Friday, February 29, 2008

A Different Approach to Student Activism

There was an excellent article in the GW Patriot this week entitled "STANDing for Nothing". And it finally articulated - in words - a sentiment I have been feeling for quite some time, which is that of disappointment and sometimes even revulsion. 
At what? The so-called trendy activism that seems rampant on college campuses today (and the likelihood of this is magnified at GW being the politically active school that it is, as the article points out). But what is trendy activism? It is activism for the sake of activism, that is, activism without substance, which I think is the worst kind that you get (even worse than activism for a decidedly negative or malevolent cause). 

Patterson, the author of STANDing for nothing, describes it like this:
We're in college, so many feel they have to do the cool thing, and right now it is cool to support refugees and pillaged peoples a million miles away. In fact that has always been cool on college campuses. Holding rallies they will never see, signing petitions they will never read, and having football-field sleepovers in nice warm sleeping bags that they could never afford does nothing to help.
That's right, it does nothing to help despite however shiny and admirable the action may appear. And I do not think the students are aware of this despite their genuine intentions (I'm not of the belief that students don't want to help the world, but I certainly think that they have a skewed view of their own effectiveness). 

I wish that at GW, we would have reached a level of political consciousness that would tell us that in order to truly effect change, we need to learn how to navigate the institutional bureaucracy of the United States let alone the international system rather than hosting makeshift rallies for divestment in the Thurston TV lounge. 

While regrettable, this does not seem likely given the way that trends seem to enjoy such a warm reception at GW. As Patterson attests, the school is one defined by trends:
I realized when I first came here that GW is a school full of trends; Ugg Boots, North Face Jackets, Starbucks (fair-trade) coffee and BlackBerries.
No, but re-read that another time and consider the irony evident in "Starbucks (fair-trade) coffee". Starbucks is the mainstay of the classic GW student who is always sleep-deprived, juggling an internship, classes, a million different student organizations, perhaps independent student activities, maybe Greek life, oh, and of course their image. This student really does not fit the traditional profile of the humanitarian since the humanitarian does not devote time to material impulses and his/her apperance. But this student does appear to favor Starbucks because its coffee is obtained under the pretense of fair trade. But...the student is not really a humanitarian. So how does this behavior work?

By being "falsely active". I hate to say it, but GW is unfortunately full of this person. And a falsely active person it is even more insulting than just a superficial one who does not bother to take the time to cultivate an image of necessarily being politically active. 

I'm sure many students take themselves too seriously, and I probably do many times (I will admit this). I do worry about my professional life way before I will enter the workforce and I admit that I try to "make all the right moves". But I do not approach the world in a totally unrealistic way, as many do, according to Patterson:
There you have the major empty-handed goal of trendy activism. Awareness. It's like these groups care little if you actually do something. All it seems you have to do is buy their wristbands, buy their shirts, sign up for a listsev and spend one night outside and like magic, all the bad things in the world will go away. But alas, you can't dream away the problems of the world.
I have to really express my sincere thanks to the GW Patriot for finally promulgating such a view. It's undeniably true - you can't dream away the problems of the world. I suppose that many students only believe that you can because they view the world in an oversimplified light and don't see reality for what it is, however tragic and depressing it may be. 

But maybe these budding Bonos and Jolies will soon learn that institutions other than the ones that they are trying to craft at GW wield more power over international affairs. And they need not look far. The World Bank, situated on the east end of the GW campus, undoubtedly has more reach than GW STAND. And so when you see this:

You have to ask yourself, "Are they really going to achieve their desired goal? Is this really working?" It certainly doesn't seem so. 

Sorry, but it's true. I just hope that we can acknoledge this reality and then commit to working within the institutional framework that we are dealt rather than attempting to use new organizations that in the end serve no practical purpose other than to allow us to view ourselves as activists when in fact we cannot effect the changes we seek through these channels because they have not yet gained a sufficient amount of legitimacy and credibility for this. 

What GW doesn't tell you about merit aid

Lets face it GW and college in general have become very expensive in the past few years and most families of college students now feel great benefits from both merit and need based aid. Opon comming to GW President Knapp made it very clear that controlling tuition and helping students and their families with the cost burden was one of his top priorities, discussed in a recent Hatchet article:

Knapp pointed out that there are ways to escape such debt. He said since his first day in office he has sought to reduce this burden, and pointed to his recently revealed plan to moderate tuition increases, lower freshman housing costs and increase financial aid to incoming students.

However there are ways that Knapp could begin to accomplish this already that he isn't implementing. I found out from a professor this week that when students apply for and recieve departmental aid they often loose merit based aid given by the school as a whole, essentially replacing one aid package with another. This inhibits people from decreasing their debt burden. We as a student body need to lobby our President to convince him to address this issue. Our pockets will be grateful.

RecycleMANIA Misses the Point, GW's Eco-Challenge Nails It

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

There's a reason for the order of the common phrase we learned throughout middle school. Reducing your consumption of energy, plastic, gas, etc. are the most effective steps you can take to aid the environment. Recycling, on the other hand, is the least effective, because it doesn't change habits and uses more resources to process.

That said, the RecycleMANIA! competition put on by GW's Residential Services that pits GW vs. the University of Maryland totally misses the point. For a competition whose stated goals are "to reduce waste generated on campus", giving an incentive to recycle is just telling students to use more and throw it in a certain bin -- not proper habits for sustainability.

Not to mention, huddling all of J Street's recycling bins into one corner, forcing non-committed recyclers to hunt for them, is not benefiting the cause. The display of prizes for taking the dining services survey doesn't help much, either. It's all well intentioned, but not effective.

Ironically, RecycleMANIA should take a page from GW's Eco-Challenge, also from the GW Residential Services. While RecycleMANIA promotes consumption, the Eco-Challenge offers an incentive for reducing use of electricity and water and displaying eco-spirit (whatever that means).

These are the types of steps that the world needs to take to solve its sustainability problem, not simply recycling. Using less is easier, cheaper, and goes much further towards sustainable living.

So, everyone go sign up for the Eco-Challenge (it's quick, easy, and requires you to do absolutely nothing) and to hell with RecycleMANIA.

Chicken Soup for the College Kid's Cabinet -- and a fight against J Street

A 2006 study found that 83 percent of women diet while in college. I don't diet so much as I get too lazy to buy groceries, scavenge around my apartment (apples and peanut butter are amazing), and finally venture out into the real world for food. But I see the point -- no one in college really eats well. Freshman year, I actually lost weight, just because it was so hard to find food that was reasonably-priced, healthy, and available when I was hungry. (Good luck funding anything to eat on campus on a Sunday night.)

In fact, just now, in looking for J Street's weekend dining hours, I found Fight J Street, a semi-defunct blog aimed at taking down everyone's favorite food-related target. (Hey, where do you think we got the rotten tomatoes from?) It's no secret that many people are unhappy with dining options on campus -- and there's a way to fight back.

My inbox informs me that GW's annual dining survey is open from now until March 5th -- it's available online here. Tell them what you think -- is on-campus dining a treat or a travesty?

Speaking of travesties, I was in luck when I went shopping this week. Safeway had tons of things on sale -- I now have more soup than I know what to do with. Additionally, the clearance meat aisle -- it's cheap because it expires that day -- had lamb for $4.50. I love lamb, but had never cooked it, so I checked my recipe book and found one that called for chicken broth. Now, my cabinets are full of all kinds of things, but chicken broth is one thing I don't keep around. So I found another recipe for the lamb, which was still delicious and amazing in its lambiness. (Apologies to any vegetarians reading this, but I really love lamb.)

I mentioned my shopping expedition to a few friends, here at school and elsewhere. Most of them were shocked by my revelation that I don't have chicken broth in the house -- they all had either broth or bullion cubes. I felt like an incompetent housewife in the 50's. Bullion, it seems, is one of those things self-actualized people keep in the house, like milk or bread.

Readers, am I the one college student in the universe who doesn't keep broth or bullion cubes on hand? Post your thoughts -- and recipes -- here.

Two positives and a negative: The Hatchet's SA Election Blogging

I think it was from an episode of "Family Guy" that I learned to criticize by starting out with a positive comment, then a negative, and then finish with a positive comment.

It’s in that spirit that I analyze The Hatchet’s news blog this week.

First, the positive: the Hatchet’s election night coverage on their news blog was comprehensive, informative and timely.

Now, the criticism: In the blog post detailing the timeline about the election results, Hatchet reporter and blogger Andrew Ramonas included such postings as:

11:16 p.m. Tim Miller was just seen throwing a football across the ballroom with
SA executive vice president Brand Kroeger.

11:17 p.m. EVP candidate Kyle Boyer throws the football to Kroeger, who returns the football to Chris Rotella. Rotalla then hits an innocent bystander. “Stop throwing the
football,” Miller said over the microphone. (You’ll note that he started it a few moments ago.)

11:32 p.m. Presidential candidate Tarek Al-Hariri is asking about hanging chads. We sense a court case.

11:42 p.m. “Ben Balter is a sex God” did not win, according to the chair. He’s going over the rules, and here are the results…

Admittedly, it can be difficult to maintain a solid, serious dailogue when there's nothing going on. Ramonas acknowledges this in one of his blog entries:

11:31 p.m. This live-blog might seem like watching an ice cube melt in the freezer. Obviously there’s not a lot going on, and we can only offer so much anecdotal commentary. Last year, with the read-out of every ballot, there was a lot more to go on.

Plus, as I mentioned in my blog post two weeks ago, I'm all for people not taking Student Association elections so seriously. But, in my opinion, these "funny" comments were somewhat out of place.

Finally, another positive to round it out: the blog’s coverage of the fire department’s response to smoke at the President apartment building is exactly what the blog should be for – covering goings-on around campus that aren’t crucial enough or timely enough to be in The Hatchet, but have people wondering, “What was that all about?”

I encourage everyone who reads this (and anyone who has an opinion about campus-wide media, good or bad) to write to The Hatchet, post about it on a blog, or even discuss it amongst your friends.

Hillary on campus!

I hope that by now, everyone knows that Hillary Clinton spoke at Lisner auditorium on Monday.  It was great, and she was pretty amazing.  Every time I hear her speak, I know she would be exactly the kind of president that can fix all the problems that Bush has created for us in his two terms. She even looks presidential.

But this blog is about GW, not the presidential campaign. And one thing I learned about GW at the Hillary event is that there is a reason GW kids get the rap they get.  The Hillary event was one of the most unorganized events I've ever been too, and the GW students standing behind could not have been more spoiled/annoying/insulting if they had tried. (Maybe they were trying.  All I know is that just hearing their conversation made me lose IQ points). 

First, the disorganization.  Yes, I understand that a lot goes into having a presidential candidate speak on campus.  Yes, secret service has to check everyone's bag.  Yes, people will line up early to get the best seats.  But this event was bad.  There were two lines, but only one line was filling up.  Until the students organizing the line told everyone in the back to cut in front at the other line (I was annoyed, but I knew I was getting in, so I didn't really care; the GW guys behind me though were pissed and made sure everyone knew it). In addition to the lines, there was a guy in front of me who did not print out his ticket.  He spoke to FOUR different students and no one could tell him if he was on the list.  The most they could say was "Check with the girl inside the lobby".  When he did, he lost his spot in line.  I felt bad for him.  But I was more annoyed by the GW student leaders. 

Not only was the event poorly planned, but it was the first time I really spent some time with GW Students.  The guys behind me lived up to every stereotype I've heard about the GW student body.  They were spoiled: "Oh I wanted to go so my mom and dad just bought me the expensive tickets".  They were annoying: "Oh my blackberry is ringing again.  Maybe Suzy will bring me a hot dog. God Why do we have to stand here.  I don't even like Hillary Clinton."  But most of all, after standing in front of the them for an hour, I literally felt dumber than I had before I got in line.  My friend agreed. We both realized that yes, it seems like GW students are living off their parents' money and they aren't as smart as outsiders think.  Clearly, GW is only as big as school as it is because of name recognition.  

I do realize that this was one (very complicated) event and one group of students, but overall it left me realizing why GW has the stereotypes it does, and realizing that there are students who live up to this stereotype. 

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Penny for your thoughts, Quarter for your slip-ups

simulated conversation:
"Dick Cheney dropped the F-bomb again, did you hear?"
"Yeah. I think he should drop a quarter in the national budget now."

So the JEC(Joint Elections Committee) on Saturday voted unanimously to implement a "swear jar" where student officers pay between a quarter and a dollar for using profanity.

I find myself at a loss for words, but luckily those JEC officers aren't the only ingenuitive kids on campus.

I drew a picture.

I think it's definitely reasonable to have a sense of humor here. I also doubt that this measure is very representative of the JEC's work and commitment to GW. However, with both of those things said, this is kind of a ridiculous thing to do- especially at a time when the campus seems increasingly skeptical of this year's student leaders.

As posted by "wow" on the GW Hatchet Blog:

This is just stupid. I mean from Neidig to Fox to whoever the heck was last year’s chair, this has got to be the dumbest thing yet.

What do you think? Is the JEC wasting our time, or is it just practicing some good internal fundraising?

Write a Letter to the Editor.

Or comment right here for guaranteed publication (and appreciation).

All We Do Is Complain

I was reading the Hatchet and once again there was a complaint about GW being so expensive! No surprise there, but this article was about how when students go abroad they still have to pay GW prices.

Am I the only one that just wants to look at students and say...OBVIOUSLY!! When a student goes abroad they are not only paying for the tuition of the university they are at but they are also paying for all the people who processed their applications, all the extra events they are granted, and of course GW wants to be paid for the fact that they are going to approve what you did abroad and their name is worth

When I look around GW's campus I think okay I am paying a crapload of money and sometimes the dorms are not so spiffy, but at least they do not look like prison cells like at other schools, and yes sometimes package services is dumb as Molly pointed out, but sometimes I just want to stop the complaining and tell someone to look around. We are in a city full of culture and amazing oppurtunities of internships and professors that have ACTUALLY worked and done what WE want to do.

I understand people like to complain, but someone else HAS to agree...sometimes it just needs to stop. Especially when A LOT of students do not even help to pay for college. My mom is a teacher and my dad fixes air conditionings and I pay a pretty penny out of my own pocket for this school, yet I still appreciate where I am!

Just stop and take a look...our location is amazing!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Selling the GW Experience

As I was leaving SMPA 194 on Monday night I was again reminded what a unique school GW is. I had planned on going across the street to see the hoopla surrounding presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's visit to campus, but ran into no less then four U.S. congressmen on my way who were at SMPA for a separate event.

I snapped this blurry picture of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) posing with GW students.

Pretty special.

Last week I wrote about our outdated admissions website and the lack of current news provided. Even the GW News Center -- the hub of the universities public relation activities -- missed this one. Its not every day eight congressmen (two of whom are GW alums) come to campus...

What can you do about it? Here's a link to the feedback form on the GW News Center site. If you're not happy with the coverage you group or events are getting, or the general lack of proactive selling of the GW brand, let them know...

Monday, February 25, 2008

ohmygodohmygodohmygod we're all going to die and no one will get housing

GW may genuinely hate mac users or think they deserve to live in Mitchell as uperclassmen. According to the Hatchet (and a housing email) the new housing website

was designed to work specifically on a version of Internet Explorer only available to users of the Microsoft Windows computer operating system. Macs operate with Internet browsers such as Safari or Firefox, neither of which is compatible with the iHousing application.
Mac users are not to worry though as the housing program with its piercing insight has provided some helpful advice.

"The best advice that I can give is to have students not use Macs and come to (GW Housing Programs), a friend's computer or a computer lab, to make sure that the application goes through correctly," said Seth Weinshel, a director of housing.

This is insane.

It's 2008, I was not even aware people were still using internet explorer. According to this browser statistics information only 53% of internet users are using IE. Yes, GW has hired a company that alienates nearly half of all internet users. The article states that a patch may be introduced in March but that does not make this totally out of touch decision any less baffling.

I spent some time looking for solutions and all of them were far more work and required more knowledge than an average user would have. However, this link contains 7 ways to get IE6 on a mac (none of which are tremendously for a knowledgeable user) while this site contains older version of internet explorer.

I was able to access the site with the older copy of internet explorer that I downloaded from the latter link but as I do not use iHousing I cannot guarantee how well anything works (if it does at all).

These aren't excuses and GW's new system seems legitimately insane but I feel that working through some of these options may be better than running to Gelman at 7 am on a Friday to get the luxurious, cramped pseudo-hotel room in City Hall.

GW makes more cash, accepts less AP credit

The Hatchet reported this morning that GW will reduce the number of credit hours students will be eligible to receive for high scores on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams:
More high school students are taking AP exams, and scores on the exams have increased this year, according to statistics from the College Board. In response, the University's Council of Deans decided to accept 24 AP or International Baccalaureate credits from freshmen, down from 30 in previous years.
Their reasoning?

Associated Vice President for Graduate Studies and Academic Affairs framed the decision in the context of making sure that "receiving a GW degree truly means receiving a GW-quality education."

This is in light of "public school students achieving higher scores."

But there is something more going on here. Reducing the number of credits from 30 to 24, increases tuition by $7,842.

Even more so it reduces the likelihood that high-achieving students will have the opportunity to graduate in 3 years rather than 4. In doing so, students can count on paying more for their undergraduate degree at the expense of a graduate education.

Do 6 credits really make a difference in the "quality" of education students will receive? Absolutely not.

As the fat cats in Rice Hall get fatter, students can count on scrimping some dollars by eating a little less and shelling out more for tuition than ever before.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Wealth Gap" an understatement

A recent NYTimes article points out the growing gap between the endowments of American universities.

A quote that captures the ridiculousness of Harvard's $35 billion endowment:

"But Harvard could buy and sell a number of small countries around the globe," he said. "It could pay the tuition of all its undergraduates, and its endowment would still grow."

Harvard and a bunch of other Ivy leagues recently announced they were eliminating tuition for students whose parents make under a certain amount of money.

It was a big deal last year when GW's endowment surpasses $1 billion.

But that article points out that GW's student-to-endowment ratio is embarrassingly small: $75,000 per student at GW vs $200... ahem... million, per student at Princeton.

President Knapp acknowledged at a recent forum that GW is in a catch-22: the university can't take money out of its endowment for financial aid because it is too small, so it must increase tuition... creating the need for more financial aid, creating the need to raise tuition more...

And it's any wonder we're the most expensive university in the country/world.

I would like GW to say in more detail how it plans to increase the endowment, since it seems like that is the only way it can't stop increasing tuition.

Yet Another Glitch in One of GW's Systems!

It was my friends birthday last week and to celebrate we took her out to dinner and decorated her door with lots of signs and streamers. Being away from home for her birthday was a little sad for her, because she wasn't able to walk downstairs in her kitchen with her present waiting there for her on the table. But to make up for it, her mom sent her a beautiful purse which she had asked for months in advance. Her mom sent it with her correct address and a couple days later she got the package notification in the mail. I walked with her to the package place and watched her as she anxiously waited for her present. We get to our turn to find out that they had lost her package. Needless to say my friend was really upset, but her mother on the other hand was livid. This was a very expensive gift. Her mother called up GW several times only to hear the same answer "GWU is not responsible for misplaced packages", even though they had clearly lost the package or given away to the wrong person since my friend received an e-mail for it. My friends birthday was ruined and her parents were now several hundreds of dollars in the hole. The problem has still not been resolved. Just another way GWU shows its care after their students!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Serving the students of U.S. News and World Report

I was actually quite surprised to see that no one blogged about this week's conference on higher education costs held in GW's Jack Morton Auditorium for a couple of reasons:

1. The conference was sponsored by the Public Agenda and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and was televised on C-SPAN - I know that GW students are somewhat used to the university showing up on C-SPAN or CNN given the amount of televised events held here, but it's still pretty cool.

2. The conference featured University President Steven Knapp - again, cool to see something GW-related (in this case, our president) on TV.

3. One of Knapp's answers was simply crazy - I thought that given the fact that this issue directly affects students, as well as the fact that one of Knapp's answers was off the mark (which I talk about below), everyone would want to write about this. But I guess the more popular story wins in the end - it's understandable that when choosing what to write, SA Elections are a better draw that President Knapp speaking about tuition. In all honesty, if I hadn't waited until the last minute to post this week, I probably would've continued writing about the upcoming elections.

But I digress. Back to Knapp's answer...

According to The Hatchet, Knapp listed one of the reasons for the university's high spending as U.S. News and World Reports' annual college rankings:
"'Every one of the measures for which you get high marks in rankings in
(U.S. News and World Report) works against cost saving. Every single one of
them,' Knapp said, as he listed the various ways schools receive points, such as
high expenditures, technological capabilities, and a low student-faculty
I understand that the university wants to stay competitive and look prestigious, but spending more money to comply with a magazine's ranking system that is fast being regarded as unfair and a poor indicator of a college's actual performance? If it's a choice between having a marginally better ranking or coming out of college without five or six figures worth of debt, I'm willing to drop a couple points to save a couple bucks.

High Tuition is a Vicious Cycle

One of the biggest complaints I hear about GW is the fact that our tuition is too high and I must admit 50,000+ a year is a high price to pay no matter what the school. However in a Wednesday night discussion at the Jack Morton Auditorium, President Knapp made a good point saying

Stanford's endowment is about 17 times the size as ours," Knapp said. "We give probably the same amount of financial aid, it's just that we don't take it out of our endowment. We're in this kind of cycle where we have to raise tuition to support student aid.

Its understanable that in order to give more scholarships, you have to charge students whose's family's are able to pay full price. But lets face it, they are fewer and fewer people who can pay full price for a school that costs 50,000 dollars.
Its very unfortunate that in order to keep costs down on the whole, some people have to pay more in tuition. GW is at a disadvantaged to schools like Harvard and Yale who with their large endowments can give larger aid packages. Having a smaller endowment than those schools in the Ivy League is not the fault of GW. The fact that Harvard and Yale can offer full tuition aid to families within certain income brackets is admirable and wonderful, but puts unfair pressure on schools with smaller endowments to match these aid packages, possibly raising the cost for student who don't qualify for financial aid.

Who Does GW Faculty Support for the Candidacy?

Believe it or not, when you donate money to a political campaign, who you are, when and how much you spent, and to whom you gave your money to is all public information.

There are several sites on the web that host this information in a searchable format by name, location, candidate, and employer.

A quick look at shows which candidate GW's faculty favored with their money. Surprise surprise, it's Barack Obama.

As far as dollar amount of donations, GW faculty gave, in total, $89,195. For the presidential candidates, most of that money went to Hillary Clinton, despite Obama's lead in number of donors.

Just some fun facts to know and tell all your friends.

No more advising

So did anyone else in Columbian get an e-mail from them on Tuesday? (Emphasis mine:)
CCAS would like to announce that no advising holds will be placed on junior and senior students with declared majors and in good academic standing. We strongly urge you to meet with your faculty advisor in your major department to discuss your outstanding graduation requirements prior to registering for summer and fall courses. These discussions help shape your academic plans, but the ultimate responsibility for registration lies with each individual student.
Is it just me, or is this incredibly lazy on the part of CCAS? Sure, meeting with my adviser was never overly helpful. Then again, it wasn't a huge time commitment on anyone's part, either -- I never spent more than fifteen minutes discussing my schedule, and it was usually closer to five. Even if you factor in the number of students the average adviser meets with, is the system really such a time drain that they have to eliminate meetings with upperclassmen?

And raise your hand if you think any juniors or seniors are going to set up meetings with their advisers unless it's an absolute emergency. Heck, I'm the most conscientious, rule-following, number-two-pencil-sharpening kid this side of Hermione Granger, and I wouldn't schedule an appointment under these conditions.

I've never had any trouble getting a meeting with my adviser when I needed one. Then again, I never really needed one, either. My adviser, while a great guy, never really told me anything I didn't already know. I probably would have survived my four years here without meeting with him once. It's possible that, as an SMPA kid, I've been somewhat spoiled -- there aren't that many of us, and I've had the same adviser all four years. But the worst advising stories I've heard have come from undeclared freshmen. If the new system lets advisers focus more on those kids, then I guess it'll have done some good. But completely eliminating any kind of need for an adviser for upperclassmen just seems like another way of cutting corners.

Rob Lockwood may be the new Ron Paul. Or at least Andrew Jackson (except for that whole bigotry thing) [UPDATED with photographic evidence)

So apparently this blog can spur change, at least on a micro level. As the Hatchet didn't have any immediately objectionable content I was checking the blog and realized, oh yeah, there are things that still piss me off. Like K* (a little database humor?) Schrad's reminder that these people in the election are out of their minds

My plan (and it is interesting that bashing stuff is my go to) then switched to finding a candidate and eviscerating them. Oddly enough Shanna's post on Rob Lockwood sent me in the opposite direction. I agreed that the dude was KILLING IT on youtube but I didn't think this was necessarily a real campaign. However, he took the time to respond to Shanna's post and rep us on his unfortunately named "Roblog" and I figured the least we owed him was to check out what his deal is.

When visiting the about section Mr. Lockwood makes it very clear that a) he has red hair b) the ladies like him. Also, hes a serious candidate.

The junior from Massachusetts has what appears to be a relatively simple platform consisting of four major ideas.

- Continuing to push for change at J Street
- Adding more vehicle and dispatchers to 4 ride
- Abolishing unnecessary student fees (such as the $10 printing cost of a transcript)
- Kegs (seriously) allowed on campus

These are not necessarily the kind of scrappy CHANGE THE SYSTEM! promises that I have seen elsewhere. Part of me appreciates that. I'm not one of the six non SA members who knows how the system works and I don't really know how good Lockwood would be at doing any of these things. However, I know they're significantly more feasible than promises of lowering tuition to free and renovating Thurston. I appreciate the honesty.

Also I'm assuming that similar to Old Hickory he would throw a killer party at the SA Undergraduate at large electoral mansion.

So there's that.

The Cost of Monitoring Students

National Security is no longer the current thought on everyone's mind. The crazy September 11th rhetoric has died down and made way to concerns such as the economy, immigration, and health care. America has realized that terrorism is not the only problem we face.

However, a recent Hatchet article reminded me that those few years of obsessing over national security will linger with us for years to come. Reporting on President Knapp's attempts to justify GW's price, the Hatchet writes:
In addition to high costs of operation coupled with a relatively small endowment, Knapp said rising energy bills and unfunded federal mandates have significantly contributed to high prices at GW. Many of these mandates were passed after Sept. 11 and require the school to monitor foreign student academic progress and report suspicious activity.
The government began to monitor foreign students in 1996 with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. The 2001 PARIOT Act and 2002 Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act expanded these measures to include monitoring of student academic progress, changes in major, disciplinary action, etc. Foreign students now have to pay a $1oo fee to help fund the monitoring, but a lot of the burden falls on the university, which passes the costs of monitoring students onto the rest of us.

Knowing who is in the country is always a plus, but security measures come at a cost. Careful monitoring of foreign students, who are not the actual threat, doesn't make sense from a cost benefit analysis, particularly if the costs are on my exorbitant tuition bill.

So much better than getting Safeway on GWorld

In what was probably the best Hatchet article I've read, two GW reporters explain how we as a university, and as a student body driving that university, can actually make a difference in Darfur.

The goal of this post is to further promote the ideas of Banaa: The Sudan Educational Empowerment Network. Banaa, according to managing director and policy directors of Banaa who also wrote this article, is "a student-run scholarship for young Sudanese peacemakers."

The program involves providing a full scholarship to a well-deserving Sudanese student who can use the skills acquired at a university to positively affect his community from the inside, and GW will be the first to support the program.

And, because I am so proud of GW's decision to support the initiative this year, I believe that we as a university must expand and continue the effort.

The article specifically calls for:

"...University President Steven Knapp to expand the program by working with top University benefactors to endow a Banaa scholarship. This would allow new peacemakers to attend GW each year, so that we may build a steady stream of indigenous experts to help heal the wounds that have plagued Sudan for so long."

I believe this is a cause not only worthy of the GW community's time and commitment, but one that might actually greatly, and directly, benefit from it.

If students can mobilize to get Safeway on GWorld, then positively impacting the international community through a permanent scholarship is well within our reach. ...Join the Facebook group.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

CNN Profiles GWU Political Bloggers

Politics... the internet... blogs... GWU... perfect storm for a CNN story? (and SMPA 194 blog post...)

CNN International did this great segment on "digital democracy," basically how the internet is being used in the Presidential race, and included several GW students.

The story showed the hundreds of GW students who gathered on Super Tuesday to watch results come in and cheer on their candidates. Several in attendance were 'live blogging' on their personal sites.

It is this type of atmosphere/event that proves GW really is one of the nation's most politically involved campuses. Not that that don't have enough to worry about, but it'd be great if the GW pubic relations and/or admissions office would get videos and stories like this more dissemination. The video I posted above has seven (yes, 7) views right now. Not every campus gets profiled by CNN regrading it's students political blogs...

Perhaps the GWU admissions page could have a section about GWU students in the news that's updated regularly. The site is very static and looks more or less the same as when I applied... and I'm graduating in three months. Let's sell what we've got.

Getting Real Down -- but also Dirty -- with GW Housing Programs

I'm laughing right now, literally.

And no, it's not out of a twisted sense of schadenfreude. It's just because what the Hatchet said something today that genuinely amuses me. I mean, they usually raise most people's ire on this blog, but this time my mouth only spurted cackling waves of glee.

It was when I read the news that GW will be discounting beds in certain dorms for incoming freshmen. Now ordinarily, this wouldn't seem funny, because it is related to cost issues for the University, and I do recognize that it is part of President Knapp's initiative to ease the burden of a $52,000 tuition bill on students.

However, can we PLEASE read between the lines here? It is true that this would be a good financial incentive, but regard this with a very careful eye and notice that the beds that will get these lower price tags are to be found in two places. What two places? Let's ask the Hatchet!
Currently, the least-expensive rooms at GW are in Thurston Hall where rooms with four, five or six occupants cost about $8,000 per resident. Starting next semester, the least-expensive tier of housing will cost $6,520. This price will apply to doubles and singles in Cole, Clark, Merriweather and Hensley Halls on Mount Vernon; suites in 2034 G Street; and quads, five-person and six-person rooms in Thurston.
That is really unsurprising. The first in this list is a residence hall that can literally be described as no more than a building falling apart from inside. You might think, then, how is it such a popular (dare I say coveted?) housing option? Well that is due to people who, in wishing oh so desperately to participate in the culture of vice, willingly deprive themselves of reasonable living standards. The person who lives at the end of my floor and wears obnoxiously large Gucci sunglasses inside, Ugg boots, and an elaborately constructed Dolce jacket while obsessing over his/her BlackBerry, well, you get the point. It's for that social butterfly who is learning early on how to survive in DC. But his/her carefully cultivated, perfect image does not mean that Thurston is not disgusting in the physical sense.

Proof? Here is a picture of the ceiling above my shower!

The second place in this list is never really a choice made by students for precisely the opposite reason - it is not readily desirable due to its isolated location away from goods and services. I remember a girl last semester very fondly from my UW class who wrote of having to move her computer and her clothes between her room and her friend's room in Mitchell on Foggy Bottom constantly to accommodate the fact that her personal domain was in Hensley on the Vern while her classes were found a mile down the road. She spoke of it as an example of "living on the edge" to fit the theme of our class (bohemian city life / counterculture studies).

The point is that even if this is a great incentive for prospective freshmen to attend the University as part of their continuing education, the reduction of the costs for housing occurred in the worst housing options. And I am not claiming that this is outwardly bad in any sense - in fact, I think that it is pretty transparent and it reveals that if you desire either comfort or convenience (or both), then you should probably not choose to live in either Thurston or on the Vern (although in the case of the Vern, many people tend to just get stuck there, like the person I referenced). It just makes a lot of sense to me that the University would reduce the cost of the worst housing options (the first in terms of comfort, the second in terms of convenience). And if prospective students don't notice this connection that is so apparently obvious to me when they complete their housing applications, then they may make a decision they could regret soon after that application is submitted.

I think I regret my choice...look at my ceiling. And by the way, what you see is the good version - last semester it was completely rotting and we had to call maintenance no less than 10 times. My roommate starting getting sick because of the mold, and I don't think that GW Housing Programs was very happy when Max McGowen was calling them continuously.

In reflecting on my choice, I have truly realized that living in Thurston or the Vern really does constitute "living on the edge", as my former classmate framed it. For a University that charges its students $52,000 per year for tuition (and I'm not going to go on a rant on that like so many people, I already know it is a bad situation), my housing...does not measure up. So I think that its great that GW is going to reduce the cost of Thurston and the Vern.

It makes perfect sense: they are unsatisfactory options and therefore should be underpriced rather than overpriced.

But I'm not totally shocked to hear the father of a prospective freshmen failing to read between the lines and take into consideration what I am saying. The Hatchet quotes Jim Lynn on how he views the housing options for his son, Joe:
Joe's father Jim said that while he would prefer his son not live in a room with five other people, the significantly reduced cost of some beds may be enough to persuade his son to live in a more crowded room.

"The cheaper the better … If it's a big enough price difference, then yeah …" he said.
Really, Jim? I hate being cliché as much as the next person, but really, be careful what you wish for.

Parents: your hypothetical eased financial burden may translate into that dreadful and loathsome mold for your son or daughter. Or a painfully unmanageable parallel existence -- one on Foxhall Road, another in Foggy Bottom. Either way, not too great of a deal.

The point is that everyone should be conscious of the prices of housing - but also why those prices are what they are. There are consequences to these choices, and those are really the things prospective freshmen and their parents must be aware of.

This election is getting ridiculous

For the past few weeks, I've been reading the Hatchet and one thought keeps going through my mind: "These GW kids really take the SA elections seriously.  Too seriously, actually.  It's only the SA".  The candidates announce their candidacy in the newspaper, and there was the race-card scandal.  And this week there was a debate. 

This article, about a collegiate consulting firm, was when I realized that the SA elections were seriously overblown here at GW. 

But seriously, it's only student government.  Maybe everyone in the SA needs to realize this.

Now, I realize that almost everyone who goes to college in the DC area wants to be involved in politics one day, and most people who run for things like the SA want to be the President one day, but what the SA candidates aren't realizing is that in the real world, it's not that big a deal. 

GW students can be a force of nature. They are a huge group and living in a city where things can get done.  Maybe they should put there time and energy into doing more good (seriously, they could only raise $500 for the National AIDS Fund?) than trying to be president and campaign manager and consultant for the SA. 

GW Valentine’s Day, One more thing…

Last Week, I asked what happens on V-day at GW. This week, the Hatchet’s sex columnist, Delilah, tried to give her take but missed the mark.

She seems very bitter about Valentine’s Day, using “crap” and “bullshit” as some of her descriptive terms. She prefaces her point by telling us how she has a lot of sex and how she isn’t embarrassed to say that she didn’t get any flowers on the holiday. Read her attempt at female empowerment:
“Valentine's Day seems to be an excuse to make single people feel like they have something to be ashamed of. I realized that a solo Valentine's Day does not make me a spinster.”
Okay, as a single girl, I’m feeling good about being alone on V-day. Then she says,
“In fact, I am glad to be spending it [Valentine’s Day] alone since it means that I have stood up for what I need and how I want to live my life.”
Ergh? Being single doesn’t mean you’re making a statement. You can’t be single and then say “Well I wanted to be anyway.” That’s like the fat kid who gets picked last for the dodgeball team and says “I didn’t wanna play anyway.” It’s called saving face. Delilah is arrogantly saying ‘I can get sex whenever I want and this year I decided that I don’t want it.’ Now, most of the girls that could relate to the title “Sex-less Valentine,” are saying “WTF?”. Let me put Delilah’s words in simpler terms: it’s cool if you choose to be single on Valentine’s Day. But she offers no solace for the girls who want to be in a relationship. And for a column read by girls at a University where a dateable man is hard to find yet still desired, she failed this week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

SA Elections Just Got Funnier

To be honest, I hardly ever pay attention to SA Elections because I hate walking down the street and seeing huge posters of people and then having people shoving gum into my hand.

However, I believe some people are stepping up their game when it comes to using Facebook, videos, and laughter.

Take the candidate Rob Lockwood. He is not paying money to make signs...NO he used a Sharpie and white paper to declare he was running. On top of that he started LOCKTUBE and his website looks shabby and awesome

This candidate is not going to lie his way through, promising the student body there will be change. Instead he is attempting to use his his videos, which are HILARIOUS, to see if he can win...and honestly if he does win, it is clear what the SA really is about.

He will cut you bananas...

And he will tuck you in...

ALSO a little humor on UPD

I do not even know Rob Lockwood all that well, and I am almost positive he might not do much for the student body, but the creativity alone makes me want to take those five minutes out of my all too full life and vote.

SA Elections: A Contrast of Personalities

Last night, I told my girlfriend that I was at the Hatchet's SA Debate. She honestly had no idea that SA elections were rapidly approaching, and could not name a single accomplishment of the SA in our four years here. We are both seniors, unaffiliated with any campaign. I genuinely do not know who I will vote for, and she likely will not vote at all.

This blog post is a recollection of my thoughts of last night's debate, and the nature of student elections in general.

As a senior, I am admittedly jaded to the election process, having heard the same promises year after year. Better hours in J Street. More funding for student organizations. A better advising process. I do have to give credit where credit is due. As was said last night, and seems to be a running theme of the campaign, Nicole and Brand had a very successful year, with the return of newspapers in the dorms, Safeway on GWorld, and Colonial Invasion. Yet, at the end of the day, even a successful administration shows how the SA can only do so much.

With that in mind, I came to the SA elections hoping to here a dose of reality from the candidates. I am looking for a candidate who, first and foremost, will admit his (there are no women running for President this year) humility and acknowledge the limited nature of the SA.

The thing that strikes me about last night is that all the candidates basically said the same thing, regardless of the question posed. In this way, SA elections are very different from "real" elections for government. In those contests, you have two parties who have legitimate differences on major issues. Should we end the war in Iraq now or 100 years from now? Does the federal government have a role in providing healthcare to its citizens, or should this be left to the marketplace? Is global warming a crisis, and should we take measures to solve it?

In school elections, we do not have these big policy debates. Who doesn't want a better GW? Who doesn’t want more funding for student orgs? Who does not want the Administration to listen more to the concerns of student's? Who would prefer that J Street be closed at night? Without ideological differences to separate the candidates, elections become focused on the candidate's personalities.

For example, one controversial issue this year was the deal that the University negotiated with Sodexho to require freshmen and sophomores to spend a certain amount of money at J Street. Tariq proposed eliminating J Street and changing caters. Vishal also talked about changing caters, but acknowledged the limited reach of the SA. Kevin talked about expanding hours and eliminating the mandatory dining option. OG spoke about a task force that will solve the problem on day one (not literally). All the candidates acknowledge that J Street is a problem, and all have basically the same opinion about what should be done.

There differences in the candidates platforms. Each has a different pet proposal and project that they speak about. But, all have the same basic goals and objective for their presidency: a "better" GW. A more "responsive" administration. Better options at GW Street. Etc. I am certain that whoever is elected will embrace the ideas of his former rivals. Would a President Aswani shy away from Kevin's idea to expand the University's exposure in the upcoming Presidential race? Doubtful.

One side note: It struck me that during the audience Q/A, at least 3 of the questions were asked by current SA Senators. All of their questions were specific to his or her own niche within the SA: the role of freshmen, the role of graduate students, and finances. What does that about the people who actually pay attention to these student elections that most of the questions came from SA insiders and not from students who are trying to figure out who to vote for? The Hatchet, on its live blog noted that most people who actually care about the election were in the room anyway. I second that sentiment.

At the end of the debate, my opinion about the election and the SA is largely unchanged. Its not that the SA is worthless; the SA has the potential to do great things. The problem is that when you have an election where all the candidates' positions are basically the same, the race becomes about personalities. Elections should be about contrasting ideas and visions; not about who has better connections or who is more "likeable". SA elections pit a group of people who all want basically the same thing against each other in a contest of who can turnout the most votes.

I still do not know who I will vote for. I know who I will not vote for, but am torn between two candidates, both of whom I like very much. Unfortunately, the debate did little to help me make up my mind.

Monday, February 18, 2008

D.C. water is hard?

Since it was an extended weekend I decided to go home and rejuvenate. My rejuvenation process includes my own bed, a home cooked meal, a new york bagel, a shower without flip flops on, and the occasional haircut. Being the lazy person that I am, I never dry my hair with a blowdryer...I just let it air dry. But, for some reason, whenever I'm in D.C. , both my hair and my skin freak out. My hair splits faster than the flu virus infection and my skin breaks out even if I wash it three times a day. Finally, when I told my haircutter about my situation, she explained to me that the water in D.C. is apparently "hard" water. If you have ever felt when you got out of you shower that there was a layer of foil on your body, this is why. There are a lot more minerals in D.C. water than there are in most other water systems. So, I did some research and this is what I found.

According to, "Tap water tested at 18 locations across Washington by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group showed that 40 percent of the samples had concentrations of chlorine contaminants higher than federal safety limits."

So, how do you hard minerals affect your hair? I googled and found that...

"While hard water is fine for drinking, it can cause many problems for your hair, scalp and skin. These problems include:

-Hair feels dry Hair is resistant to color or perming Dandruff or eczema of the scalp Dry, flaky skin Thinning hair Colors fading too quickly Perms appearing to fall out Discoloration or darkening of hair
-Hair lacks body and shine"

So, as other bloggers on this site complain about Jst..I only have one solution to all this madness. Spend your Jst money on bottled water to wash your hair and face with.

What happens in MPA 308... [updated]

... gets seen by thousands of people, apparently.

Thanks to some well positioned blog posts, over 3,300 people have viewed Justine Lam and Johnathan Bydlak make fun of Obama's "grassroots" fund raising organization for being too top-down. Check out the clip here.

The video popped up in a Daily Kos diary yesterday, and has received 50 comments so far. The poll question, "Is Obama's online operation too top-down?" has received over 180 votes, mostly "nope's".

I caught the diary last night as I was browsing Daily Kos, but was more surprised to see the video embedded in a post on Ben Smith's Politico blog, which I read habitually.

Reaction to the video in the comment sections were mostly hostile toward our kind guests, pointing to Obama's slight delegate lead over Dr. Paul.

Thanks, EmergingMajority, for making the people sitting at the front of the classroom famous on youtube, and for plugging GW Blogspot in the process.

Looking for a Job? International Affairs Major? Good Luck

As a senior about to graduate with a major in international affairs, I have become immune to the daily phone calls from my parents asking me if I have found a job yet (and telling me to stop playing around and go to law school or business school). I have learned to bite my tongue when strangers tell me my major is useless. I realize that in New York, if I mention that I’m interested in security studies, people assume I mean bonds and securities in the financial markets, not national security

I expect such an attitude towards my major outside of DC, even outside of GW. But when a career advisor at the GW career center began my consultation with: “Conflict and Security? What can you do with that?” I realized I was completely on my own when it came to finding a job. My consultation ended with "You should find someone to talk to about your major. Good Luck."

International Affairs is a specialized major, and the career options aren’t always obvious. However, GW has over 2100 undergraduates in the Elliott School! I don’t expect to have to tell the career center what kind of jobs are suitable for someone with my major.

To be fair, GW’s location has allowed me to start networking early on, so I’m in a fair position to find a job without the help of the GW career center. But DC is a city run on connections. GW has alumni all around this town. The career center should be a greater resource than it is.

My friends in the business school listen to my rant, with a relaxed smile, because at the business school, career advising is a priority. The Hatchet reports that two GW students are creating a resume critiquing website for GW business school students:

The partnership will be facilitated through the F. David Fowler Career Center, which provides career related services to business majors.

"It really comes down to our commitment to George Washington University. Ultimately we developed this product because we have a genuine interest in helping students on their résumés," he said.

Perhaps it's time for the Elliott School to start taking care of its own students.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ron Paul Staffers Speak To Internet & Politics Class

On Mon, Feb. 11, 2008, Ron Paul's Finance Director Jonathan Bydlak and Internet Director Justine Lam spoke to GWU's Internet & Politics class about online fundraising.

10 YouTube snippets are located here. Alexa Millinger's excellent GW Hatchet article covering the presentation is here. Here are a couple YouTube hightlights:

Backstory: Ron Paul's Online Transparency Led To Money Bomb

Ron Paul Camp Says Obama Online Program Too Top Down

Ron Paul Campaign Let Supporters Do Video For YouTube Debate

An Example of Tension Between Ron Paul Staff & Supporters

Justine Lam - Key to Ron Paul Success Is Not Being Top-Down

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wait, I didn't know this wasn't high school!?

I guess some people never grow up! As reported in the Hatchet on Thursday,

a senior working on the campaign of an SA Presidential candidate had some fun at an opponents expense.

" Freddie de Sibert, a senior, registered the online domain Feb. 7 and had it redirect to the Wikipedia entry for "race card." Al-Hariri said he was unaware of de Sibert's actions until The Hatchet informed him Wednesday afternoon. De Sibert is an authorized representative for Al-Hariri's campaign, according to the Joint Elections Committee. He also created Al-Hariri's Web site."

This kind of behavior from a senior does not represnt the University well, and undermines the importance of the SA elections. Unlike how it was for a lot of us in high school, I have a feeling that student government at GW does make a substantive impact on unversity life. Messing around on the internet to try to take down someone running for student office is justdumb (there is really no other word for it), especially when you work for the opponents campaign. Did this student not learn anything in the past 4 years he has spent here? Stories like this tend to make the rounds in the media and ultimatly this makes it appear as though GW is pushing a bunch of children out into the real world upon graduation. I don' t want these types of stories associated with a school I am proud to attend. So, in short, grow up! This isn't high (middle, elementary, pre-) school!
EDIT: I believe that Zach's

post references this same topic. Check it out!

WE'RE (going to be?) RICH...ER!

You know that building where people play basketball? The one you haven't been to since 2006? Well guess what, now when you walk by it on your way to Pita Pit you can appreciate the new glass panneling!

According to the Hatchet

The Charles E. Smith Family, Robert H. Smith Family and Robert and Arlene Kogod donated $10 million to completely renovate Smith Center, the 32-year-old building which is the nucleus for the University's 22-team athletic program... everything from the basketball floor to locker rooms and training facilities [will be renovated]

Even as a person who does not actively attend basketball games I really appreciate this. 1. Smith family and Kogods? KILLING IT. 2. We get major donation now apparently. According to the basketball coach (oh my god I almost just wrote the ball is in Knapp's court... how unfortunate would that have been?) we have President Knapp to thank.

"Obviously he's a great president and he's putting his statement on the University," Hobbs said in a telephone interview. "He's setting the foundation to create a legacy for the school."

and if you cant trust a fiscal and administrative mastermind like Hobbs who can you trust?

The story insinuates that President Knapp actively worked to secure the major donation which is apparently the largest in school history. While I have no use for the Smith Center this is really exciting that we are actually starting to get money from people who are not students and it is a great start for the new president.

Colleges can help students

Yesterday, I was deeply saddened to learn about the campus shooting at Northern Illinois University, which comes just ten months after the shooting at Virginia Tech.

What struck me most about this campus shooting was when I read that the shooter had been on medication and had recently stopped taking his medication, causing him to act erratically. Similarly at Virginia Tech, the shooter had had some psychiatric issues just prior to shooting his classmates and himself. While their issues may have not been the same, both students were clearly suicidal, as both ended their rampages by turning their guns on themselves.

I am left to wonder, should universities take more initiative to help students who seem to need it? Currently, most universities have on-site counseling center which students can take advantage of (usually free of charge and always completely confidential). But should universities go farther? Should universities require that students take care of themselves mentally?

Student staff at most universities are the front lines in seeing crises before they occur. RAs, or CAs, or PAs, or any other student staff, are normally instructed and educated about how to spot the signs of major issues such as depression, addiction, and suicide. But RAs can only go so far as to suggest a student in crisis get help. Should RAs and other Staff and Faculty be able to do more when they see a student in trouble?

Overall, I think universities can and do more to help the young people in the university community. A large university like GWU could be a pioneering university in this endeavor. Even one campus shooting is one too many. Universities need to step up and do more to help students in crisis.

Why I refuse to vote in Student Elections...

I appreciate posts by Alli, Shanna, Andrew and James addressing SA elections- but I'd like to offer a different perspective on the subject.

Student government should be an important component of any major university, especially at GW given its location at the seat of the world's most powerful government. There's no argument there: student input in the governing of GW is valuable not only for those who participate, but also for the administration, which receives useful recommendations, and ultimately for the student body as a whole, which stands to benefit from representation.

That said- there is no place for mudslinging described in a recent issue of The Hatchet:

"A senior adviser for Student Association presidential candidate Tarek Al-Hariri admitted yesterday to creating fake campaign Web sites to mock SA Sen. OG
If I had one thing to say to the candidates and their "chiefs of staff" or "campaign managers" it's: Get over yourselves.

If they weren't so obssessed with their image, they might take time to step back and realize how they've succumbed to the disingenuous, hollow inside-the-beltway political campaign mentality.

Gone are the days of genuine student activism. Instead it seems we've opted for an image centric, smear campaign for our "student elections."

I always thought college students embodied the hope of future, not the partisan manavuering of previous generations.

They've made student elections artificial and, therefore, a waste of my time.

Good Job GW (Really)!

So this week I had a dilemma: I attended a GW event…and liked it!

Now I know blog sites, especially this one, have often served as launching points for blast campaigns against various campus travesties, but please bear with me as I venture into uncharted territory and commend GW for a moment.

ABC News' chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos spoke at an SMPA event earlier this week and I was impressed with how skillfully Professor and former CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno conducted the interview... and the 20 minute on-stage delay until Stephanopolous showed up.

One of the reasons I, and most of you, chose GW was to experience all that is unique to DC- from politics, to media, to culture; opportunity surrounds us in a way that few other college students can relate to, and I realized the truth to that yet again after this event.

While it's true that the SMPA building probably houses more TV's than Circuit City, I think the building's fancy high-tech set-up, including a huge drop-down projector screen and intricate stage lighting, really added to the quality of the event. Can't wait for the next one!

Danny Kampf's Indecision

I know we often criticize The Hatchet here on GW Blogspot, but we would be remiss if we didn’t take some time to examine GW’s other major news source—the Daily Colonial.

In reading through the DC today, I came across this editorial by Danny Kampf, entitled “Torn.” In it, Kampf talked about being torn between voting for John McCain or the Democratic nominee, despite his liberal leanings.

In his commentary, Kampf makes the argument that Iraq is the number one issue in this election—I agree completely. Unfortunately, that’s the last place we agree—from that one point, Kampf’s logic train derails, tumbling off the trellis and crashing into the river below:

Every time it plays out the same. First I go over the litany of Democratic positions I support: universal healthcare, cap-and-trade, abolishing torture, closing Guantanamo, etc. Next I think of everything I don’t like about Republicans: jingoism, religion, national security paranoia, etc. Then I think, “Well, that was easy. I’m voting Obama (or Clinton).” And this is where it all breaks down. Somewhere within the deep recesses of my conscience comes the nagging question: What about Iraq?

Try as I might, I just cannot consign myself to abandon the Iraqi people. I am afraid, but am by no means certain, that a vote for either Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton would do just that. By this I don’t mean to imply that they would do so with malfeasant intentions, as many on the Right insist. I am content to leave such cheap caricatures to the unsavory likes of Rush Limbaugh and will instead assume that the difference is explained better by legitimate policy disagreements. Nevertheless, I do disagree with them. Strongly.

Iraq is a humanitarian crisis. Two and a half million people have left Iraq since our invasion. Perhaps more have been displaced within the country. Iraq Body Count estimates between 81,000-89,000 civilians have died. Some put the number far higher. Electricity and running water is at best erratic, even in the biggest of cities. The government is dysfunctional. Despite recent gains in security, a low-intensity civil war continues on slow burn. Conflicting religious, ethnic and geopolitical interests have carved up Iraq into enclaves of micro segregation.

And we want to leave?

Like a lot of other people, Kampf has fallen falls for one of the most insidious Republican talking points out there.

It’s the Hail Mary of Iraq war justifications, the last in a long line of debunked rationalizations for this war (finding WMD, getting rid of a brutal dictator, spreading freedom, enforcing U.N. resolutions, etc. etc.). In every debate about the war, it all comes down to this one point: “well, we can’t lust leave!

No, we can’t. Fortunately, nobody’s proposing that.

The difference between the Republican and Democratic positions isn’t helping the Iraqi people versus abandoning them. It’s between helping them versus teaching them to help themselves.

The Republican position is that Iraq is a military problem that requires a military solution. Thus, the only way to fix Iraq is to dump American troops there and hope for success. But this begs the question, are American troops alone enough to fix Iraq? Clearly, the answer is no—this war has raged on for nearly five years and, despite the waxing and waning of violence levels, they have remained extremely high. In face, even after “the surge” dumped over 20,000 more soldiers into Iraq, we’re still losing American troops at the rate of more than one a day.

That’s the George W. Bush and John McCain strategy—after nearly 5 years and trillions of dollars, at least one American soldier will die today. 7 this week, 28 this month (February’s short), at least 365 this year. And that’s to say nothing of how many Iraqis will be killed—it’s hard to get any concrete number, but it’s safe to say it’s several times the amount of soldiers we’re losing.

The Democratic position is that Iraq is a multi-faceted problem that requires multiple solutions. There’s certainly a military component, which is why every Democratic candidate has supported keeping a residual force in or near Iraq—similar to the forces we keep in Korea, Japan and even Germany.

In addition, we Democrats want to foster self-reliance in Iraq—helping the Iraqi people develop and grow their own military, so they can stabilize and secure their own country. Right now, they’re using American troops as crutches—instead of developing their own military, they’re relying on ours. We Democrats want to teach them to stand for themselves, which would allow us to withdraw our troops safely.

But there’s also a political component—we want to bring the various power players in Iraq to the table, to hold negotiations and come to a political solution that will reduce the acrimony and conflict between Iraq’s various groups, factions and sects.

By signaling support for John McCain—who is one of George W. Bush’s strongest supporters on Iraq—Kampf is saying that the same policies that caused the Iraqi humanitarian crisis will somehow fix it, too. Unfortunately—as a recent study from RAND concluded—our current policies aren’t getting us anywhere. What Iraq needs isn’t more of the same—it isn’t John McCain, it isn’t a third Bush term. What Iraq needs is a change in strategy—a move toward self-reliance and independence that will allow the Iraqi people to stabilize and run their own country.

So, the choice is clear. If you want to continue the policies that made Iraq a humanitarian crisis, holding out hope that—one day—everything will suddenly turn around, by all means vote for John McCain. But if you want a stable and self-reliant Iraq, one that can run and protect and preserve itself without using U.S. troops as a crutch, then you should definitely vote Democratic.

Plus, you’d get better economic, environmental, constitutional and social policies, too.

A good experience with the GW health care system?

I've always been pretty good on my feet. Not in a dancing kind of way, but in a not-falling-on-my-face kind of way. I go hiking a good deal with my family, and never once have I tripped on a tree root and ended up falling down a mountain or anything. And being from Chicago, I've learned to deal with some pretty terrible weather.

Well, my luck ended on Tuesday night. I slipped on the ice on H Street on my way to get groceries. (I didn't see this post from The Colonialist until it was too late.) Basically, I looked like about the last minute of this video:

At one point, I really was spinning around a lamp post, trying to find a non-icy patch on which to stand. But Gene Kelly never said anything about ice skating in the rain (though he did know his way around a pair of roller skates). My hand didn't really start hurting until right before I went to bed, so I wrapped it up in what I had and went to sleep. I unwrapped it after class on Wednesday, and almost fell over because of the pain.

"Well, that's a problem," I thought. I called several of my friends in a near-tears panic, and one promised to bring over an actual bandage. While I was waiting, I called my mother, who told me to go to the health center. But as warned by Molly and Shanna's experiences, I decided to steer clear of the health center. It just wouldn't be worth it to trek all the way up there only to be told I couldn't get an appointment or they were already closing down for the day. So I made myself some grilled cheese (which is surprisingly hard to do one-handed), grabbed several books and a newspaper, and made my way to GW Hospital.

Yes, it did end up taking five hours all-told -- five and a half if you include waiting for 4-ride to take me back to my dorm. But even with my pain, I kept myself busy with the crossword, Sudoku, and the books I brought. I also noticed something about the room of people I was waiting with. It was almost always full. And it was full of all kinds of people, not just drunk GW kids. A good portion of people there were over 50. A lot were waiting by themselves. And everyone just wanted to feel better.

Now, our system is by no means perfect -- anyone who's been to an ER knows the hurry-up-and-wait rhythm that keeps you on edge. And it certainly leaves a lot to be desired when compared to other countries' health care systems. When I was fourteen, I had to go to an emergency care center in England -- it was quick, painless, and relatively inexpensive even considering the exchange rate. Can't we get our act together so that it's easier for sick and injured people to get help without worrying about going bankrupt? If I weren't on my parents' insurance, I know I wouldn't have gone in to get my wrist looked at (it's only sprained; the biggest problem is going to be doing everything right-handed). Guess that's another case of me being lucky.