Thursday, January 31, 2008

$1.65 too much for GW students

Apparently GW students can't afford $1.65 to ride metro. We don't seem to have a problem with $4 coffee or $2 water, but perhaps if WMATA lowered the fair to $1.00 ridership would skyrocket and we would be incentivised to 'experience DC'...

"Student Association officials and student leaders from across the District gave a letter to Metro administrators last week calling for reduced fares for college students.

The SA presented the letter, signed by 11 student presidents from D.C.-area universities, to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. It is the latest push by the SA to lower fares for Metro trains and buses."

Also, the SA, at least in this article, does not give a single specific reason why fares should be lower. The closest thing they make to an argument is the vague statement: ""Metro is key to the GW experience, and GW is key to D.C."

I'm no economist, but this is ludicrous if ask me. I'm pretty sure that extra 65 cents or so is not what keeps GW students sheltered from the DC experience... forget the fact we're about four blocks from the White House and most all the major museums are in reasonable walking distance.

Now, some of the outlying schools (eg Mason) may have a legitimate claim here. But I'd like to see the GW SA focus on more Foggy Bottom relevant and important projects.

(Photo credit: public domain)

GW Must Like Even Numbers - Why Else Would We Need a 10th CVS?

GW wants to put yet another CVS on campus to fill the vacant spot left by the demise of Tower Records at the 2000 Penn shopping center, according to this article from The Hatchet and this post on their blog.

Really? Does GW really need another CVS? Already there are 4 versions of the convenience store I would consider "on campus," and another 5 that accept GWorld. For non-math majors, that's 9 CVS stores for GW!

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According to The Hatchet, the SA (rightly) pushed for a Barnes & Noble, but were told there wasn't enough space to accommodate the book megastore. Most likely, however, the real reason is GW doesn't want to give students an easy alternative to the school's own outrageous bookstore prices.

Apparently there are other companies in the hat, but GW won't tell us whom. This secrecy seems a little uncalled for, particularly given university spokesperson Tracy Schario says the administration is looking for the "business [that] will best serve the neighborhood and student needs."
That said, I think she pretty much sums up GW's attitude to the affair:

"Will we actively seek input from the student body? No. Are there mechanisms for student input? Yes."
Really? You don't want input from the student body? Yet again, GW plans to decide what's best for students and Foggy Bottom, the same way it did when reforming J Street.

Let's be honest, GW is going to do whatever is best for GW. J Street's reforms were never about providing a better environment/options/whatever else for students, they were about guaranteeing Sodexho money.

Supposedly students aren't completely disenfranchised, however. These "mechanisms", according to The Hatchet, are to "approach the Student Association dining services committee [or] a member of University President Steven Knapp's office."

My question is, "Who?" Who are students supposed to contact to voice their input? Which "member" of Knapp's office?

Well, some quick research brought up this feedback form for Dining Services. Also, you can call Knapp's office at 202-994-6500.

Don't let GW to tell us what's best for us, yet again. Comment and tell GW what you think is best for you in the comments!

(Image from Nick Gingold)

"GW Votes" in a more realistic light

Today, the Hatchet ran a story about GW Votes, a student organization dedicated to getting out the vote as much as possible to promote higher youth turnout. The story
begins with a declaration that aims high and is certainly honorable.

The GW student body should have no problem getting to the
polls this November with the help of GW Votes.

And I do not doubt the ability of GW Votes to make good on its promise to register new voters, provide absentee ballots, and provide election information in general. But there is no evidence to suggest that merely providing these resources and services will result in a
dramatically higher percentage of youth turnout.

While GW Votes is certainly willing and capable to bring students into the political process for the first time, it is incumbent upon the students to actually vote.

From my perspective, I think that the success of GW Votes should be reflected in the actual number of youth who turn out to vote - not those who merely registered to do so. Many people might not consider this distinction, but there could potentially be a huge difference
between people who request ballots and who use ballots. Just this last week, a close friend of mine reported to me that she had received her absentee ballot but had procrastinated on sending it back.

"The election is February 5th", I warned her. "Send it as soon as possible - the state has to count a huge amount of these".

So we should not assume that students vote, even after receiving the means to do so.

This is why I am not satisfied that the organization was "quite successful" in 2004, as the Hatchet reported:

Every single undergraduate was registered to vote by Election Day and nearly 85 percent of the student body requested absentee ballots, according to GW Votes organizers.

In no way do I want to diminish the work of GW Votes. Rather, I think it is very admirable, but we need to start defining success much more accurately. Success to me would be captured in actually observing a markedly higher youth vote percentage rather than in the statistics of
who can vote.

To vote, one must be able to vote. That is true, and always has been. Impediments to voting cannot be allowed to stand as they stand as roadblocks to the democratic process. But what must also not stand is a person's unwillingness to vote. That is just as destructive to the process as any artificially imposed barriers from above.

GW Votes should certainly continue its admirable work as a student organization working for a good cause. But people must understand that within the scope of its work there is no guarantee that the youth segment of the population will actually vote.

And I Expected Civilized Discourse

I'm trying to end this whole casual political nihilism thing I currently have going so I've been actively trying to attend events that insult my big-city freedom hating tendencies to remind myself that there are things that are worth fighting for (or voting against as the case may be). I think the genesis of my apathy is the student body at GW (umm... sorry, not you guys... you seem pretty cool) simply I find the the Liberal kids and just as obnoxious and narrow minded as the Conservative ones. So upon opening the Hatchet I was beyond psyched to see what appeared to be a liberal student (I go to GW, it's a natural reaction) defending the upcoming Ann Coulter event on campus.

I recognize that some at this institution may disagree with her opinions. However, no one student or organization has a monopoly on who may speak at GW.

Heck yeah, the free exchange of ideas in an unregulated "marketplace". Me, you, and Ron Paul should get coffee later... What else have you got?

Students should not come to an immediate unfavorable conclusion about a conservative speaker because it is the progressive thing to do around campus.

Okay... I mean yeah. That is true and maybe that "progressive" comment is totally innocuous and I am just reading it wrong. And, you know maybe the following lines about "Islamo-Fascist or Islamo-Extremist or Islamo-Jihadist" and "liberal lunatics" are simply present for the assonance and alliteration respectively?

Coulter thrives on a well-founded debate, but usually liberals don't want to do anything but throw pies and run.

And I quit. Who is this helping? Why is the Hatchet publishing this? Yes, maybe Ann Coulter has some legitimate points to raise that would fall on the deaf ears of the liberal students at GW, so explain why people should be listening don't just asure us that

From an intellectual side, speakers such as David Horowitz and Ann Coulter clearly win the debate

I wish I could say that that had been taken out of context but it was not. As a reader all I now know is that no one should even bother arguing with David Horowitz because "the debate" has ended long ago. All this piece said was that I was an idiot for doubting conservative thinkers. I'm glad Ann Coulter is coming as regardless of my personal opinions as it's nice to have a view that is the polar opposite of my own. But how could this possibly be seen as the reasonable way of encouraging people to come? Vague claims about someone being objectively correct and the opposing thinkers being "lunatics" doesn't help your cause.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bernine Horn at GW

This week, the College Democrats hosted author Bernie Horn, who recently wrote a book Framing the Future - Horn presents his book at as follow-up to George Lakoff's Don’t Talk Like an Elephant. Lakoff does a good job in exposing how Republicans are well versed in the language they use in order to "frame" issues. For example, Republicans know that instead of "estate tax", it is better to "frame" it as a "death tax." Lakoff exposes the Republican framing techniques but does not attempt to provide a language key for progressives. Bernie Horn's book is an attempt at that.

According to Horn, the key for progressives to win is to understand the how elections work. 40% of the public will vote Republican no matter what. 405 of the voters will vote Democratic, no matter what. Thus, in order to win, progressives need to win the 20% - "the persuadables". These voters tend to be less political interested or knowledgeable. Horn demonstrates this was a table showing that, compared to partisans; persuadables consistently are less informed about the politics. In order to win them over, progressives must speak using their values.

The central values of the American politics, according to Horn, are derived from the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable truths, which among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This last part - life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - are the key values that Americans treasure (and the win elections). In our modern paradigm, life would be equated to security, liberty to freedom, and the pursuit of happiness to security.

The way for progressives to win, says Horn, is to speak with these values in mind. I look forward to reading his book. I am sure it will be as insightful as was the presentation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

And we begin...

On January 28, 2008, a new blog was born...dedicated to political analysis and media critique on the campus of George Washington University.

Update (January 29, 2008): Video of the official ribbon-cutting: