Sunday, January 31, 2010

We're Watching, Notre Dame

This type of thing would not be tolerated at GW.

But apparently, the publications of Notre Dame University - a university with ties to the Catholic Church, led by a Pope who believes gay people are an "attack on creation" - are perfectly fine with cartoons that preach blatant homophobia.  Take a look at this comic, which appeared in The Observer earlier this month and has since gained national media attention, resulting in the resignation of one of the managing editors:

Panel 1: "What's the easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable?"

Panel 2: "No idea."

Panel 3: "A baseball bat."
Yes, it's saying what you think it's saying.

You know, here at GW, we're actually pretty lucky.  Sure, things aren't perfect - we don't have a housing system that is fair to our transgendered students, our ROTC kids get kicked out because of their sexuality, and I would be naive to think that everyone here supports gay rights.  But things could be a lot worse; things could be like at Notre Dame, where this sort of cartoon gets published, followed by a half-hearted and self-excusing apology.

But here at GW, we hold ourselves to a higher standard of fair treatment and civility.  And as Assistant News Director for WRGW News, I hold my staff to a higher standard of integrity.

Students of the George Washington University, we all have a responsibility to make sure our generation matures with a mindset more appropriate for the twenty-first century than what this shameful cartoon represents.  Tell Notre Dame that enough is enough: sign the petition urging the university to take the necessary steps to better welcome a minority group onto its campus.  From the text of the petition:
But the roots of homophobia that lie behind the comic strip reach far beyond just the pages of The Observer. The University of Notre Dame has consistently refused to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, and has consistently refused to recognize LGBT student groups on campus. These decisions fuel the fire of homophobia, and help create a culture at the University where not only hateful comics, but hateful language and actions, can be tolerated.
And the kicker:
Being Catholic does not have to be synonymous with being homophobic.

It certainly doesn't.  So sign the petition; tell NDU that the world is watching.

FoBoGro Finally to Open

Although it took months of negotiations, FoBoGro seems poised to finally open its doors. Located on 2140 F St., only a few blocks down from Thurston Hall, FoBoGro is a self-described "one-stop-shop with a unique product selection, delicious take out, convenient online ordering options, and a fun community vibe." Although FoBoGro, owned by GW alumnus Kris Hart, was supposed to open back in November, the West End Citizen's Association delayed the opening by protesting that FoBoGro would break a rule forbidding the sale of prepared food on that block. However Hart denies the legitimacy of the rule, stating:
I guess she [Barbara Kahlow, the secretary of the West End Citizen's Association] thinks she knows more about zoning laws than the District of Columbia and the Board of Zoning Adjustment, because I've received three different certificates of occupancy.
Less than a week ago, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANC) sided with Hart, voting 4-0 to allow FoBoGro to open. Yet Kahlow intends to fight the decision, according to the GW Hatchet:
Kahlow said at the meeting that she plans to challenge the city government and the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment at the next BZA meeting Feb. 23. Despite Kahlow's disapproval, the ANC commissioners put forth a motion to support the idea and concept behind the Foggy Bottom Grocery, passing a resolution 4-0. Two commissioners, Florence Harmon and Commission Chairman Armando Irizarry, abstained from voting.

So What is a Provost Anyway?

The university has narrowed its' search for the next provost down to five finalists who will all be coming to campus for more interviews over the next two weeks. A provost or chief academic officer, 2nd in command to university President Knapp, assists in running the school especially in academic capacities. Before he became president, Mr. Knapp was provost at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Out of the 200 applicants President Knapp interviewed 23 personally and from there narrowed his list.
"It's important for candidates to visit our campuses so they can better understand the University and interact with representatives of all its constituents, including students," Knapp said in an e-mail. "In this second round, candidates go through a very rigorous schedule, meeting dozens of people, so they can answer their questions about us, and we can take a close and careful look at them."
As a student body we will be represneted by elected SA officials in the selection. process but not be directly involved. It is important we pay attention. While the president may set the direction of the university and and help decide funding, it is the provost who not only helps implement strategies but gives academic advice. Additionally, this provost will be in charge of finding 3 new deans for the School of Business, the School of Public Health and Health Services, and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Filling this position is very important for the university and hopefully they will select someone who looks out for student's interests first and foremost.

D.C. is still a city

My GMail inbox might start putting GW InfoMail into my spam box if I get anymore "Crime Alerts." Recently I've noticed there have been more crime emails from the school about thefts and minor assaults. However, my normal blase attitude towards InfoMail has changed somewhat after an acquaintance of mine was robbed last week.
She was walking to the movie theater in Georgetown when a man ripped her iPhone out of hand and ran down the street. She later told me how startled and simultaneously surprised she was considering the amount of people around.
Her incident was very similar to one described in an InfoMail from January 19:
Two male subjects approached a female who was talking on her cell phone, and one of the subjects bumped into her while the other subject grabbed her cell phone out of her hand and fled down the escalator toward the Metro. The other subject fled the area toward Pennsylvania Ave.
After talking about it with other friends, I have realized how comfortable we have become in this city that we no longer "fear the city" or think anything can happen to us. I'm glad I don't own an iPhone when I'm out, but crime is not discriminatory based on phone brands.

No matter what year you are at GW- be careful, D.C. is still a city.

(After spending my first summer in D.C., I subscribed to AlertDC- a text messaging service run by the city about emergencies. It's very helpful and customizable to only alert you about your area.)

US Institute of Peace Offers Unique Opportunity

A few days ago while at work, I spoke with an alumni that didn't like GW because of it's extremely urban campus. He claimed that he didn't like how the campus was immersed in downtown DC and had a city street running through every part of campus. Clearly he is entitled to his opinion, but I think most GW would say that very aspect is what makes the University such a unique school. We're not Georgetown, but by being centrally located to all of the government agencies, think tanks, research centers, etc. is what I think gives us an advantage.

The Hatchet highlighted the addition of yet another prestigious addition to the Foggy Bottom community coming in the spring on 2011. The Institute of Peace will move to 23rd and Constitution Avenue giving GW students interested in politics and international affairs another opportunity to take advantage of.

USIP Director of Public Affairs Lauren Sucher said in the article:

"Our building is something people are going to enter into and immediately
interact with and do these simulations, therefore the new building is more
than a monument, it's a statement saying we as Americans think peace is so
important, we are putting it in this place of honor."

Gender-Neutral Housing, a Necessary Option

Image is via flikr

It is fitting for the SA to be debating about gender-neutral housing when iHousing, the online portal used for GW-housing assignments, is just around the corner.

The Hatchet has been reporting on this vote, sponsored by Michael Komo, for a few weeks now, keeping GW updated on the issue. A few opinions have been given on the matter, but I felt that I should offer up my own.

Firstly, though its created much debate, SA passing the bill does not translate into gender-neutral housing becoming a reality.

The Hatchet reports,

that Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said “the concept of gender-neutral rooms for unmarried undergraduates is not under active consideration."

Putting aside the moral debates for a minute, which are of personal, not University, concern, I feel that the University needs to offer gender-neutral housing in the near future. There needs to be comfortable and safe living situations for students who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender.

But the implementation would also benefit students who feel they’d be more comfortable living with their friends of the opposite sex, like so many students do, come junior and senior year, off-campus.

And as for the claim that gender-neutral housing would encourage romantically involved students to live together, one only needs to look at this occurrence off-campus for the “answer.” Living together is certainly a possibility for couples, off campus, yet many serious couples still chose to live separately as upperclassmen.

Students’ parents pay at least a portion of most Colonials’ housing while still enrolled in college, which adds another dimension to this possibility of couples living together. Parents, therefore, will often act as the final say as to whether or not they will allow their son or daughter to live with their girlfriend or boyfriend.

But even if a couple chooses to live together, it is not the University’s responsibility to vet or judge whether or not this should be allowed. Legally, we are all adults. Most of us have been since CI. It is our responsibility to make informed decisions for ourselves, and to understand the ramifications of our actions.

Gender neutral housing is a good idea for many reasons, and though not going to happen for this coming fall, I think it should be highly considered by the University for the 2011-2012 school year. And for all the opponents, I offer an easy solution: don’t choose to live in a co-ed room.

Click here for one mother’s struggle with her daughter’s decision to live in a co-ed room.

Halfway to Service Hours Mark

Thursday's announcement that GW is a little over halfway to Michelle Obama's challenge of 100,000 community service hours is uplifting and alarming at the same time. 56,748 hours of service to the DC area is a real testament to the lengths we students will go to help others. Or at least it shows that we really want the First Lady to speak at Commencement in May.

However, with 43,252 hours yet to be completed, and three and half months left to complete them, I am beginning to wonder whether or not we will make it. Not hitting the 100,000 mark would be an embarrassment to the school, we as students, and the First Lady. I hope the university promotes more designated days of service to encourage everyone to stop studying or partying to spend a few hours doing some good for the community. And as someone who should have done more last semester, I pledge to contribute more to reaching the goal. All of you should as well.

Bored? Go See The Pandas Before It's Too Late!

Children, families, out-of-towners and a now-engaged couple ventured to the National Zoo during Saturday's "mini blizzard" to say goodbye to the giant panda, Tai Shan, according to the Washington Post. Although Tai Shan, known as the zoo's "giant panda rock star," was born at the zoo in 2005, he is actually property of China and will return Thursday to become part of a Chinese breeding program. Because giant pandas are endangered, this program was created to increase the amount of giant pandas in the world.

Photo Credit: Ann Heisenfelt/ AP Photo

Tai Shan was originally due to return to China when he was two but "was granted two extensions." Tai Shan's parents are on a 10-year lease which ends in December, but National Zoo officials are appealing to China to allow them to stay and not leave DC without pandas. The zoo held an official goodbye celebration, but it was unfortunately cut short due to the inclement weather.

While at GW, I've learned how much there is to see and do in the city, and unfortunately not many students, including myself have taken advantage of what's around. In case the zoo's 10 year lease does end, DC will become panda-less. Don't waste your weekends and free time! Go visit the National Zoo in Adams Morgan and see the giant pandas sometime this semester.

A Non-Profit Bookstore? Yes Please.

GW is not a cheap university by any stretch of the imagination. Not only do we as students pay huge fees and large accommodation bills but also there are other hidden costs which push our bank accounts to the brink.

Mandatory GWorld accounts are one such example. Students are expected to put a certain amount of money on their GWorld and can then only use this so called Colonial Cash in certain places. In my mind such a system is only in place to help fund the poor quality eating establishments found in J Street. Would these places even be able to remain open if there wasn't this forced group of customers?

Another hidden cost, and one that deservedly has a lot of bad press, is the GW Bookstore. Every college students knows that they are going to have to buy textbooks and they know it’s going to cost them a lot. However the question I find myself asking is why, at such an expensive University, is our bookstore not non-profit?

The situation is made even worse by the fact that the bookstore is so far from being non-profit that is often more expensive than other outlets. For those of you who sensibly spend your time looking around for the cheapest deal on your textbooks there is now an easier way Created by an industrious student, the website allows you to type in your course number and will search online for the cheapest place to buy the books you need.

Obviously this is a great tool, but I feel that considering the amount we already pay to this University the GW Bookstore needs to change. It must become more affordable and be less focused on making a profit. Simple solutions, like half price buy back on all books, would be away of changing that depressing start of semester outgoing, to an invigorating end of semester windfall!

Caught Between Aid and Reconstruction

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the power of new media and the generosity of millions of people around the world, including nearly half of American households, for donating money to help the people in Haiti after the earthquake.

These donations and relief efforts are still significant. As former US President Bill Clinton called for more aid at The World Economic Forum in Davos, even more than two weeks after the earthquake, Haitians are still lacking the most basic supplies.

Speaking at the Elliot School, panelists had also urged the need for "a really solid infrastructure in place in terms of arrivals, treatment, recovery, rescue, and sustennance," and "the two imporatant long-term goals are to bolster Haiti's institutions and to maintain stability."

Nevertheless, the panelists warned that Haitians must be included in this process, too, and something more substantial are obviously needed to 'reconstruct' Haiti.

Paul Collier, an economics professor at Oxford, special adviser on Haiti to the United Nations secretary general in 2009, and Jean-Louis Warnholz, the managing director of a business consulting company, an economic adviser to Haiti's prime minister in 2000 wrote: "Haitians need something more fundamental than relief from the present situation; they need jobs that they can count on for years ahead. For this, the private business secor is essential."

They also wrote:
Davos provides an opportunity for businesses that might invest in Haiti -- international fashion brands, hotels and coffee chains, for example -- to coordinate with companies that provide logistics and markets, so that together they could make mutual commitments. The foundation for such coordinationa has already been laid -- by Bill Clinton, who led 200 international investors to Haiti last October.
"The earthquake has, of course, changed opportunities in Haiti," they wrote, "but it has not necessarily reduced them."

It is true that the people of Haiti must be included in the conversation for the reconstruction of their country. At this stage, although it is important to consider the long-term economic strategy and goals, we must, I beleive, be aware of the very conditions people are suffering from.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Snow Hits D.C.

It's been snowing all day here in the district, with a Winter Storm warning issued by the National Weather Service in effect until 4 a.m. Sunday.

Though there were no classes to be cancelled today, the student body was still affected by the gym closing early due to the inclement weather. Most sidewalks on campus has been cleared but are still slippery.

The pictures are scenes earlier this evening from Foggy Bottom; a makeshift snowman was even spotted outside a dorm.


As someone who is graduating in May, I do not know what to think of GW anymore, nothing the administration does surprises me. Changes to J Street, I live off campus and have not eaten on a GWorld card in two years; mandatory spending, just deal with it since there is nothing you are going to do about the contract; lack of study space, just find somewhere else to work; and the list goes on.

Maybe what Rice Hall is trying to do is teach all the students that despite your tuition and fees, and other GW related expenses coming close to a quarter million dollars for a four year GW career, it does not matter how much you complain because you, the student, need to be more self-sufficient and solve the problems on your own. If this means using your mandatory spending at J Street it might just mean that you need to get a lot of water bottles or other snacks to meet the minimum if you do not want to eat from the vendor they chose to install.

Many students choose to get involved in student organizations, some get really involved n the SA, the group which has been so often described as a group of students pretending to play government. In the end all they do is sit there and pass non-binding resolutions and get some articles in the Hatchet (which I do not read) and posts on this blog, are they really speaking for the students when they are kept by university leaders from exercising any real authority.

Student Organizations have trouble getting space to hold meetings and events, instead of complain about the lack of space or the cost to use what is available groups should look for alternatives outside of GW whose space you can use, or whose groups you can join. Organizations need to follow a long list of regulations in order to operate as an official student organization. Since my Freshman year, I have been involved in off campus organizations and have found the experiences I gain from those activities and what I learn from the people there to be better in many cases than the GW student organizations to which I belong.

As for me, I am just apathetic by now, there is nothing I care about that much. I graduate in May, am on my way out the door, and for all the underclassman who are bothered by the poor food selections, lack of study space, or unjust student organization funding, just wait it out, because despite the high price tag this is only four years and you will survive the latest “GW injustice” which you are forced to suffer.

Photo Credit 1
Photo Credit 2

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Have you been sexually assaulted? Click here

This is what you find when visiting GW's University Police Department website:

Short, simple and informative. But don't you think it sounds inappropriate too? If so, click here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pro-Life Groups Join the Cliche...March Away!

Last week I was reminded of why I've spent the last two years sleeping in, instead of going to church every Sunday morning. One of my friends talked me into attending the Sunday night mass, and I semi-reluctantly agreed (at least I didn't have to get up early). Little did I know, I was in store for a political speech rather than a sermon.
After seven minutes of listening to the priest rant about how everyone should attend the March for Life, I walked out.

GW students joined 75,000 protesters in what I find to be nothing more than an attention stunt that drew the extreme end of the spectrum on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Protests like this one are what help the media frame abortion as such a polarizing issue, but why do we pay attention? And is it really that polarizing of an issue?

The poll above show that only 22% of American oppose abortion under all circumstances. The amount that opposed abortion under any circumstance nearly 25 years ago. Nothing has changed, lets move on. Perhaps, if these people were so concerned for the life of the child, their time would be better spent advocating for the social welfare programs needed to ensure the child's well being after birth. They usually neglect that part...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Non-Binding Decision Makers

Last Wednesday, the GW Student Association introduced a bill that would provide support for gender-neutral housing on campus. Gender neutral housing is probably something that our school should provide for the small minority fo students that don't wish to classify themselves by a certain gender. The problem with this bill, and with the Student Association as a whole, lies when The Hatchet describes the bill in the opening paragraph of the article:
2010 Equal Housing Opportunity Act - a nonbinding resolution that would pledge support for a gender-neutral housing option for students living on campus.

A non-binding resolution. The George Washington University Student Association is spending their time working on non-binding resolutions. Instead of working on getting us more space to study or meet as student organizations, instead of working to resolve inefficiency issues with 4-Ride, or with advising, or with all of the other red tape that restricts people from doing things at GW, they have chosen grandstanding at its very worst. If someone really wished to get a policy change on this issue, they would have a meeting with the administration. If the administration was willing to listen, they would make a change. If not, a non-binding resolution is not even close to being the right way to make that change happen.
To make this inefficiency worse: The SA voted to table to the bill last week.
The Student Association needs to be working on our behalf to make changes that affect all of us, instead of wasting time on a "non-binding resolution" that has no impact and was only pursued in the first place because they take themselves too seriously and have lost sight of what it is the large majority of the students at GW actually want.
Like I said before, gender-neutral housing would be a step forward for the University. I just wish the Student Association would work hard to get things done behind the scenes, and use their meeting time to actually fight for things that they actually have the power to accomplish. Oh yeah, and when you start using terms like "non-binding resolution" and "tabling the bill" tell you that you're taking yourselves too seriously, and probably aren't getting anything of significance done.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Council Bill May Lead to Medical Marijuana in DC

A contentious bill, Initiative 59, has been introduced that would effectively lead to the legalization of cannabis in Washington DC. The bill, proposed by independent Council member David Catania, follows a previous 1998 initiative that was blocked by the-then predominantly Republican Congress. Catania's bill would allow seriously ill individuals the access to government regulated marijuana and calls for the opening of five medical marijuana dispensaries in the District. According to the Washington Post:
The legislation, which has been referred to both the Health and Public Safety and Judiciary committees, would allow the dispensaries to distribute up to a month's supply of marijuana to either to patients or their registered caregivers. Although patients would have to pay for the drug, the legislation requires providers to supply low-income patients with marijuana at a reduced price.
Although fourteen states have already permitted the use of medical marijuana, including California, Michigan, and New Jersey, Washington DC would be the most high-profile location on the list and could act as a catalyst in advancing pending medical marijuana bills in states such as Alabama, Illinois, and New York. Catania's bill would leave it up to the District's local government to outline the rules, the Washington Post reports.
Catania's measure calls for the mayor's office and the Department of Health to set most of the regulations for how the city's medical marijuana policy would work. The Health Department, for example, will have to establish a list of medical conditions that can qualify a patient for a doctor's prescription to obtain the drug.
Even though the bill could facilitate referendums on medical marijuana in other states, the immediate impact on colleges and universities in the District would be minimal. As part of the bill, no dispensary can be within 1,000 feet of any school and it is unrealistic to believe at this present time that any educational institution would allow the use of marijuana in dormitories.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now that Restaurant Week is Over...

Now that D.C.'s Restaurant Week is over, it's time to assess the financial damage we all incurred by being lured into some of the city's best restaurants by 3 course, fixed-price lunches and dinners for $20.10 and $35.10, respectively. I told myself I was only to do 1 dinner. And that's it. My roommate and I made reservations at Vidalia (the duck was very good, but this post isn't about the food), and decided that would be by $35.10 + $7 for tax Restaurant Week splurge. I ended up spending more than $60, but the cocktails were really good, so it was worth it, right?

Then, the inevitable happened. I was roped into going to Zentan (great calamari, but again this isn't about the food) with a group of friends. The next night, a friend and I made an impulsive choice to try Oya (the Salmon was amazing, but really we're not talking about the food). Finally, a bored Sunday afternoon led to a visit to Cafe Du Parc (the Chestnut soup was unlike anything I had ever tasted, but it doesn't matter).

I waited a week to check my account to survey the disastrous state of my personal finances. Sort of like how you wait a few days to check your grade for that 1 class you may not have done very well in. The total was staggering. $268. On 4 meals. And maybe a few cocktails. This prompted an emergency phone call home to ask my younger brother to intercept my credit card bill that gets mailed to the house every month. I had him shred it. My parents can never know how much money I spent that week. If they ask why my textbooks for the semester seemed to cost $300 more than they usually do, I'll just tell them it's because I'm taking this really intense Politics and the Internet class that I needed to buy lots of expensive textbooks for.

How much did you spend during Restaurant Week?

Thomas Friedman at GW - Thursday Night and Students Still Showed Up

While I know that Thomas Friedman's speech to the GW community this Thursday has already been covered, I think it was good enough to cover twice. Speaking to an almost completely filled Lisner Auditorium, the 3 time Pulitzer Prize winning author and NY Times columnist gave his perspective on the world today and the future. Now I don't always read his Sunday column and have not yet read the new version of his book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, but I did read The World is Flat. The guy is smart. That's as simple as I can say it. He is scary smart. Not only is he smart enough to investigate and write about topics like the world economy, and other impending disasters, but he does it in a manner that seems simple. His speaking style is jovial, often funny, and he is able to convey his brilliant and complex thoughts in a way that does not sound academic and easy to understand.

In his 90 minute speech he covered many topics but did have a few overall messages. What I found most interesting were two things, his views on America's role as a world leader in the future and how the world is going to change, depending on Americas role. Like the IT revolution of the 80's and 90's he is calling the next one, "ET," the energy revolution. By changing the way we use energy, we can fix most of our problems. It seems to be the linchpin. He claims that while the so called "green movement" is a good start, its not a revolution, it's a "party." Not until the word green carries no meaning will we truly be living in a green world. This is the key to returning America to global power and prestige.

While GW gets a lot of famous speakers and guests, and I attend as many as I can, they are usually not the most engaging. Thomas Friedman however certainly was. He was able to capture the attention of what looked like a little less than thousand students in a hot auditorium. His topics were relevant to our lives and his stories meaningful. I highly recommend going to see him speak if you ever get the chance.

Thomas Friedman: the Catalyst

(Photo is S. Keller & SMPA's, see link below for more)

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, came to GW on Thursday (as Charlie so kindly wrote about last week). I was lucky enough to not only attend his lecture, but also to have won the SMPA raffle to sit down with him and fourteen other students for a “conversation.”

His lecture, a discussion about his new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, and about the future of our planet, was stimulating. The book mainly expresses the idea that it is not a coincidence that the global warming crisis and our current economic recession peaked at the same time: that the two are inherently linked and the way to dig ourselves out of this economic crisis is with innovation and creation in the “energy technology” (his term) industry. He stressed that America needs to create the next eco-friendly version of Google to remain the only super-power and that we’re racing against China to do so. It’s an interesting perspective, especially while our class reads Ken Auletta's Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.

But it was the conversation with Mr. Friedman that was more inspiring. The raffle was for SMPA majors only, and it was upon Mr. Friedman’s request that he sit down with future journalists that the raffle was offered. The event included a brief bio of Mr. Friedman’s life, and then opened to the students for questions. Mr. Friedman gave honest and thorough responses, even giving us insight into his (then unpublished) Sunday column. He was casual and conversational, and it was a pleasure to be there.

After Mr. Friedman left, Frank Sesno, SMPA’s director, continued the conversation with the students. Mr. Sesno is GW's local celebrity, and a very accomplished journalist in his own right. But rather than acting like a CNN-anchor, or even Director of SMPA, he too was laid-back and honest. It was a true conversation, with him acting as an equal to the classroom of students. The fifteen minutes of debate we had in that room was the most interesting “classroom experience” I had had all week. SMPA is filled with some of the best and brightest students of GW, and it was an experience that made me appreciate that fact. I thank Mr. Friedman for the catalyst-role he played.

Click here for more pictures (courtesy of SMPA's flikr account) from the conversation.

Long-Term Relief

So with the news, the Government, the University and even our own GWBlogspot so avidly focused on the terrible disaster in Haiti I thought I would give it a mention too.

Obviously all of you have read a multitude of stories on the issue and I am sure that many of you have also been involved in some way or another with the relief effort. GW and the students have had a fantastic reaction to the crisis with numerous ways of supporting the survivors being available:
Swipe Your GWorld for Haiti
GW Fundraiser Party

However what I would like to talk about is the long-term relief effort. The most obvious modern comparison of this disaster is the 2004 Tsunami, a tragic event that killed an estimated 228,000 people in 14 countries. The initial relief effort that occurred in the worst hit countries like India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand was sensational and even the short to medium term relief was very successful. However though these periods are important it is what occurs a year later, or 3 years later or even what occurs now is what I believe defines the success of a relief effort. Some people from these countries are still living in the initial temporary shelters that were built in the short term period after the disaster. The job of rebuilding after a disaster cannot be left half done.

It is fantastic that the US government have sent troops to help with the initial rebuilding and backed by the abundance of NGO's arriving the initial relief effort will inevitably be a success. However what occurs after that, when the soldiers leave, when the journalists and camera crews finish their stories and when the commercial based NGO's feel that the decreasing lack of publicity means it is no longer worth their while to stay.

Hundreds NGO's flood South East Asia straight after the Tsunami occurred, raising and giving huge sums of money. But when I arrived in 2007 to volunteer in badly hit East coast of India, things had changed. I worked with one of the few organizations that was left in the region and like the other NGO's we had minimal manpower and minimal funding. Three years after the disaster, the mammoth task of rehousing all those who were placed temporary tarpaulin houses as a short-term measure, was being carried out by to few. Specific musing on my NGO experience can be found here.

This article is in no way trying to stop people helping the relief effort, it is just a reminder that when the news stops talking about this tragedy (a process which is already beginning) it does not mean the suffering is over.

Life Outside of DC

If you missed out on Restaurant Week here in the city, you have a chance to catch up in Bethesda starting tomorrow. But Bethesda is sooooo far!! Actually, it's only about a 35 minute ride on the Metro, and if you have a reservation, that beats waiting for a table in a DC area restaurant. Participating restaurants are offering two-course $12-$15 lunches and three-course $25-$30 dinners. Keep in mind, these prices do not include beverage or tip though.

Restaurant Week participants include local favorites such as Morton's Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmicks, Clyde's and Jaleo. However, if you're looking for something different or perhaps even somewhere to make a reservation for graduation weekend. Check out Redwood for some "fancier" comfort food; it also prides itself for buying locally and encourages visitors to do the same. Chef Geoff's Lia's features Italian as well as sandwiches and burgers. And Visions , "A Friendly American Kitchen" has "fresh moderately priced seafood, steaks & pastas."

Other restaurants include Asian, Indian, Portuguese and Mediterranean fare. Check out the participating restaurant sites and make a reservation soon! You don't want to miss out again!

Much ado about nothing

I have no doubt that GW makes a big effort to become a sustainable community. The GW Eco-Challenge, the President's Climate Commitment signed by President Knapp, the Green GW student organization or all the green courses available are examples of its dedication.

Want more? The many environment related conferences and speakers we are hosting this year.

Last semester, Al Gore defined the climate change problem as "the moral issue of the present generation."

This time, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman talked about the need to redefine green and the urge to take action. Green is not just a liberal issue, he said, but something every citizen needs to be worried about.

But... do all these campaigns and words have a true effect on campus?

As ShopGirl noticed here on Friday, the College Sustainability Report Card gave GW a C+ overall in 2009. However, as an anonymous comment later pointed out, progress has been done during the year, and the university was graded B on the 2010 report.

This improvement suggests that GW's efforts are not fruitless. But still, the results are disappointing considering all the activities and campaigns that have been done.

Anyone living in a dorm can notice how the students still leave the lights on for the whole day or how many others put all their garbage in the same trash chute and don't recycle.

When asked about their recycling habits, these are some of the answers GW students gave me:
"I do recycle, but at the end, I put everything in the same trash chute because I never foud out where the special trash was..."

"I recycle at home, but not in college. Because im too busy!!"

"I do not always think of recycling simply because I have never really picked up on it."
It seems that some students still find it difficult to recycle. But, what is worse, some of them are not even concerned about the issue yet.

Being Irish at GW

I am not a "girly girl." I am girly, but not super girly. However, on a recent run to buy an overpriced textbook, I could not contain my joy over some new clothes at the boostore.

With St. Patricks Day two months away, the GW Bookstore has put out GW Irish-pride clothes, and I LOVE IT!!

The shirt on the right was my personal favorite. They had shirts for girls and guys, and it left my Irish eyes smiling.

Although the bookstore is certainly the place to get price gouged for books, I do find things there I am willing to cough up the GWorld money for occasionally.

GW Admissions During the Great Recession

In harsh economic times, the announcement that GW has seen a record number of applications sent in is puzzling news. Common logic would say that everyone - middle and upper class families - would be less interested in attending a university with a total price tag of over $55,000 a year. And that number is almost guaranteed to increase a few thousand dollars for the class of 2014. Maybe the reputation of GW, or our school's prime real estate attracts more high school seniors, but I have honestly have no idea.

However, some might think that the numbers could be deceiving. More students apply to George Washington, but come April, they choose to attend other, less expensive schools. My class, the class of 2013, would beg to differ. I am sure over-enrollment was not discussed too much a year ago, but the situation became reality. With a student total of almost 10,000, the range per freshman class is consistently between 2,300 and 2,400. The Hatchet highlighted the issue of being more selective because of more applicants:

The "magic number" for freshman enrollment in the class of 2014 is 2,350, Chernak said. That means 8 percent fewer students must enroll at GW than last year - when an unexpected 2,550 freshmen submitted deposits, a yield that was bolstered by an unusually light "summer melt."

Even a recession didn't stop this year's freshman from wanting to study in the nation's capital. It went as far as to threaten D.C. zoning requirements limiting the number of students on the Foggy Bottom campus this fall. Another 60 students and the school would have had serious problems. The increased interest in GW may be good for the school's academic reputation. More student applying and a consistent or decreasing number of those enrolling means a lower acceptance rate. Lowering the acceptance rate to Georgetown or Ivy standards will put our school on the level of many schools considered better than GW. While I feel bad for the many good students wanting to attend a great school in a great location who will not get the opportunity, I cannot denounce the decision to keep the size of the classes as bad for the school, the current students, or the community. Now if we can get less people wanting to go to Georgetown and instead come here, I'd be even happier.

The Future of "Mass" Media

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation will be joining Marvin Kalb on the next installment of “The Kalb Report” series, sharing "his unique perspectives on the future of journalism and the media” at the National Press Club.

It will be “unique” indeed, but the focus of this show is painfully misleading. The Hatchet wrote that Murdoch will sit down with Kalb “to discuss the future of journalism” but, the truth is, he will be meeting to discuss the “business for mass media” and not about journalism per se.

This event, instead, should be titled: “The Future of Mass Media -- which will no longer exist.” The business of mass media Murdoch strives for in this age will not work so easily.

The "mass" media, in the good’ol days, were so powerful and profitable because of their dominance and control over the “3Cs” -- contents, containers, and conveyors.

The importance of contents for the media industry has not changed much. People still look for trustworthy, insightful, and often exciting writings, visuals, and audios. So if we take a newspaper company as an example, the journalists and the writers are the creators of the contents. The first “C,” therefore, does not matter whether we can get it on Kindle, YouTube, or iPods.

Container would therefore be the actual paper for the newspaper company. There is, however, a limit to space. So the number and the length of the contents are often limited and shortened, depending on the number and the size of the paper.

Conveyors can be thought as the newsstands, where people actually buy the newspaper. But this “C” also cost money to ship and store the newspapers. There is a physical limit to send and keep them for a long period of time.

The “3Cs” can be applied to other media. In the business of television news, for example, news program is the content; the actual television is the container; satellite television or CATV are the conveyors. In the music industry, the song is the content; the CD from a major record company is the container; the CD store is the conveyor.

The so-called “crisis” is, therefore, a result of the loss of control over one or two of these “3Cs.” The newspaper companies still have control over the contents. But the container is now replaced by Google News, and the conveyor by the internet. As for the music industry, the container is replaced by iTunes Music Store; the conveyor, once again, is taken away by the internet.

In other words the mass media companies in the age of the internet are losing:

1. The power to control specific contents people would read, watch, or listen to.
2. The ability to combine advertisements with the contents.
3. The billing system to charge the contents.

The media people are, quite understandably, interested in hearing what Murdoch would do about these loses. Kalb said: “I cannot wait to sit down and talk to this media mogul about the crisis in contemporary journalism and to hear his views about what can be done to fix it.”

But as Jeff Jarvis, the author of “What Would Google Do,” said: "What crisis?" News contents -- products of journalism -- have not been affected at all. The actual problem is the loss of control over the containers and conveyors. They are left with only one “C.” (Or maybe two -- contents and crisis.)

We also already know what Murdoch thinks.
We are all allowing our journalism -- billions of dollars worth of it every year -- to leak onto the internet. We are surrendering our hard-earned rights to the search engines, and aggregators, and the out-and-out thieves of the digital age.
At first glance, Murdoch sounds like the guardian of journalism. Well, he is not. He does not care about people’s access to information. He just wants to get the money. He wants to stay as the media mogul. He wants to keep the “mass” media. And what did he do? He built a paywall around his news site.

In 1994, BBC interviewed the terminally ill playwright Dennis Potter. Discussing his illness, Potter said:
I call my cancer Rupert. Because that man Murdoch is the one who, if I had the time (I’ve got too much writing to do)… I would shoot the bugger if I could. There is no one person more responsible for the pollution of what was already a fairly polluted press.
OK. We obviously won’t need to go this far but let’s hear Murdoch’s comments with skepticism. We know that he can no longer control the "3Cs." We know that Murdoch can do better than turning the media industry into the Chinese government, blocking those who wish to have access to information. We know, although it is hard to accept, that the power of “mass” media will be in decline. The future of journalism and media do not lie in the hands of Press Lords.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Follow Up On The Stormy Advising Front

In lieu of The Hatchet’s most recent article on one GWU parent’s discovery of an advising nightmare, GWU should probably take a hard close look at fixing this debacle. From what I’ve noticed, GWU is facing an all time, record breaking high in undergraduate applicants for the upcoming fall.

It was mentioned that the factors that play the ultimate role in advising young students who are new to the college scene, is care and concern, with which I couldn’t agree more. It appears these essential factors have been noticeably falling by the wayside on the advising front, particularly at the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Coming from a very different perspective, being in the final stages of my undergraduate education myself, but still new to The George Washington University, even I feel a bit small and lost in getting used to such a new and vigorous environment. This made me wonder how a freshman could possibly feel! If the one thing a freshman can not count on is his or her academic advisement, what do they have? My only hope, is that come fall 2010, GWU will have attempted some fundamental changes in order to successfully take on the record breaking numbers of incoming freshman. If not, the number up disappointed students and parents will only increase at rapid speed.

Crisis De Jour

On January 11, 2010 Haiti was a small Caribbean island that many people could probably not put on a map, in the last twelve days it has moved the center of American foreign policy and the American conscience. As Americans always do, we came together in light of the latest natural disaster and opened our checkbooks, cell phones, and twitter accounts to donate money to our latest crisis de jour. The Red Cross too to twitter to update people across the world with where their money is going and how much has been received, their latest donation tweet posted on January 18 at 9:40 AM said

RT @mgive: Donation Update: Over $21 Million in $10 donations raised for the people of #Haiti through the @RedCross text HAITI to 90999 ...

Now that it is easier to give than ever, everybody wants to be involved in the donation frenzy to look like they are socially aware and not look left out. GW took to the pavement by inviting students, faculty, and staff to Swipe Your GWorld for Haiti” at specific locations on Friday January 22 as part of a donation campaign to raise funds for the Red Cross and Project Medicare. While GW probably had pure motives in offering students the opportunity to painlessly give of themselves, they also sent out press advisories about where and when President Knapp could be interviewed, information about GW’s efforts in Haiti, and a link to “Download high-resolution video of a lab demonstration of the structural integrity of buildings in earthquakes by Pedro Silva, GW professor of structural engineering”

GW even thought of the students (and faculty and staff) who carry a zero GWorld balance with information and links on how to load on money in order to donate it in GW’s Campaign. Almost as an afterthought GW placed links at the bottom of an InfoMail where individuals could donate directly to the Red Cross or Project Medicare.

Two student groups stand out in their efforts for Haiti Earthquake relief, the first is the Carriban Student Association, a group dedicated to promoting “social and cultural interaction amongst Caribbean students on campus and the entire GWU community at large.” Via facebook, their “Party for Haiti Fundraiser” provided links to donate, stay informed, watch live webcams of what was happening on the ground, and a phone number to call for those looking to locate friends and family.

A second group which took up Haitian relief as a fundraising program was Circle K , a GW chapter of a national organization dedicated to service. Members held a fundraiser at Foggy Bottom's Crepeaway from Friday January 22 into Saturday January 23 and raised over 300 dollars for disaster relief efforts. Both these groups provide evidence of GW students taking up the reins on their own, without the need to “Swipe Your GWorld for Haiti”

Today the world focuses their attention to Haiti, but the Times-Picayune on reports that “tens of thousands” are still displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.On the fifth anniversary of the Pacific Tsunami which killed over 200,000 people in 2004 the same region was recovering from another, smaller quake which destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and killed 57. This disaster comes while still trying to recover from the 2004 disaster. Donating to Haiti is a worthy use of funds, and the money is going to a good cause, but the GW community, and the American populace should be aware of more than the crisis de jour.

Follow Red Cross tweets here.

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