disgusting stuff, and GMU has done NOTHING in their policies to curb this behaviour. They must be worried about finding the money to enforce it when they have those pesky American Flag Wavers to bust. If you guys would put the money to a productive use like this, maybe I’d be a little less pissed about you trying to swindle it out of me. Or not.
- Prank Phone Calls? Not Our Issue!—This entire year at GMU one of the most bothersome things has been happening. Every day, often at odd and EARLY hours, my room’s phone has rang several times in succession with the message “Welcome to the Verizon Message Center, you have a message waiting for [oriental woman muddles through three girls' names]. Please enter your PIN number.” My contact with Verizon has led me to find that our phone number isn’t in their system, which makes some sense because GMU has purchased the entire 703-993-xxxx number set and handles calls to it internally, though I do have a feeling that Verizon must have our number in their system SOMEWHERE or they wouldn’t be calling me! So since I got nowhere with those fools (wait for a later rant) I’ve tried contacting the GMU phone people to report Verizon as harassing me over the phone with automated and unsolicited messages. Well it turns out THERE AREN’T ANY GMU PHONE PEOPLE! MasonLines, my good friends from all of our problems LAST YEAR, has been shut down! I guess we’re supposed to maintain their phone systems ourselves, and when we receive harassing phone calls (like Verizon Message Center at 5:45am) I guess that’s just not their problem. No, apparently that’s everybody else’s problem.
- Liberal Bias—Now before I get into this one, which is bound to offend somebody who reads this, let me make things perfectly clear. I do not hate liberals. Liberals (typically Democrats) often have the best interest of the nation at heart, and I completely respect that, and my biggest problem with Liberals is that they skimp on personal responsibility (expecting the government to protect, cover for, and assist people in many circumstances) and they tend to take human nature as being more idealised and positive than it really is (as evident in Democratic Party led budget cuts for the armed services, which is quite haunting to me particularly in the post-September-11 era). That said, LIBERALS HAVE EVERY RIGHT to hold those views, as wrong as I might think they are. In return I simply demand that those liberals respect my right to hold my semi-conservative (and semi-Republican) views on things. Getting to my point, GMU is blazingly liberal. Most of my professors, though professional in their handling of things, have a slight (and sometimes obvious) liberal bias in their political discourse. More fundamentally, it would seem that all voting-related events on campus are Democrat-oriented. The on campus campaign debate-watching-events in the 2000 election were overrun with Gore/Lieberman posters, the voter registration events were overrun with Democrat speakers (mostly the fault of MTV’s “Rock the Vote” conspiracy—expect in a later election-year rant). I have nothing against Democrats as a group, other than my disagreement with their politics, but I do have a problem with Democrats in control of places like GMU pressing their views onto a diverse audience. I demand equal representation of both political sides in a supposedly neutral public university, and I demand it immediately.
George Mason, the man the school was named after, was a colonial figure once with the prominence of those like Washington, Jefferson, and the like. His recognition has diminished with the years, and now few know what the man did for this nation. He was a northern Virginia planter in the 1700s who was knowledgeable in the law, and authored the Fairfax Resolves, a precursor (and influence upon) the Declaration of Independence.
Also having written the Virginia Declaration of Rights, a precursor (and influence upon) the Bill of Rights, he was involved in many of the days’ relevant political happenings (though somewhat reluctantly). He ended up refusing to sign the 1787 Constitution (our current constitution) because it did not include a Bill of Rights initially. He was, as one biographer put it, “guided by his belief in the rule of reason and in the centrality of the natural rights of man.”
I can tell you with certainty that a man with love for reason and rights would be disappointed, perhaps angry, to find his name appended to an institution like George Mason University.