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.