Someone recently pointed out that you can tell when you’re on GW’s campus because the garbage cans change. Public garbage cans in DC are painted black. Once you hit GW, they are in pairs, one buff and one blue. Inside the buff and blue garbage can perimeter there are other signs you’re on a college campus - Kogan Plaza and its gateway, the lawn across from SMPA, the bust of George Washington.
There’s nothing especially educational about blue trash cans, or knowledge generating about a statue of a hippo that a former GW president reportedly bought on a drunken whim. But they are visual cues we read that say “college” and “GW.”
When we’re together in person, we’re somewhere. Mostly, we’re here, 805 21st St. NW. We have SMPA stickers, posters for SMPA events, banks of televisions, and faculty offices with SMPA things on the doors. It’s our own space within the semiotic space of GW’s urban campus. This is our place by assignment and also by design. We curate it and care for it. We clog the white boards, and clean the classrooms. We put posters on windows and walls (that facilities takes down and that we replace so that facilities can take them down again). We pick up candy wrappers, coffee cups and the other detritus of a day.
Our space, like our community, deserves our attention. We are in this space that we define, and that space in turn defines us. How we curate it and care for it matters for who we are, and how we are together.