Sunday, November 22, 2009

On recess

As you may have guessed, GWBlogspot is on recess until Spring 2010.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Response from Donald Lehman Regarding Yom Kippur Break

After joining a Facebook group, blogging on GWBlogspot, and emailing Executive Vice President Donald Lehman about having a Yom Kippur Break on September 28th, 2009, Donald Lehman has responded to our concerns:

11 May 2009

TO: Concerned Students

FR: Donald R. Lehman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

RE: Yom Kippur Break 2009

Thank you for your April 27 e-mail, in which you suggest that The George Washington University include in its annual calendar a one-day break for Yom Kippur, starting in the 2009-2010 academic year.

While I understand your perspective, GW has chosen instead to adopt a secular policy regarding all religious holidays. To ensure that all religious beliefs are respected, professors receive, twice a year, at the start of each semester, a memo from me outlining the university’s policy relative to the observation of religious holidays of any faith.

Briefly, the policy requires students to notify their professors at the start of each semester of any classes they will miss due to religious observances. In turn, professors are required to “…extend to these students the courtesy of absence without penalty on such occasions, including permission to make up examinations.”

I have attached a copy of the most recent memo sent to faculty concerning the University Policy Regarding Religious Holidays.

I wish you a successful exam period and a relaxing summer.


The memorandum reminds professors that "student members of all religious groups are entitled to courteous accommodation of religious holidays. The memorandum is distributed twice each year to assist faculty with planning for the fall and spring semesters." Included in the memorandum is a Religious Holiday Calendar, which included the holiday name, which day it is celebrated, and which religion observes the holiday.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I need more time to buy my books online!

You're sitting in your first class of the semester and your Professor hands out her book list. It includes over $100 worth of reading if you purchase the books at the GW bookstore. You go online and find a book listed in the bookstore as $120 for $45 on Amazon. If you purchase the book on Amazon, you'll have to skip the first few readings while you wait for it to come in the mail and risk looking stupid in your first discussion or flunking a pop-quiz.

How many of you have have lived this experience? I thought so. So what's the solution? Teachers should be required to make their book lists available to students AT LEAST two weeks before the first week of classes.

In order to force such a change, I've started a Facebook group to rally support. If you want to receive your book list before classes start, please sign the petition to let your Professors know!

With access to resources like Blackboard, Wordpress, and hello, email, there's not excuse for the lack of preview. In addition, it would be nice for students who wish to know what they're in for to view the syllabus ahead of time. This way students could drop and pick-up classes without running the risk of missing their first meetings.

So, help make it happen! Join the Facebook group today.

Moving forward with decreasing internship credit costs

Our campaign to decrease the cost of GW internship credits was just covered in the Hatchet!

Our first discussion with CCAS Dean Paul Duff was promising, so we need to keep moving foward. Once we get more signatures from both students and parents on our petition, we will return to CCAS to discuss how we can realistically and proactively go about decreasing these unfair costs.

Thank you for your support on both our Facebook group and on the petition. Keep passing the links on to your friends and parents!

Want Yom Kippur Break 2009? Email Executive Vice President Donald Lehman!


Hi Friends!

First of all, in order to get a one day break on Monday, September 28th, 2009, you should join the Facebook group and sign the online petition. Then,the next step to trying to get Yom Kippur Break on September 28th, 2009 is to personally email the Board of Trustees. The Committee on Academic Affairs will be meeting on Thursday, May 14th, and they should bring up this issue during their discussion. Please paste the letter below, and send it to the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs, Donald Lehman, at vpaa@gwu.edu. Please Bcc me in the email as well, esterkin@gwmail.gwu.edu.

Dear Executive Vice President Donald Lehman,

We, the students of the George Washington University, believe that there should be a one day break from classes for Yom Kippur on Monday, September 28th, 2009. Roughly 2,800 Jews attend The George Washington University. Yeshiva University, Tulane University, Syracuse University, and Brandeis University are all private universities that have roughly 2,000-2,800 Jewish students and all have Yom Kippur breaks, where classes will not be held on September 28th, 2009. It is simply unfair to hold classes on Yom Kippur, which is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Approximately 2,800 Jewish students attend GWU, and they should be able to observe this high holiday--which requires fasting for 24 hours--without worrying about being penalized for missing classwork. Students, in the past, have even penalized for missing class on Yom Kippur when professors have quizzes and tests on this holiday. Jewish students, which is over a third of GW's student population, should have the chance to observe this holiday. Some Jewish professors already cancel classes for Yom Kippur, but it might as well be made official and uniform across campus. Please discuss this important issue when the Committee of Academic Affairs meets on Thursday, May 14th. This break is something GW students feel strongly about and should be discussed further.

Thank you,

(insert name here)




Please remember to keep discussing on GWblogspot.com and the wall of our Facebook group (and invite your friends, too!)
Let's keep working to try to get a break for Yom Kippur in the fall! If we all participate and send this email, GW Administration will feel obligated to explore this issue further!

Thanks,
Paige Esterkin

Sunday, May 10, 2009

80 Million Strong

As GWU students we’re well aware of the cost young adults have to face while attending college. While GWU may be generous with its financial aid packages, the reality is that many students graduate with debt.

Last week I had the chance to attend the launch of the 80 Million Strong for Young American Jobs Coalition, a group of organizations that are looking to tackle issues that affect the millennial generation. The group takes its name from the statistic that the millennial generation, also known as Generation Y, is comprised of approximately 80 million Americans.

Their first goal? Making progress on issues related to college students including unemployment, student loans, health care, and credit card debt.



Not worried about the economy? Consider facts that coalition members continued to mention:

  • Unemployment among people ages 16-24 is nine points higher than the national average
  • Recent graduates average $27,00 in undergraduate student loan debt, $70,000 for law school students, and over $100,000 for medical school students
  • Young Americans have been targeted for “easy credit” scams, and average over $2000 in credit card debt by the age of 24. That debts more than doubles among young adults ages 25-34
  • Thirty percent of young people are uninsured, the highest of any age groups
Matthew Segal, the executive director of Student Association for Voter Empowerment, summarized the situation by saying:
The millennial generations is in a precarious state.
Times are certainly tough, and jobs are certainly on the minds of numerous students as well approach commencement weekend. The coalition is seeing to unite young people and empower them to join the debate in tackling these issues.

Interested in joining in the conversation about young people and the economy? Head to the 88 Million Strong website. If you’re really interested in these issues you want to make note of their National Summit and Lobby Days on July 17th and 18th.

In Gelman? Come Get Free Coffee and Snacks NOW!

For the next hour, you can come get free coffee and snacks in Cafe G on the first floor of the Gelman Library!

This is part of the ongoing campaign to get Gelman to offer these services, like the Univeristy does on the Vern, to students studying on Foggy Bottom in this and future finals weeks.

If you can't come, but would like to send Gelman a message, click here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tell the SA to update its website

The 2008-2009 Student Association senate term is over. It has been over for more than a week at this point. Yet the website, which isn't very user friendly to begin with, has yet to be updated. If the newly elected SA is really committed to changing its image in the upcoming year and being "transparent" they should start with something as simple, as allowing students to see who their representatives are. 

According to the SA Constitution, Senators
"shall serve a regular term commencing on the day preceding the first day of the spring semester reading week in the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences."
The first day of reading week this semester was May 1st. 

In addition, the JEC website does not give a list of election results. The site instructs users to go to the "candidate info" page, which then links you to the "certified election results" which then links you to a page that has no information. 

It isn't hard to do and as student representatives, it is their duty. Why can't the SA get its act together??


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

We Want Free Snacks and Coffee in Gelman for FINALS!

That's right kids. No longer can we sit idly by while Vern Kids and Eckles studiers get to enjoy their all-nighters at the final stretch of the semester drinking free coffee and eating free snacks while we who study at Gelman, the majority of students, are forced to pay for our own refreshments. It is an unfair practice, and the University needs to start providing the same services at both libraries.

Sign the Petition or Join the Facebook group to end this unfair practice- there are still 6 days until the semester is over, and if we act fast, we may be able to put enough enough pressure on the librarians so that they will start providing free coffee and snacks at Gelman.

More importantly than joining the Facebook group - TAKE ACTION by using THIS SIMPLE FORM to CONTACT GELMAN LIBRARY OFFICIALS.

With only 6 days left for the University to start providing us in Gelman with free snacks and coffee like they give kids in Eckles during finals, we must act fast!

It will not take more than five minutes of your time to join the facebook group, sign the petition, and/or take action.

The result could be free snacks and coffee for the next week! Definitely worth five minutes of your time!

If you need motivation, watch this video...(But before you do, join the Facebook group, sign the petition and take action!):



Now that you're motivated...


Send Gelman the message that we want free snacks and coffee in Gelman for FINALS!

If you need more motivation, here's another one of my favorites (psst):


Now
do
it

Only by putting a lot of pressure on the Gelman Library in these last days can we accomplish this goal. Join the fight.

Sesno hosts lively debate between Plouffe and Rove

GW Professor Frank Sesno, who was recently voted by faculty to become the new SMPA director, moderated a debate last night between Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and Karl Rove, the "architect" of the Bush messaging machine.

The debate was hosted at the Panetta Institute in Monterey, CA, and archival video should be available soon.

The topic of the event was bipartisanship. Sam Stein writes, "They did not exactly lead by example."
At one point, as Rove kept badgering Obama for perpetuating (in his words) "this myth" of a president "who is committed to bipartisanship and post partisanship," Plouffe acidly replied: "This is like getting interview lessons from Sarah Palin -- a lecture on bipartisanship [from Rove]."
Sesno's response to this zinger, according to the Washington Times, was only "Wow."

Ben Smith provided further analysis of the debate:Link
In eight years, just maybe, David Plouffe will be ready to join the congenial, bipartisan circuit of semi-retired campaign hands and political pundits. He sure isn't there right now, and refused to play along with Rove's friendly plug of both men's forthcoming books.

"But mine will be in the non-fiction section," Plouffe interjected, prompting Rove to take a shot of his own: "His will be the one with lots of pictures in it and it comes with a little box of crayons so you can do it yourself."

Rove didn't lack for punchiness either. He attacked the moderator, CNN's Frank Sesno, for bias, and said he opposed the appointment of Leon Panetta to head the CIA -- at the Panetta institute.

Mine That Bird to Run in the Preakness

The New York Times confirms. There is still a shot at a Triple Crown.

InfieldFEST tickets only $45. Pimlico is just a short ride away...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Banzhaf The Third Strikes Again


Earlier this semester I criticized GWU Law Professor John F. Banzhaf III for writing an editorial to the Hatchet in regards to efforts to add gender identity or expression to the University's non-discrimination policy. His comments and assumptions were extremely misguided, and received attention from both fellow faculty members and the press.

The Faculty Senate is set to vote on the proposal on May 8th, and if approved, it will be reviewed by President Knapp and the Board of Trustees. Given my prior post, you can imagine my delight when I heard that Banzhaff had submitted comments to the faculty senate, expressing his "concern" over the proposal.

A few of my favorite comments:
"It is not clear how the proposed amendment would apply to sports activities. Whether or not an anatomic male who has adopted a female identity can play NCAA basketball on the GW women’s rather than the men’s team, or whether such a person could play NCAA volleyball at all (since GW has only a women’s team), might (or might not) be determined by NCAA rules."
Hundreds of other schools have adopted gender identity or expression clauses into their non-discrimination policies, without facing sports-related incidents, or problems in general. Furthermore, I highly doubt that members of our women's basketball team are dying to join the men's basketball team. For one thing, our women's basketball team often performs better than our men's basketball team.
"The Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities already says that “The University will not permit discrimination on grounds of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or IDENTITY, or any other ILLEGAL BASIS in any University recognized area of student life.” Since discrimination based upon “sexual identity” is already prohibited, why is there a need to add new language to protect against discrimination based upon “gender or identity expression” (which appears to be identical to “sexual identity”)? [emphasis his]
There is a difference between sexual identity and gender identity and expression. The
Handbook of Professional Ethics for Psychologists might be able to help Banzhaf out:
Sexual identity is defined as how people understand and make sense of their own sexual attractions (orientation) and behavior...Gender Identity is defined as a person's internal, psychological sense of being male or female, regardless of anatomical reality
I respect Banzhaf's right to lobby the faculty senate on the proposal to add gender identity or expression to GW's Non-Discrimination policy. However, before doing so he needs to grasp the concepts of gender identity and gender expression, so he can get his facts straight.

Full Disclosure: I am the former President of Allied in Pride, and I have an agenda. An equality agenda.

UPDATE: A great response!

Erik Ashida, SA Senator and member of the Dining Services Commission sent me a quick email last night! This is a good sign, people!

His email said:
If you'd like to continue working on this issue next year, I'd suggest you contact Kim Neu, the incoming Chair of the Dining Services Commission. Ultimately, any effort to achieve weekend hours will be more successful if we're all working together.

Weekend hours have actually been a focus of the DSC's advocacy efforts for several years now --I've attached a Senate bill Nick Polk wrote to supplement face-to-face meetings just to give you an example of what's been done in the past.

Although I'm not directly familiar with the negotiations regarding weekend hours, from what I've heard, Sodexho believes they would be operating at a loss if they were open on weekends and we have been unable to prove otherwise.


The Senate Bill he mentions was introduced by Nick Polk in the fall of 2007, and strongly urged Sodexo to consider offering weekend hours. Unfortunately, it wasn't passed and Sodexo clearly never got the message. So now it's time to take charge!

Don't forget. You can spend two minutes of your time and join the facebook group, sign the petition, AND email the sodexo managers!

UPDATE: J Street Managers...UNRESPONSIVE!

I know that it will come as a surprise to many of you that J Street's managers have been totally unresponsive to us...but after ten emails from concerned students and myself, we have heard nothing back.

Shocking.

But here's our chance. Let's add to the nearly 100 people who have signed the petition, the over 200 people who have joined the facebook group, and those who have sent emails. Heck, even shoot a quick note over to the Editor of the Hatchet.

Never before has been as easy or as quick to make your voice heard. It'll take you a minute to click every single one of those links and do your part. Let's kick it up a notch!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Will We Ever See a Triple Crown?

Many GW students thoroughly enjoyed the daylong event that is the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, some at Churchill Downs most likely, but most of us from the comfort of our dorm rooms or houses.

Dressing up and, for those of us who are of legal age, enjoying some mint juleps is always a good time. And that's all the derby is for most people.

However, for many horse racing enthusiasts, this year's race was not encouraging for the prospect that we could in fact see a Triple Crown in our lifetime, as 50-1 long shot winner of the race, Mine that Bird, is very unlikely to win the upcoming Preakness and Belmont stakes, given his record on the track, and there are pervasive rumors that he will not run.

However, I don't count myself among the naysayers. While my personal choice in the race, General Quarters, the sentimental favorite, did not manage to show, I am optimistic heading into the Preakness, if Mine that Bird runs.

Until a different horse crosses the finish line at Pimlico, we still have a shot at at Triple Crown winner, which would be transformational for the severely under-rated sport. I am behind the Mine that Bird team, without a doubt.

To add some intrigue, Mine that Bird's sire, Birdstone, beat Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. So, if Mine that Bird does win the Preakness, it will be the most high-drama Belmont in recent memory.

To Calvin Borel and the owners of Mine that Bird, please, please, PLEASE run the horse in Preakness. What a missed opportunity if you do not.

So... on to Pimlico we go...

Note: for those unfamiliar with the sordid history of The Triple Crown... wiki.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Statement from President Knapp on Oink Oink

The following statement from President Knapp went out to the GW Community a short time ago regarding swine flu on campus:
May 2, 2009

A Message from President Steven Knapp

To the GW Community:

I write to you today to follow up on yesterday's announcement of two probable cases of H1N1 influenza on GW's campus. While we continue to await results of testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the District of Columbia Department of Health has determined that these two students are no longer contagious. They have recovered fully following treatment with anti-viral medication. The University is working closely with the DC Department of Health and federal health officials to ensure we are following their protocols and taking all needed steps to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff. In all these efforts, the University community has benefited greatly from the help and advice of medical experts on our faculty.

The University is open and operating and exams will proceed as scheduled beginning May 4 through May 12. Commencement also is proceeding as scheduled.

Many of you have expressed concern about residence halls and possible exposure to the H1N1 virus in common areas. The DC Department of Health and the CDC have emphasized that the virus is passed mainly from person to person through close personal contact. The GW Student Health Service and Dean of Students have worked quickly to give those students who developed the flu access to private rooms to protect other students. They were treated with anti-viral medications and asked to stay in and avoid contact with other students. Those in close living quarters with them also were informed of the initial flu diagnosis and given information about symptoms, prevention and treatment. Members of the University staff also are going directly to affected residence halls to speak with students where they live about the H1N1 virus and preventative steps they can take.

In addition, the University is focusing particular attention on locations on campus where students gather and is devoting extra resources to cleaning those locations. The DC Department of Health and the CDC also continue to advise preventative steps including washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. Additional information on prevention and symptoms is posted on GW Campus Advisories and the GW Student Health Service and GW Medical Center Web sites.

We are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff and to keeping the GW community informed. The University will continue to provide any updates via GW Campus Advisories, Info Mail and residence hall and parent listservs.

Sincerely,

Steven Knapp
President
I wonder if we will be getting any crazy statements from GW Vice Presidents in the near future (see: below video).

Also, if you think you might have swine flu, this website is a helpful resource.

For Posterity:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swine Flu: DC Edition

Yup. It has arrived. Everybody bust out the surgical masks, Purell, and suspicious sidelong glances aimed at people who cough in public, because Swine Flu - sorry, H1N1 Virus - has arrived on campus. No need to freak out, though (I repeat: NO NEED TO FREAK OUT) because they both appear to be recovering just fine.


Also, a tip for even the most hysterical among us here on campus: save yourself a few bucks and skip the mask.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

GWU Snuggies?


Could a Colonial Snuggie be on its way?

CNBC recently reported that makers of the Snuggie, an over sized blanket with sleeves, are looking to develop college themed Snuggies.

Snuggie has partnered with Collegiate Licensing Company a company that helps colleges, include GWU, with licensing.

Big 10 schools are the first universities to have the privilege of wearing college-themed Snuggies, but there is the potential to expand to other colleges.

Snuggie's infomercials claim that they are perfect for "drafty dorm rooms", and they even come with a book light! Time will tell if GW students will have the opportunity to study for exams in their own collegiate over sized blanket with sleeves.

CALL TO ACTION!

This is the time that you've all been waiting for, people! With over 200 members, the facebook group protesting J Street's hours has begun to act!

This message was sent out to the group just moments ago:
Hey everyone, this is your call to action! We need to start sending our message to the people in charge of dining, and here's what I'm thinking. If all of you send an email to the Sodexo people in charge of running J Street, then they may take the time to respond to us! Here's the text you should use:

Subject: J Street Hours

To whom it may concern;

My name is [your name] and I am a [year] at The George Washington University. As a student here, I feel that I am being let down by my dining services. GW has decided to go down a completely different route from most college campuses by employing a food court style dining service exclusively, as opposed to a cafeteria. This certainly has some benefits, including the added ability to choose, the ability to change out venues, and the presence of many different options for those with dietary concerns.

However, unlike most schools, GW does not keep its dining services open on the weekends or late into the evenings. Between classes, jobs, internships, and other activities, most of us can't find the time to eat at normal hours. And yet, if we don't make it to J Street in very specific hours, we aren't able to buy anything. And on the weekends, we're totally on our own. This is especially troublesome for freshman who aren't given the benefit of knowing local eateries and are forced to spend $700. But even for upperclassman, J Street offers food at a convenient, central location, and if it is closed on the weekends, many will be forced to pay for more expensive food at other local restaurants. This is not fair to students.

We are asking that you begin looking into ways to fix this issue, including opening J Street for hours on the weekends and late at night.

Thank you very much for your time,
[Your name]
GWU, Class of [Graduation Year]

It will take only two minutes of your time!! Here is a list of recipients:
Mohsen.Emami@sodexo.com
sam.ramos@sodexo.com
teymour.jafari@sodexo.com
Rawn.burnett@sodexo.com

There are all the managers, district controllers, etc. for Sodexo and J Street. This is the time to act! Let your voice be heard! And make sure to CC me (nickfabiani@gmail.com) and I'll post them all online!


So, if you have time, SEND THOSE PEOPLE ABOVE THAT EMAIL! The more emails we get, the more likely we are to get what we want!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

GWBlogSpot Twitter challenge, Ashton Kutcher style

Last week, Ashton Kutcher promised to donate $100,000 to Malaria No More if he could beat CNN in a race to get 1 million followers on Twitter. He won the challenge and donated the funds to the organization, which will use the money to send 10,000 mosquito nets to children and families in Africa. 

I happened to have lunch with an employee from Malaria No More earlier this week, where we discussed how this highly publicized race was certainly an interesting challenge with an excellent cause. And it got me thinking: Could we do this over at GWBlogSpot? I think so!

Today is World Malaria Day, which makes it the perfect day to launch such a challenge. So here it is:

Right now, the GW Hatchet has 278 followers on Twitter. GWBlogSpot has 26 followers. If we can get more Twitter followers on the GWBlogSpot than on the GW Hatchet, we will donate a minimum of $100 dollars to Nothing But Nets, an organization which also sends one mosquito net for every $10 dollars donated. 

But $100 is just what we're starting with. You can contribute money (even as little as $1!) if GWBlogSpot wins the challenge. Please pledge your amount here.

So log onto your twitter account, or make one if 
you don't have it, and become a follower of GWBlogSpot!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Glory that is Manouch


I had a lot of work last night. I had math homework that took much longer than I had expected and I had a UW symposium presentation to prepare for. And of course, in typical fashion, I procrastinated all evening and when I did sit down to work, I was easily distracted by everything around me. The majority of my friends partook in normal Thursday evening festivities and all night I could hear the fun being had just down the hall without me. But my night was not a bust. On the contrary, my night turned out to be great because I ventured out to 21st and Hst around 12:45 in the morning to fill my stomach with some hot dogs from my friend Manouch.

I got my usual, a hot dog with GDub sauce, mustard, and onions, and brought a pretzel back to Mitchell for one of my friends. The hot dog was flame grilled right in Manouch's cart and the GDub sauce was as good as usual. Yet the best part of the experience was not the hot dog. What makes Manouch Manouch is the atmosphere that he fosters.

A man on Iranian decent, Manouch often signs hymns in Farsi and will always engage any daring student in a political or philosophical debate. Last evening, Manouch sparked a debate with Professor Scott Talan challenging the professor of communications to bestow some knowledge on the hot dog vendor/author.

When Professor Talan got his GDub sauce on a toasted bun, and bid farewell to the unusually small crowd (there was only 5-10 people there at that time last night), Manouch dared a Thurston Freshman to come up with a quote that would impress the deeply philosophical man.

At that point, my friend Sam and I bid farwell to Manouch. We walked through University Yard and back to our end of campus with a content feeling that our evening amounted to something because our stomachs were filled with delicious hot dogs and our minds were filled with some more of Manouch's words of wisdom.

We will be back later this weekend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GW Students Want Yom Kippur Break 2009!



About 2,800 Jewish Students attend The George Washington University. Yeshiva University, Tulane University, Syracuse University, and Brandeis University are all private universities that have roughly 2,000-2,800 Jewish students and all have Yom Kippur breaks, where classes will not be held on September 28th, 2009. All of these schools are listed under Hillel's Top 10 Jewish Schools.

I’d like to get school off on Monday, September 28th for Yom Kippur. If everyone has the day off, then Jewish students won’t feel behind in their classes and feel penalized for skipping class to observe Yom Kippur. Students who miss class on that Monday tend to feel overwhelmed because they missed a class that the school should’ve cancelled.

Join the Facebook group and sign the online petition! Jewish or not, everyone would like a day off from classes on Monday, September 28th, 2009!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gavin Newsom for Governor? Jerry Brown?

Gavin Newsom (pictured right), the studly Mayor of San Francisco, announced on Twitter and YouTube today that he will be running for Governor of California.

Here is his campaign website, if you would like to take a gander.

I first saw Gavin Newsom speak at the 2005 Young Democrats of America National Convention in San Francisco.

It was a great speech and he invigorated the crowd with fiery post-2004 rhetoric, and said a lot that resonated with me, and has stuck with me ever since. I saw in him someone who could be President one day, and I still maintain that. He certainly gave a better speech than Phil Angelides, the 2006 Democratic Nominee for Governor of California, at the conference.

As the picture implies, Newsom is known as somewhat of a playboy and fell into a scandal for sleeping with his chief of staff's wife in 2005.

At that same conference I met Jerry Brown (pictured left with his old girlfriend, singer Linda Ronstadt from my home state of Arizona). He is expected to announce his candidacy for Governor of California soon, a post he held in the 70s. In 2005, he was the Mayor of Oakland, across the bay from Newsom. Now he is the state's Attorney General.

Here's how crazy and awesome Jerry Brown is - Legends say that in 1991 he met with his chief advisors to plan a run for the Senate over lunch, and when they left the restaurant, he was running for President in a crowded field (hint: he didn't win the primary). He is a pol like none other, only recently getting married and carrying on with many women in his younger days as governor. He is now 71.

I am not from California, and I do not have a particular interest in this race, except for the fact that it currently involves two of my favorite politicians. It will be an interesting one to watch, and I'm sure that many GW students from California will be involved.

If you will be involved in the race, or are a GWBlogSpot reader from California and support one of these guys (or, god forbid, LA Mayor Villaraigosa), shout out in the comments section with your thoughts.

Student Orgs Honored - Attend this Wednesday


This Wednesday at 7pm in Lisner Auditorium is the SAC's Excellence in Student Life Awards, recognizing everything from Greek Chapter of the Year to the Grad Life Award for Individual Excellence, Students' Choice Award for Performance Group of the Year, and many more.

An entire list of awards that will be given on Wednesday can be found here. Nominations have been closed for some time.

Ask the executive board of student organizations you are involved in for tickets if you would like to attend the event.

This isnt the only awards ceremony honoring student organizations to take place this week. This past Sunday, fraternities and sororities were rewarded by the Office of Greek Life and Order of Omega, the Greek honors society, for their achievements over the course of the last year (disclaimer: my own Beta Theta Pi won Gold at this ceremony).

It was a fun night for the Greek Community and it was nice to have a respite from all of the work it took to put the applications together and do everything necessary to win. Inter-Fraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, and Multiculural Greek Council organizations were honored. From The Hatchet:

The ceremony concluded with the announcement winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards, which honor fraternities and sororities for their overall excellence. To be considered, each fraternity and sorority must submit an extensive application covering 20 categories of criteria reflecting their accomplishments over the course of the year.

Harwood said the groups considered for the highest honor, the Gold Award, have demonstrated excellence in each of these categories, and then some.

"We want groups that are doing all of the things that make a fraternity or a sorority great," he said.

The chapters that won the Gold award are finalists for the Chapter of the Year award, which will be announced at Wednesday's Excellence Awards. The Gold-winning chapters are Kappa Kappa Gamma, Phi Kappa Psi, Beta Theta Pi, Sigma Chi, Pi Kappa Phi, Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Phi, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Sigma Psi Zeta Sorority Inc. and Phi Sigma Sigma, and Pi Kappa Alpha.

In addition to the Greek Excellence Awards, many individual awards and chapter points of recognition were given out.

If you are in a student org, ask the president or an executive board member for a ticket to this Wednesday's awards show at 7pm in Lisner. Hopefully it will not disappoint.

Oh, Wonderful, More about the Float.

So I realize that the school's inaugural float is a topic that's already been pretty thoroughly beaten to death, but in light of recent revelations about its actual cost, as well as Andrew's post on it, I have a pretty straightforward question about it:

Will the school release a line-by-line expense sheet for the project?

I ask this because, while I believe that the abstract idea of the school having a float in the inaugural parade is an appealing one, the fact is that the one we actually put in the actual parade looks like it was built by kindergarteners, or possibly trained monkeys - and that was my impression before I heard about the price tag. My reaction after hearing the total estimated cost of $80,000 was more along the lines of so, what, they budgeted $79,000 for drinkin' and $1,000 for "oh shit, we forgot that we were supposed to be building something with all that money?"

The Hatchet, whose journalistic efforts I ordinarily don't find nearly so much cause to complain about as many of my classmates and fellow bloggers here do, doesn't really seem to care on this one. The only specific line item they take note of in the above-linked story is the flown-in artist from UNC. Here's the thing, though: Raleigh-Durham to Reagan National non-stop costs about $300 round trip on US Airways, and first-class to BWI on Southwest is the same - and Amtrak business class is a six-hour ride for $100. While the virtues of the university footing the bill for imported talent might be questionable (what, we couldn't find a single person who lives in this city who knows how to paint?), I really, truly, honestly couldn't care less about that - in such a massive bottom-line price, it's a drop in the bucket.

The real question is: how did we end up spending what could have been nearly three years of a full-ride scholarship on something so embarrassingly and resoundingly mediocre? If it didn't go to the builders (who were volunteers), or to purchasing the materials (which, um, seemed to be primarily finger-paint, cardboard and plywood), where did all the money go?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Collaborative Ideas

In today’s “Collaborative Ideas” panel, panelists served as a sounding-board for audience ideas. Below you will find some of the various ideas discussed.

One interesting question raised during the session was “Why should campaigns even have websites when you can have all this functionality on all these social networks?” Skittles was cited as an example of this phenomenon, where the website is just a portal to visit other websites on the web to learn about the company.

There was also a discussion about the ownership of data and its implications for campaigns. Facebook claims to own all of the data inputted by users. Facebook is so protective of this data that you can’t even get an e-mail address out of facebook, you have to get facebook to send your e-mails for you. The group agreed that there will be a struggle over whether campaigns want to keep data about their users on their own site rather than ceding it to Facebook, where the campaign has a much harder time obtaining data. It seems that for the time being, the compromise is Facebook Connnect, which makes it so that the best features of facebook are available through the campaign websites themselves.

Another point of discussion was the fact that people like to campaign online, but they don’t govern online. David Plouffe’s appeals for cash after the election in fundraising e-mails were not well received. It also detracts from support they can get to help them govern. Their open rates are probably lower now, and the action rates are most definitely lower, translating to significantly decreased benefits from the e-mails and turning off recipients. This problem goes to a much larger point: how can Obama leverage his supporters to further his legislative agenda? The problem is that elections are binary, but governance is not so much of that. Obama does “what’s the consensus” politics, which doesn’t lend itself to the medium of online activism. It’s weak tea, as one audience member explained it. There are passionate people in support of single-payer, but when Obama backs the compromise, the really passionate people aren’t going to care as much. People can be for or against SCHIP, gay marriage, and EFCA. The budget is different though, retail politics does not lend itself to those types of complex omnibus bills.

One discussion topic centered on the idea of leveraging the grass-tops. (Grass-tops are the people at the top of the grassroots level AKA super grassroots organizers who are super-committed) Campaigns need to change the flow of information to create a peer to peer method. Integration with gmail, yahoo, etc. would be a great place to start. Grass-tops can take campaign e-mails to another level where you can actually send out any campaign e-mail under your name and pick which friends to send them to. As long as campaigns can control the messaging, it should work well. This can combat list exhaustion; campaign e-mails from friends can have up to 80% click-through rates. One audience member, a fundraiser for GW, suggested that campaigns use a widget that adds to the bottom of your e-mail: “I just donated $10.00 to the [insert candidate] campaign, you should too!” Currently there are two major e-mailers that integrate with facebook where you can click a link to have a post or website “imported” to your facebook wall. People have been clicking on those links a lot because it’s new.

And finally, here are some questions/comments posed during the session that should serve as food for thought. A URL is a constant and can be used as a reference point. Hash-tags of URLs and hash-tags of zip codes could be leveraged to create a truly extraordinary realm of possibilities. Also, how do we define community presence? People in South Korea had 3g first, they text while eating and feel like they have 7 or 8 people around them. How does the notion of “global citizenship” affect how we make decisions?

If you found this post interesting, one of the panelists recommended that you read Stephen Baker’s “The Numerati.”

Online Organizing 101

Naturally, at an online politics conference studying the most recent presidential election is a focus of many panels and discussions.

Jeremy Bird, Deputy Director for the DNC, Chuck DeFeo, General Manager for Interactive and Social Media at the Washington Times, Gina Glantz, Senior Advisor to President Andrew Stern of the Service Employees International Union, and Michael Silberman, founding partner of EchoDitto offered their insights into online organizing:
  • You need to use technology to get out the message and to mobilize people. The message always needs to be connected to the online initiatives.
  • Online organizing is a tactic, not a strategy. I.e. online organizing is a tool to achieve something specific, not the way you win an election.
  • There’s a difference between online organizing and field organizing, although the two are becoming dependent on each other.
  • The more successful campaigns integrate new media, field organizing, and technology, and have the departments work together.
  • Online Organizing only works if you have metrics that you can use to measure the success of your online campaigns.
  • The new media folks are not the people who fix your computer

Law, Politics and the Internet


This past election was a prime example of candidates and ballot-initiative groups using the Internet to further a political agenda.

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka the McCain-Feingold Act) restricts campaigning within “public communication” spheres, including television and radio. Yet, campaign finance laws have not been adequately updated to reflect the Internet and the adaptation of new technologies.

The FEC has issued regulations on the use of the Internet in relation to campaigns, but with over 600 pages worth of regulations the rules are still unclear.

For example, the press is traditionally exempt from FEC regulations, so long as they engage in “real” news. However, the law becomes fuzzy when dealing with websites and blogs that partake in “real” reporting, but also engage in advocacy and fundraising.

Furthermore, should FEC laws extend to social networking sites? Should individuals with thousands of followers/friends be regulated if they tweet/update asking people to donate to a specific candidate? What about multiple candidates? What if this individual belongs to particular organization or works for a specific company?

Over the next few years reformers and free speech activists will be participating in a heated debate over the regulation of individual political speech online.

Where do you stand on this issue? Should individual political Internet activity be regulated?

Governance 2.0




In the opening panel, Secretary of States Jennifer Brunner (Ohio) and Debra Bowen (California) discussed how they used new media to disseminate information and engage with constituents.



Goals of 2.0 Governance

  • Using 2.0 solutions to increase democracy
  • Answering questions in a simple manner

Examples of 2.0 Governance
  • Google Voting- In a Partnership with Google, Secretaries of States gave Google polling information to streamline the voting process. Via Google Maps, anyone would be able to find out generically if they were registered to vote and where they were registered to vote.
  • Judicial Voter Guides- It’s often very difficult to learn about judicial candidates, yet these potential judges have some of the most impact on voters. Some states, including Ohio, created an online judicial voter guide where judicial candidates could upload basic information online so voters could compare and contrast the people they are voting for.
  • Specialized Websites- Some states create specialized websites that target specific constituents for particular issues.
  • Widgets- States have created widgets that allow people to register to vote. The Secretary of State’s office would then help them register to vote, and also sent election-related e-mail reminders.
  • Transparency- using the Internet to publish relevant documents and guides.

The Caveats
  • Web 2.0 activities are tied to budgets. With most states cutting costs, states wont be able to invest in new projects.
  • Neither facebook nor twitter can be used to discuss complex issues
  • Not every agency wants to engage in 2.0 solutions. Aside from having the infrastructure, the agency needs to have the right attitude.

Do your home states use 2.0 solutions for policy and voting engagement? Were they helpful?

Live from the 2009 Politics Online Conference!




GWBlogspot will be covering the 2009 Politics Online Conference, a two-day conference that sits in the intersection of of politics and technology.

Questions? Comments? Start a dialogue in the comment section!

Planet Forward Puts Energy Use in Perspective

Planet Forward is on the air! According to a Hatchet report, the series debuted last Wednesday.
The show included a discussion panel, originally taped in the Jack Morton Auditorium, comprised of several experts in environmental issues, including President Obama's chief energy adviser, Carol Browner.
The hopes for many GW students concerned with the environment is that this project will continue to draw attention to our school's own carbon footprint. After all, GW is no where to be found on the "greenest universities" lists.

Given that turning our school's facilities green was a paramount issue on the campaign, I don't imagine the need to improve energy efficiency will fall to deaf ears.

Inaugural Float cost $46,000 more than initially reported

In January, I asked if GW's inaugural float was worth its high price tag.

That was when the project reportedly cost $88,000. Now, the Hatchet writes that the float actually cost an estimated $134,000, and the final expenses have not been reported:
Other inauguration expenses, including security costs and expenses from programming done on and around Inauguration Day, have not been released by administrators. The University is planning to apply for partial reimbursement from the federal government for some inauguration-related security expenses.
I'll pose the question to GW students again:

Money well spent?

Yes
No

(View Results)


Initially, 84 percent of respondents said the float was not worth its cost. How about now?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The fizzle in the drizzle


So, I know you probably already know that the Tea Baggers D.C. protest was a bust, but I just wanted to officially post this on GWblogspot because it's absolutely hilarious.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that a truck, which was to dump a million bags of tea on Lafayette Square was turned away when organizers failed to produce permits.
Then rally organizers showed up outside the Treasury Department. But authorities told them they lacked proper permission and could not set up a stage there.

Then it started to rain.

Next, somebody threw a box of tea over the White House fence, and the police evacuated the park.

Finally, the truck's driver, who had been wandering around town for hours after an overnight drive from Georgia, found a place to unload the cargo: 12 floors up in a downtown advocacy group. Without much of an audience.

Congratulations to the GOP for yet another successful publicity stunt (hey, at least they had something other than Nancy Pelosi to Twitter about).

Comparing Obama to Hitler. The blatant sexual connotation that they claim to have been ignorant of. Right. Looks like their plans to reinvent the party and connect with Americas youth are going well.

First Time: In a UPD Patrol Van


At approximately 5:40 AM last Friday morning, I finished up a class meeting in Duques and called 4-Ride so I could get a ride back to my building. The sun was close to rising, but I didn't feel comfortable walking back alone to my apartment, which is on the other side of Washington Circle. To my surprise, I reached a recording which said that 4-Ride was closed, and that I should call between the hours of 7 PM and 6 AM.

Interesting, since it definitely wasn't 6 AM yet. Exhausted and somewhat irritated, I called UPD to ask what was up. The conversation went something like this:
Me: "So, the recording said they should be open until 6, and there are a few of us who would like a ride home still."

Lady: "They close at 5:30."

Me: "Well the recording and the 4-Ride website say 6 AM."

Lady: "They have to do paperwork, so they closed at 5:30."
Now I haven't had an issue with 4-Ride this pass semester, during which they provided me with numerous, convenient, early-morning rides home. I just thought this entire scenario was pretty ridiculous. If they have to do paperwork, they can at least (1) keep someone available to still do pick-ups during the last half-hour shift; or (2) just officially close at 5:30 AM. If they choose the latter, they should say so on their recording and website.

UPDATE (7:34 PM): I forgot to mention what the title of this post suggests: we were eventually picked up by the UPD patrol van.

The Movement is Taking Off!


With 199 members, the facebook group PETITION: Change J Street's Hours is taking off! To be fair, though, I am a little upset we're only at 199, and aren't yet at 200. But we have a petition up, and we're working to change J Street as only students can.

This all started with a thought: Why doesn't the school provide even its meager, bad food for students on the weekend? One of my friends, a tour guide here at GW, had been giving a tour on a saturday, and couldn't explain to his group why J Street wasn't open on the weekends. And that got us thinking: Why isn't J Street open on weekends?!

We're college kids. We like to eat. We especially like to wake up late on Saturdays and Sundays and go eat something quick so we can get on with our days. Instead, we're being forced to go eat at expensive local restaurants. Why? Is the University cheap?

But now we have something to do. Go sign the petition. And join the facebook group. And tell your friends!

We need new ideas to move forward. If you have any ideas on how to shake things up, post them here in the comments or on the facebook group wall. Let's go fight for our right to eat!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

GWireless... FAIL!

Here's the deal, wireless internet is an every-day necessity for college students. We need the internet to read and write GW related email, correspond with professors, advisers and GW staff, conduct research, complete assignments, and go on Facebook.

There are prevalent issues concerning GW’s wireless system. GWireless is not accessible in every dorm and classroom, is difficult to log onto, has slow internet speeds, its connection times out quickly, and there are frequent campus-wide outages (especially during midterms and finals, the time when internet is most important).

The GW community is entitled to secure and stable wireless network access.

Sign the petition to make GW fix it's wireless internet here!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Amending the SA

I know amending the SA doesn't sound nearly as exciting as abolishing it, but hey, this looks like it's actually going to happen.

Student Association Senators Nick Polk, Michael Komo, Michelle Tanney, and Sen.-elect Jamie Baker will soon be introducing a new SA constitution. The principle aim of which is to make the SA less bureacratic. While the Hatchet reports that it will be unveiled on Tuesday, the language of the press release indicates that the new constitution will be presented sometime between 9:30 PM and 12:00 AM this coming Sunday.

Full release below:

The time has come for institutional change in the Student Association.

We believe it is imperative that a substantial reform occur for the benefit of all students at The George Washington University, who have consistently demanded a strong legislative body and proactive executive to represent the interests of students on issues both academic and student life oriented.


Thus, we worked tirelessly to introduce a plan that will ostensibly overhaul the way the Student Association governs and functions. This plan will be unveiled Sunday, April 19 at a time no earlier than 9:30 pm.

By introducing a new constitution (and subsequent bylaws), we seek to make changes both broad and sweeping. These changes we believe are important, necessary and crucial. In an effort to cut down bureaucracy, red tape and to fundamentally improve the way Senate meetings are run, we are proud to introduce these changes not only to our colleagues, but to the student body at-large.

We believe that it was important to bridge the gap between the current Senate and Senate-Elect as a way to continuously look toward the future of the organization, focusing on the betterment of the current system in place. We would like to take this opportunity to thank SA President Vishal Aswani, for his cooperation in this matter.
We look forward to working with you upon introduction of these documents, and answering your questions at that time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Law Professor's Editorial is Misguided


Monday's Hatchet featured an editorial by GW law professor John Banzhaf, who commented on a story that the Hatchet posted about students trying to change GW's non discrimination policy.

Both the editorial and the original story featured errors about the transgender community as a whole, as well as GW's non-discrimination policy.

The Objective
Trans Education and Advocacy(TEA), a committee of Allied in Pride, is spearheading an initiative to amend GW's non-discrimination policy, not the Student Code of Conduct. TEA is seeking to amend the GW's Non-Discrimination Policy to add "gender identity or expression" to the list of protected classes. Statistically transgender students face more harassment then their peers, and this simple change would protect transgender students discrimination and harassment. For example, this year one transgender student faced harassment, but was not able to take substantial action on the issue since GW's non-discrimination policy did not include gender identity or expression.


Basic Grammar
Transgender, not transgendered is the correct usage. As the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Guide points out:
Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding "-ed" to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

Terminology
In the editorial, Professor Banzhaf asked:
Since discrimination based upon "sexual identity" is already prohibited, why is there a need to add new language to protect against discrimination based upon "gender or identity expression"?
There is a difference between sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. GLAADs media guide can clear up any confusion:

Gender Identity

One's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or girl.) For transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.

Gender Expression

External manifestation of one's gender identity, usually expressed through "masculine," "feminine" or gender variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.

Sexual Orientation

Describes an individual's enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a man who becomes a woman and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian.


Restrooms
Professor Banzhaf also expresses concern over the fact that perverts and degenerates might take advantage of the policy.

In reality, hundreds of universities have implemented this policy and this has never been a problem. Ever.

Over 260 universities have added gender identity or expression to their non-discrimination policies, including American University and Georgetown. TEA is currently lobbying the GW Faculty Senate to support this proposal, so that the amendment can be reviewed by President Knapp and the Board of Trustees.

Full Disclosure: I am the former president of Allied in Pride, GW's largest LGBT organization.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 16: Buy Yourself Some Shoes, Simultaneously Help Poor Children

That's right, this Thursday, you can buy yourself a new pair of shoes and end up helping a young child half a world away. All you have to do is stop by the GW Students for Sustainability table in University Yard where you can get a pair of TOMS shoes (for approximately $40.00), and TOMS will donate a pair to go to children around the world who are unable to afford shoes. This event is being held on April 16 because it is the One Day Without Shoes. Few people know that there are countless children (and adults) around the world catching infectious diseases because they cannot afford to buy shoes. So be sure to drop by U Yard this Thursday between 11AM and 4PM and replace your torn-up pair of shoes with a brand new pair of TOMS (which you can design and decorate yourself) and help those in need at the same time.

You can also purchase other merchandise sold by GW Students for Sustainability, including necklaces, bracelets, and belts for only a few dollars. Students for Sustainability, which defines itself as a "social business," purchases these products from rural Guatemalan communities and re-invests all of the proceeds to expand and give micro-loans to small scale entrepreneurs all over the world trying to start their own businesses. If you are interested in joining their cause, you can get in touch with them through here.

Two Years Later - The Virginia Tech Tragedy



This Thursday, April 16th, marks the two year anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech University. On that Thursday morning, graduate student Seung-Hui Cho gunned down 32 individuals and wounded many more in what was the deadliest single gunman massacre in United States history.

Two years following the tragedy, many victim's families are still learning to cope with their loss. A recent AP article, picked up by The Washington Times, reported
"Two years later, victim's families and survivors are still trying ot make sense of what happened. Classes will be canceled on the anniversary Thursday, and events will include an open house at the peace center, a candlelight vigil and a memorial ceremony."
On the GW campus, the SA is hosting its own candlelight vigil on the 16th at 8 p.m. in Kogan Plaza. Names of victims will be read and GW community members will be invited to light memorial candles in rememberence. Also, anyone present at the event who wishes to say a few words will be welcomed to do so.

Dept. of Waning Patience

When will the SA Student Court release its opinion detailing the exact rationale behind the decision in Boyer v. JEC?

Who knows.

This is certainly by no means a hot topic anymore, at least in most quarters, but I was looking forward to reading an opinion that had the potential to lay to rest much of the ambiguity surrounding SA elections, standards for future candidates, courts, and JECs, and many other things. Oh well. It's bound to come eventually.

Smithsonian Selects African-American History Museum Building Design


As Lucy mentioned a few days ago, the selection committee representing the Smithsonian has been considering design proposals from a handful of architects for the planned Museum of African-American History, which will be sited near the Washington Monument on the Mall. Yesterday morning, they announced their unanimous choice: the two-tiered, trapezoidal structure proposed by David Adjaye of Freelon Adjaye Bond.

I think this was the best choice, given that each of the other designs were evocative of, in no particular order:
  • What you'd get if you made a six-year-old drop acid and the asked them to design a spaceship.
  • An architect aiming for "long, storied, rich history" and instead ending up with "nightmarish futuristic dystopia"
  • Hirshhorn redux
  • As the Washington Post so delicately noted, "great glass and concrete buttocks."
  • I.M. Pei really meant to get to designing this sooner, he really did, it's just he had this thing, and then he was really tired, and he had to do the whole thing start to finish yesterday at 1 AM.
More thorough coverage here and here, and video of the press conference here.