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.


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:

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 ( 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.

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?


(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.

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.

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.

The Hatchet Needs an Ombudsman!

In a 2006 staff editorial, The Hatchet called for the creation of a George Washington University ombudsman to act as a liaison between the students and the school in order to better streamline the way students navigate the GW bureaucracy.

However, given recent criticisms of the way The Hatchet decides what is newsworthy on campus, the claim being that it favors coverage pushed by the University rather than what matters to readers (aka students), maybe the school's "independent" paper should take a look at the three fingers pointing back at them when they accuse the school of not catering to students' needs (not to say that GW as a whole does a good job of that, by any means, but that's another debate).

It isn't a new idea. GW Alum Arron Connelly proposed the idea of having a Hatchet Ombudsman or Public Editor in a 2005 editorial.

The time has come to stop talking and take action. Join the facebook group, and sign the petition today. To get more involved, email

For those of you unfamiliar with what an ombudsman is, here is a wonderfully succinct definition from Wikipedia:
An a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between an organization and some external constituency while representing the broad scope of constituent interests.
The position is used by government and private entities for several purposes, chiefly representing the interests of those who the body serves to the internal mechanisms of the entity. However, most Americans have encountered the word on the pages of America's most prominent newspapers.

The New York Times calls the position it's Public Editor. The Washington Post has - gasp - an Ombudsman. It is their job to listen to reader imput, to take it to the editorial board, and write a column explaining how things will change at the paper based on reader input, or explaining why things will stay the same.

The ombudsman is a vital position that gives those papers of record greater accountability to its readers.

It's time for The Hatchet to hold itself accountable to the people who consume their product.

Join the Facebook group and sign the petition! Send a message to The Hatchet that it needs an ombudsman so that readers have a say in what content the paper produces.

For more information on how to get involved, email

The Upside to Tax Day: Free Stuff!

Given the horrible economy, many companies are having tax-day related specials/giveaways.

So save your federal return, and benefit from some promos:
  • Cinnabon is giving a way free mini Cinnabons between 5-8pm
  • Dunkin Donuts will give you a free donut if you buy coffee
  • MaggieMoos will give you a free scoop of ice cream all day.
  • McDonads has a buy one, get one more for just 1 cent on the Quarter Pounder w/cheese and Big Mac
  • PF Changs will you give 15% of your bill.
  • Staples will provide free copies, up to 20 pages, of your tax return
  • Subway is giving away free cookies starting at 10am
Hear about any other promos? Leave the info in the comments!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Flaming Lips To Headline National Mall Concert

The Flaming Lips will be headlining the Green Apple Festival this Sunday on the National Mall.

The festival is in honor of earth day, and starts at noon. In addition to the Flaming Lips, the festival also features emcee Chevy Case, Los Lobos, and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA).

Prior to the Green Apple Festival, hundreds of volunteers will be participating in environmentally focused service projects. Nine other cities, from Austin to Seattle, will have their own Green Apple Festival.

Are you a Flaming Lips fan? Will you be heading to the concert?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Get the SMPA a seat in the SA Senate - A strive towards equal representation

It is time that the School of Media and Public Affairs gets its much-deserved seat in the Student Association Senate. For too long SMPA students have been without a representative to voice their distinct and differentiated needs to our SA legislative body. This is not another example of SA politics, but rather, a strive towards equal representation for all facets of our University. For too long our fellow peers in the Columbian College of Art and Science have drowned out students' voices in the SMPA. As students who are part of a distinct school within GW and are heavily outnumbered by the rest of the Columbian school, we need a representative who will look out for our specific needs. 

Please fill out this petition, or join the facebook group to voice your desire for equal representation. 

The SA is an organization that does not welcome change. However, the elected officials of the SA senate are reasonable and well-intentioned students who place the well being of the University high of each of his or her priority list. We need to reach out to those Senators and talk through our issues and come to an amicable conclusion. There is no justifiable reason why SMPA should not be granted its own seat. 

According to the Student Association Constitution,
"Any degree-granting school created or redesignated by Act of the Board of trustees shall be guaranteed representation in the Senate according to the provisions of subsection A of this Section" (Article 1, Section 2, Subsection B).
SMPA offers specified degrees in Political Communication and Journalism & Mass Communication, which are not available in any other section of the University. Although Poli Comm and JMC students receive diplomas that are from the Columbian College of Art and Science, it does not eliminate the SMPA's status as a "degree-granting" school. Students were required to apply specifically into SMPA and take courses offered only for SMPA majors. This, as well as its name, the School of Media and Public Affairs (versus, for example, the Department of Psychology) states clearly that the SMPA should be entitled to its own seat. 

In addition, according to the SA's apportionment model, the SMPA fits the criteria for its own seat. According to the Office of Institutional Research and Planning at GW, in the fall of 2008, there were 291 SMPA students. The SA constitution states "One (1) Senator for one (1) to one thousand (1,000) students officially registered therein" (Article 1, Section 2, Subsection A, Part 1)

It is time to engage in a discussion with the SA. We are not here to yell and scream at the people who dedicate much of their time to our University. We are here to sit down, diplomatically, and lay out our argument. As stated in our First Amendment rights, we are free to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances" and this will be our first step in reaching our final goal. 

"Pops" has big game back in D.C.

"Pops" Mensah-Bonsu, who was an integral part of GW's 26-1 basketball team in 2006, shined in D.C. once again. Mensah-Bonsu had nine points, five steals, and 12 rebounds for the Toronto Raptors, who came back from down 13 points to beat the hapless Washington Wizards in the final minutes of Monday night's game.

Near the end of the third quarter, "Pops" made a great steal and finished with a monster dunk which is sure to make tomorrow morning's highlight reel:

And here's a video of "Pops" excelling against the Chicago Bulls on March 29:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Take me out to the Ball Game"

Spring is here and that means summer is right around the corner. And summer means one thing to me, BASEBALL. Oh yes, it is that time of year again; grab your hat and glove and follow me out to the ballpark. Our nation's pastime returns in all of its hotdog eating, record chasing, and steroid popping glory. So, I take this time to reflect a little of what I love about baseball and what the sport means to me. 

To fully grasp the remarkable nature of the sport, go to a game. The beautiful Nationals Park is an easy metro ride away from campus (located at the Navy Yard station on the green line) and tickets can be purchased for as little as $5. It is a great way to take a break from the usual drudge of GW life and take in an evening with some friends. The Nationals are on their first home-stretch of the season and have 15 games in D.C. before the end of the semester. The Nationals will be hosting the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies from April 13-16 for a three game series and tickets are still available.

And if you are a real baseball fan, take advantage of being in DC and go see games in the nearby city. Go to Philly and see Citizen Bank Park, head up to the Bronx and Queens and see the newly minted Yankee Stadium and Citi Field (click here for a little preview of "Bailout" Field), or even take the long trip up to Boston and attempt to find a ticket to a Red Sox game. However, for my favorite stadium, you don't need to travel more than an hour out of D.C. A night game at Camden Yards in Baltimore might be one of the best things to do on a summer night. Although the Orioles are pretty bad, I love the atmosphere and camaraderie of the ball park. 

I also want to say one thing about the new Yankee Stadium. I was in New York this past weekend visiting family friends, and I took the 4 from SoHo up to the Bronx to the 161 Street - Yankee Stadium Station. I hate the Yankees. I hate everything the franchise stands for and every last one of their fans. Yet, I have the utmost respect for the old Yankee stadium and the players who walked that field. I have only been to one Yankee game in my life. It was the summer of 2006 and I saw a midweek day game between the Yankees and the Indians. It was an insubstantial game, I don't even remember if the Yankees won or lost. But the point is that I am grateful that I can say I was there. As much as I hate the Yankees, you have to respect what Yankee stadium is. You have to respect the men who stood at that plate and wore those pinstripes. The men like Ruth, Maris, Mantle, Gehrig and DiMaggio (to name a few). Even the most staunch Yankee hating fan can admit this. An old friend of mine put it beautifully.
"If you're a real baseball fan, then it's kind of ignorant not to admit that. There was a lot of history to go through that place. Especially between 1923 and the mid-60's. Its after that when Steinbrenner started buying teams that I have real despise for the franchise. I have nothing but respect for the old greats."
I caught a glimpse of the old stadium, the grass turing brown and the seats being pulled out. Its sad to see history torn down. 
Overall, make sure you get out to the ball park sometime soon. Hopefully, I'll see you there. 

Anonymous Student Takes Action Against Gelman

It is well known by now that this blog has been repeatedly critical of Gelman Library's inadequacies. Whether it be their food policy, temperature, or lack of study space, GWBlogspot has gone to bat for studious students across our campus.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, April 1st - a day most know as "the day in 2001 when Same-sex marriage became legal in the Netherlands" - GWBlogspot was one-upped.

An anonymous student brought their complaint straight to the source by taking a dump on the floor of Club G. This from the "crime log:"
4/1/09 - Gelman Library - open case

A Gelman employee reported that someone defecated on the floor.

Obviously a symbolic statement, but what does it mean? Depending on where this act took place, said student could have been trying to hold his or her study room by marking it with human feces. Or, maybe the student was simply saying that Gelman is a crappy library.

Either way, what is clear is that the student wanted to remain anonymous - but not for his or her own sake. Much like the folks behind Abolish the SA, this anonymous activist wanted this movement to be about the student body as whole - and not about personal agendas and resumes.

To GW's masked defecator - thank you for your efforts to make Gelman a better place by relieving yourself on the floor. The students wait for your next strike, and your next call to action.

BREAKING: SMPA Behind In New Media!

See update below...

The GW Hatchet recently published an article discussing the Business School's use of new media and social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
Visitors to the GW School of Business Web page can now follow academic events and updates using Twitter and Facebook, making it the latest GW school to join the social networks.
Now, most of the time when a post on GW Blogspot starts with " The GW Hatchet," one would assume that criticism is soon to follow. Not today! The bone I wish to pick is with the School of Media and Public Affairs! (Collective gasp!)

No but really, the Business School Tweets, but SMPA doesn't? The Elliot School has over 700 followers on Twitter! SMPA has nadda.

To be fair, I wouldn't describe myself as a fan of Twitter. My only tweeting experience is making an account for the sole purpose to tweet "#endtwitter" in hopes that I could destroy the monster from the inside - this was unsuccessful.

I just think it is rather ironic that the School of Media and Public Affairs, an institution which teaches the grand art of blogging and twittery has fallen to the Business and Elliot Schools in the "look at me I'm so hip and networked" internet-fad race.

To give the SMPA some interweb street cred, they do have a YouTube Channel and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- no 6 Facebook groups!

This section features the School of Media and Public Affairs' multi-media and social networking links. Missed an event featuring a high-profile speaker at the SMPA? Be sure to visit our YouTube site for the latest video highlights. Looking to connect with fellow classmates or faculty? Current students, faculty, and alumni are invited to join our five Facebook networking sites.

SMPA on YouTube
JMC Facebook
PCM Facebook
Master's Facebook
Faculty Facebook
Alumni Facebook
Graduate Alumni Facebook

The SMPA is a small, but proud school of political and media junkies. I know that I speak for all of SMPA when I say that we're embarassed. Tweeting is the way of the future and now we are stuck in the past.

UPDATE: As a commenter pointed out, it turns out that SMPA does tweet. Yes, I know what you're thinking - this article is now pointless. But wait! Why isn't the twitter mentioned anywhere on the SMPA website. I would say a fitting place would be under the social networking and link section. Just an idea!

You can get all the SMPA tweets here:

This post was written by a Sophomore in the SMPA and may be considered sarcastic when read in context.

Lower the cost of internship credits

This week I sent a letter to Dan Cronin, assistant dean for administration and
director of finance and personnel for the Columbian College. I sent him an email describing a campaign to lower the cost of internship credits at GW that Lucy Ross and I are pursuing. I wrote,
Lucy and I have decided to start a campaign focused on lowering the cost of credits for internships.
Basically at this point in the process we are trying to gather information from as many sources as possible regarding whether or not this is a reasonable goal.

While Cronin did not turn out to be the correct contact (I should have gotten in touch with the Dean, and he was kind enough to forward my email along), he brought my attention to an alternative when he wrote:
It was my understanding that Columbian College and most of the other colleges have a zero credit internship course that students can register for in the summer that has a $0 tuition charge. Are you aware of this option -- CCAS 154, Elective Internship?

But this option seems even worse than paying for credits. Essentially this entails receiving zero compensation for work. Not only are you receiving zero monetary compensation, but you are also receiving zero college credit. And please don't tell me that you are earning experience. Yes, this is true. But if you are a productive and valued employee of a company, your contributions should be rewarded with compensation.

All we are asking is that extraneous charges for internship credits be dropped. Interns do not take up classroom space on campus, they do not demand nearly as much attention from faculty, and they require little effort on the part of registrar's office because they find the internship and do not need to be fit into full classes.

Of course, there are costs that make sense. For example, there is a significant amount of processing that goes into translating an internship into college credit. In addition, students receiving three credits for an internship are provided with an advisor who assigns work, supervises progress, and grades a final paper detailing the experience. These are perfectly acceptable charges.

Our argument is against charging the same amount for a student utilizing the University's full range of resources for a class and a student working for an organization off campus who is utilizing a smaller percentage of the University's resources.

Please join our Facebook group to learn more about the cause and help make a difference!

What do you think?

So, I've noticed something, and it bothers me a little. People complain a lot about J Street, how the food is overpriced, and not very good, but nobody seems to notice how much the hours suck. From the GW Dining Services website, the majority of places have some pretty ludicrous hours for a college campus:
Monday-Thursday: 11am-9pm

Friday: 11am-4pm

Saturday-Sunday: Closed

THOSE hours? As much as J Street may suck, it is one of the least expensive places to eat in a freakishly expensive city...and yet, we can't eat there the majority of the time. Add to this to the amount of money freshman and sophomores have to spend each semester there, and we can start to see why people can't spend it all.

So, what I'm trying to say is, does anybody else agree with me on this? Leave a comment, and let me know. And take a second to join our facebook group!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Help me Lee Huebner, you are my only hope!

For three years now, Lee Huebner has been an excellent steward of the School of Media and Public Affairs. He's been director for as long as I've been here, and I am immensely thankful for his leadership, and the fact that, so far, I have not had to live under a time where we just bounce back and forth between interim-directors year after year.

And that's why we need Professor Huebner to stay. We need his leadership and vision to make this school truly great. And you can help. Tell Professor Huebner we need him here directing SMPA.

The Hatchet, in its somewhat misguided editorial of today, said:
The problem is that SMPA is currently divided into two camps: former and current journalists teaching straight journalism and others who are more supportive of the school's political communications program. There is no way to optimize both of these facets at the same time.
Now, this is one of the most wrong statements in the Editorial, but I feel Lucy best got into this already. But it brings up a good point. The staff of the School of Media and Public affairs is very different, but their cohesiveness is important to BOTH majors. And here is where Professor Huebner has succeeded where few others have. He has managed to create a close-knit community, both between students and professors, to the betterment of all. Our journalism program cannot exist without the political communications program, and vice versa. Each serves an incredibly important role in the other, and Professor Huebner has ensured that each SMPA student receives a robust education in both majors.

Above all, though, Professor Huebner has raised the level of discourse in the school, and we cannot lose that because some think that a director with some name recognition nationally would do better. With his Director's Student Advisory Council, he has made sure to listen to the concerns of students, and we have already seen some of their suggestions put into action. The Faculty Fireside chats we now have serve to create a new level of openness between faculty and students, which is to the benefit to both students and faculty.

So, check out the facebook group and sign the petition. Tell Professor Huebner we need his leadership, vision, and dedication.

Political Communication is integral to SMPA

Today's GW Hatchet editorial proposes that the Political Communication department be absorbed into the Political Science department, so that Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) can become a "premier institution" that is "free to pursue cutting-edge journalistic endeavors without marginalizing the other half of its identity."

This is one of the most uninformed and frankly, ridiculous, Hatchet editorials I've read.

Political Communication is a strong, nationally recognized program with a hybrid curriculum emphasizing politics, political behavior, writing, media studies and research. The SMPA faculty and resources provide Political Communication students with the practical skills to enter various areas of media, politics, and yes, even journalism. It's a major that is heavily based in practice, not theory. Theory is Political Science's territory. Just because the two majors have the word "political" in them, doesn't mean they teach the same topics. They certainly don't belong in the same department.

And if the JMC program isn't currently "leading the pack" in churning out the finest reporters, as the Hatchet claims, it certainly isn't the fault of the Political Communication department. In fact, the two programs benefit from each other. The School of Media and Public Affairs -- an accurate name for a school that was founded to educate on the intersection of media and politics, not journalism -- houses both majors for a reason. As a Political Communication senior stated in a letter to Hatchet:

What would journalism in Washington be without politics? That's right, nothing. Washington is first and foremost a political Mecca giving journalists a breadth and depth of content on which to write.

If SMPA is indeed simply "divided into two camps: former and current journalists teaching straight journalism and others who are more supportive of the school's political communications program" as the editorial suggests, it has been unbeknown to us for the past four years. Rather, we see SMPA as a power house educating students via a hands-on approach about political communication and journalistic practices in synergy.

Both Political Communication and JMC are in SMPA for these obvious reasons -- not just because of the "impressive building." The Hatchet should consider its editorial topics more thoroughly in the future.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You're too old (to be on Twitter)

A while back Farhan wrote about Twitter, speculating that Twitter is being overrun by "middle aged people".

Reuters reporter Alexei Oreskovic has found that Twitter users are primarily over twenty-five, and not in the 18-24 demographic that typically dominates social media.

Furthermore, Seniors are keeping up with the 18-24 demographic. Oreskovic found that:
In the U.S, 10 percent of Twitter users were between 55 and 64, nearly the same amount of users as those between 18 and 24, which accounted for 10.6 percent of the total.

Are you on twitter or are you resisting the micro-blogging trend? Do you have a favorite twitter user? (My favorites include Senator Claire McCaskill and Love Line/Celebrity Rehab's Dr. Drew)

Update: Blogspot Plug- You can follow us on twitter

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GW Getting a Vegetable Garden?

With all of the excitement surrounding Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden, it was only time before some of that enthusiasm trickled down to GW.

The Food Justice Alliance is a GW student org working to get a community garden on campus by this fall.

Their goal is to:
Create a community garden that will allow students and the larger DC community to connect with food production through service-learning.

In order to meet their goal, FJA is working with a variety of GW and community partners, including Sodexho, the GW Office of Sustainability, the GW Grounds and Maintenance department, the GW Landscape Design Graduate Program, the Foggy Bottom Garden Club, St. Mary’s Court, Common Good City Farm, and students from AU and GU.

Tentatively planned for the patch of land behind Ross Hall on H St, the garden will feature local fruits and veggies, including produce that was grown on the Mount Vernon Estate.

The garden is to be managed by a variety of community partners, including students, faculty, and Foggy Bottom residents, including elderly and homeless citizens

Overhead costs will be met by selling fruits and vegetables at the Foggy Bottom Farmers Market, while excess produce will be donate to Miriam’s Kitchen and the Foggy Bottom Food Pantry.

New Smithsoanian Building

So what's this building to the left? Pretty unattractive, in my opinion.

It also might be the new National Museum of African American History and Culture located on the mall. But they haven't broken ground yet -- it's one of six designs contending to win the museum contract. A jury will vote for the winner in mid-April.

Check out the other designs here, and then vote for your favorite on the Smithsonian's website. This ultra-modern thing is currently winning, so if you think that it's as unappealing as I do, show your support for one of the better designs.

Today's Washington Post also selected this design as "above the rest." The article discusses the "essential" role this building plays in commemorating and retelling an important part of American history, and also analyzes the six proposals. They're all for a modern architectural design:
But the six proposals under consideration also reveal the city at an architectural crossroads: to go forward and break with the punishing conventions that have stymied our architectural creativity, or to build yet another blandly institutional building, a fading echo of something that was never very good to begin with.
What do you think?