Beyond the Books

Your Guide to student life


Cory Weinberg

is The Hatchet's editor in chief. A senior and Florida native, he started working for The Hatchet at the beginning of his freshman year as a production assistant. He also worked as campus news editor, leading The Hatchet's coverage of academics, research finance and technology. Someday he would like to be the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, a New York Times reporter or perform in the Broadway musical "Rent."


It’s a pretty cool feeling, right? Well, now you have a lot of learning to do. We’ve put together a bit of what to expect about life in Foggy Bottom and at GW. There’s more to it than just living a few blocks from the White House.

And to stay all the way up to date on GW, follow The Hatchet on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our email edition.

You can wear your Colonials gear with pride. The men’s basketball team is good again.

Hatchet File Photo

Hatchet File Photo

It’s been a rough few years for GW men’s basketball. While the team was a perennial Atlantic 10 contender last decade, current seniors have grimaced through a combined 40-52 record the last three seasons.

That all looks like it’s changing. The Colonials are the hottest team in the D.C. area, basketballknocking off Maryland, Creighton and Miami en route to a 9-1 start. GW is now considered one of the top five teams in the A-10, and could lock up a NCAA Tournament bid if they stay strong when conference play starts next month. Yes, it’s still early, but keep an eye on the Colonials throughout the spring as they play several games on national or regional television.

Thinking about rushing? About one-third of the undergraduate population is in Greek life.

Hatchet File Photo

Hatchet File Photo

This is one part of GW that surprises many freshmen. While most top urban schools like New York University and Boston University have tiny Greek life populations, about one-third of GW undergrads are in fraternities or sororities. ezgif-save

GW has fall and spring rush – the two weeks when you can go check out fraternities and sororities.

The benefits? Friends, philanthropy opportunities and campus influence. The costs? Membership isn’t cheap, and there have been some recent reports of hazing.

More questions? This video may have your answers.

There will be more than $500 million of new building space that opens over your four years.

Hatchet File Photo

Hatchet File Photo

So you were admitted to GW in December 2013. By the time you graduate, campus will look pretty different. In fact, there will be more than $500 million worth of construction projects completed by the time you graduate in 2018.

1. Spring 2014: $75 million School of Public Health and Health Services building
It’ll be the first time the public health school is housed under one roof – a milestone for a college raking in research money.

2. Fall 2014: $33 million GW Museum
The GW Museum mostly elicits eye rolls from students, though the largest gift in the University’s history is helping to fund it.

3. Winter 2015: $275 million Science and Engineering Hall
This is GW’s shining star. The most expensive building in the University’s history will look to bolster its second-tier science and engineering programs and create a better research environment.

4. Fall 2016: $130 million Square 77 a.k.a. the ‘superdorm’
You, the Class of 2018, could be one of the first students to live in this mega-hall that will include restaurants, study space and three merged residence halls in the heart of campus.

5. TBD: New student health center
This was the Student Association’s big win this year. University President Steven Knapp committed to moving the health and counseling centers to campus. It won’t be cheap and we don’t know where yet. Tompkins Hall? Marvin Center? We’ll probably know by the summer.

Scandal, scandal and “Scandal.”

Don’t worry, GW is ranked in the U.S. News & World Report top colleges list again after a year’s absence. But just as the University dusted off that scandal, administrators got in a bit more hot water.

First, there was the very public firing of former GW School of Business dean Doug Guthrie. He overspent the college’s budget by $13 million. Then, top officials and professors got in one of the most dramatic games of he-said-she-said that you’ll see in higher education. There was talk of slander, sex and illegal financial deals. (All was false, according to GW.)

Then, there was another admissions scandal. It turns out that like many private colleges, GW had been waitlisting students who could not pay full tuition, while accepting students who could. The trouble was that top officials had said otherwise for years.

But on a positive note, “Scandal” star Kerry Washington is a proud alumna. She also delivered a pretty great Commencement speech last May. And yes, GW puts on one of the best graduation ceremonies in the country, renting out the National Mall for a morning for thousands of departing Colonials.

There’s a big gay, lesbian and bisexual population here.

Gay marriage supporters outside the Supreme Court last spring. Hatchet File Photo.

Gay marriage supporters outside the Supreme Court last spring. Hatchet File Photo.

You’ve probably heard it: Gay Double Jew. No? Thirty percent of GW students are Jewish (the fifth highest rate for U.S. universities). But the University is also pretty well-known for its sizeable gay population.

We had gender-neutral housing before it was cool. GW had the first transgender athlete in NCAA Division 1 history, Kye Allums, who came out on the women’s basketball team in 2010. Pretty much everyone freaked out when the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8. And even LGBT faculty and administrators share their coming out stories.

Plus, the largest LGBT student org, Allied in Pride, organized a drag show for straight fraternity members last year. Watch the action below.

Most politically active, and most lean left.

Students swarmed the White House after Osama bin Laden's killing in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Students swarmed the White House after Osama bin Laden’s killing in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Maybe you applied to GW because of how politically driven students are. Princeton Review called us the most politically active school this year, after all. District politics is woven so deeply into the fabric of GW that it’s become a meme, a hashtag and an entire brand. #OnlyAtGW refers to waking up to presidential motorcades and running to the White House on election night (which is a thing, by the way.)

When you break it down, it might not be a surprise that most students and faculty are liberal. Two-thirds of students supported Obama last election and professors overwhelmingly donated to the president.

But yes, there are cool speakers and strong student org presence across the political spectrum.

There are two major on-campus concerts each year: Fall Fest and Spring Fling.

Here’s what it’s like to go to one.

Oh, and Macklemore took a selfie when he played at GW and it won “selfie of the year.”

Macklemore selfie at GW Fall Fest 2013. Photo courtesy of Reddit User GWizzle.

Macklemore selfie at GW Fall Fest 2013. Photo courtesy of Reddit User GWizzle.

#OnlyAtGW (for real this time).

Your new food pyramid will probably include a lot of Chipotle.

The booming Foggy Bottom dining scene is your new dining hall. You won’t hear many good chipotlethings about J Street – where you have to spend a chunk of dining dollars freshman year – but eateries like Chipotle, Whole Foods, Sweetgreen and Burger Tap and Shake will tempt you.

There are a lot of food trucks too. One of the best, GW students would say, is CapMac. There was an emotional farewell to the mac-and-cheese food truck this fall, but it appears they’ll soon be under new management.

You’ve heard scary things about the Vern. You’ve heard scary things about Thurston. What’s that all about?

The Vern, where hundreds of freshmen will live. Hatchet File Photo

The Vern, where hundreds of freshmen will live. Hatchet File Photo

In the spring, it’s going to be time to pick your residence hall. Since you’re Early Decision 1, you get first dibs. Most ED1ers wind up picking Potomac or Lafayette halls, but 84-year-old Thurston Hall houses more than 1,100 freshmen each year and the Mount Vernon Campus is home to a few hundreds first-year Colonials too.

So yes, while you may have written in your college essay about wanting to experience the vibrant urban life of GW, you could be about a 20-minute bus ride away in a suburban, green neighborhood. With a renovated residence hall and academic buildings there, the Vern is becoming more of a destination for GW kids, but can still be a pain. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself.

And to squash the rumors, no, Thurston was not named the most sexually active dorm in the U.S. It’s not the nicest residence hall GW has, but there is a cool basement study area and plenty of opportunities to meet new people. It’s a GW rite of passage.

Yes, GW has a very high tuition sticker price. No, that doesn’t make it a ‘rich-kid school.’ But yes, affordability is still a big issue.

Protesters rally against rising college debt loads in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Protesters rally against rising college debt loads in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

You’ve probably heard it from your parents, friends, extended relatives. ‘GW? That’s the really expensive school, right?’

Let’s get one thing straight: Universities are nonprofit businesses that run mostly on your tuition dollars.

But the University made itself the poster child for sky-high tuition prices six years ago when it was the first to pass the $50,000-a-year threshold. GW is no longer in the tip-top echelon of most-expensive colleges, but its reputation follows it. The Washington Post published a damning story about GW’s “Great Gatsby” reputation last spring. And GW’s former president told The Atlantic last year that he priced GW’s tuition so high because, like high-priced vodka, it creates the “illusion of quality.

But there are reasons GW deserves some credit lately: It has poured money into financial aid and looked to cut costs to fund more scholarships. There’s also the fixed-tuition policy for undergraduates, which prevents students from having to shell out 3 to 5 percent more each year.

And that whole need-blind scandal? Being need-aware actually lets GW fund a fuller portion of students’ financial need, administrators say. The University meets an average of about 88 percent of a student’s demonstrated need, compared to New York University, which meets just 55 percent even though it does not consider financial need in the admissions process.

If you study international affairs or business, you’ll be going with the crowd.

The Elliott School of International Affairs building on E Street. Hatchet File Photo

The Elliott School of International Affairs building on E Street. Hatchet File Photo

Don’t have your major picked out? That’s okay, plenty of freshmen come in without a major declared. Here were the top five subjects GW students studied last year, according to internal data:
1. International affairs (2,026)
2. Pre-business administration (725)
3. Political science (375)
4. Psychology (325)
5. Economics (284)

What have people been reading?

You don’t want to be behind the times when you step on campus next fall. Here’s our most-read stories of 2013:
1. GW misrepresented admissions, financial aid policy for years
2. Students mobilize to remove priest
3. A hot dog man, an allegation and a disappearance
4. Doug Guthrie out as business school dean
5. Manouch accused of sexual abuse
6. Law faculty plotted to oust dean
7. Top faculty leader accused of slander attack against Doug Guthrie
8. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to headline Spring Fling
9. The sham friendships of Greek life
10. GW to crack down on students throwing parties in off-campus townhouses

One last question: How do I join The Hatchet?

Every fall, freshmen can apply to be Hatchet reporters, photographers, videographers, designers, coders and developers. Here’s a little more info about us. Email if you have other questions and make sure to sign up in the fall!

This story was updated Dec. 19 at 8:46 p.m. to reflect the news that CapMac lives after all.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (15)
A Feminist Student Union panel discussed Halloween costumes and the potential for racism and slut-shaming Wednesday night. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer

A Feminist Student Union panel discussed Halloween costumes and the potential for racism and slut-shaming Wednesday night. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Rachel Smilan-Goldstein.

On the eve of Halloween, GW’s Feminist Student Union brought together a small group of students to discuss issues including slut-shaming, cultural appropriation and “Mean Girls.”

“We really based it off of that quote from ‘Mean Girls’: ‘Halloween is the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a slut and no other girls can say anything about it,’” said Negi Esfandiari, a FSU freshman representative, quoting Lindsay Lohan’s character Cady Heron. “We wanted to sort of examine that and see why that is and why that’s appropriate.”

Esfandiari said the goal of the event was to prompt discussion and raise awareness of issues that bubble up during the costumed holiday and last throughout the year. She said the FSU did not want to be “preachy,” instead opting to encourage participants to think about the themes and come to personal conclusions.

On the topic of slut-shaming, she advised against making assumptions about someone’s sexuality based on their costume choice.

“There’s no liberation in showing skin or covering up; the liberation is in the choice to do that,” Esfandiari said about the heightened sexual expression common on the holiday.

Sex and slut-shaming weren’t the only topics tackled. Students addressed cultural appropriation and racially-charged costumes as well, citing high-profile examples from actress Julianne Hough darkening her skin to dress as the character “Crazy Eyes” from Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” to a viral photo of a pair dressed up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

Halloween is about “dressing up as something that you’re not,” said Michela Masson, sophomore FSU co-chair. She said that cultural insensitivity arises because often people don’t think to respect the culture from which their costume draws.

Esfandiari gave the example of portraying an Indian woman and “wearing a bindi and not really knowing what that means.”

Ayla Engelhart, a graduate student in the women’s studies program who moderated the discussion, said she was excited to bring this conversation to GW because it “is a pretty privileged place.”

“A lot of people, I’m not sure the intentions are to be harmful or hurtful and offensive, but the fact is a lot of these costumes and the way they are appropriated are inherently offensive,” said Engelhart. “They think it’s funny, they think it’s humor, they don’t realize that it’s incredibly classist and offensive and coming from a very privileged position.”

For freshman Mallory Hernandez, drawing costume inspiration from a historical figure took  “[having] as much respect as you can” and a quick Wikipedia search. To complete her spur-of-the-moment Frida Kahlo costume, Hernandez donned the artist’s signature unibrow and colorful outfits.

Though she said portraying Kahlo for the night was an interesting conversation starter, she noted that more cultural costumes can feel unappreciated when you are standing next to a “sexy cat” in the line outside a fraternity party.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 5:57 p.m.

GW gets The Onion treatment

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for GW’s public image. Now, the kings of satire are piling on.

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski, seen here on his iPad, got The Onion treatment Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski, seen here on his iPad, got The Onion treatment Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo

GW was lampooned in a Wednesday story in The Onion as a school that announced it had “unveiled a new media center every single month for the last five years.”

The satire – a take on the higher education arms race, rising college costs and universities’ PR obsession – even dragged Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski into the joke.

“This ultramodern facility will also feature dozens of video projectors, music practice rooms, and a 450-seat auditorium that dwarfs the nearby Clayton Media Center’s 350-seat auditorium. It will ensure that our student body has full access to all the conveniences they require, while also allowing GW to remain competitive with other colleges that are adding their own media centers,” the story quotes fake Konwerski (not to be confused with @FakePeterK).

Of course, the new media center would force GW to raise tuition by $6,000 next year.

But modern facilities, practice rooms and auditoriums… doesn’t that sound a bit like what students want anyway? See: Gelman renovation and student space fight.

Maybe the joke’s on us, too.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (1)

Screenshot of the Yelp heat map for D.C. hipsters

Want to be around hipsters? Get out of Foggy Bottom.

That’s been a typical refrain for those looking for cool D.C. nightlife, or 20-somethings with tight jeans and big glasses. But now Yelp has the data to back it up.

The company’s new word map shows that the U Street and H Street Northeast neighborhoods boast the highest concentrations of bars, cafes and restaurants with reviews that include the word “hipster” in D.C.

(By the way, if you’re looking for a few bar recommendations in those neighborhoods, our bar bros checked some out.)

Neighborhoods like Adams Morgan, Dupont and Columbia Heights get some love from hipster reviewers. Even Georgetown has a faint glow of hipsterness. But Foggy Bottom is left out.

But where does Foggy Bottom excel? Reviewers like to point out that the restaurants there have plenty of bacon.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (2)
Tuesday, April 9, 2013 1:17 p.m.

We all scream for Free Ice Cream Cone Day

Photo used under the Creative Commons license

With temperatures reaching the mid-80s Tuesday, head to Ben and Jerry’s in Georgetown (3135 M St.) to nab for a free ice cream cone.

Or go to any of these participating locations.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Synths will pulsate through Merriweather Post Pavilion in May when Phoenix, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Passion Pit headline Sweetlife 2013.

Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos will take the stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion at Sweetlife Festival on May 11. Photo by Flickr user moses_namkung

The fourth-year festival announced its lineup Tuesday, filling it not only with big-time indie pop icons, but also hip hop’s burgeoning star Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé’s younger sister Solange and angsty keyboardist Youth Lagoon.

Artists like Holy Ghost!, Gary Clark Jr. and Lindsey Stirling will also perform.

Tickets – $75 for lawn and $95 for pavilion and pit – for the May 11 festival go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketfly. Followers of the @sweetgreen Instagram account can snag tickets Wednesday.

The festival will also pack in local foodie favorites like vendors Toki Underground and 13th Street Meats.

Held in Columbia, Md. and sponsored by the local salad chain Sweetgreen, the festival has gained steam over the past few years. Last year, big acts like Kid Cudi, the Shins and Avicii performed.


  • Permalink
  • Comments

If you plan on drinking Monday at GW’s Inaugural Ball, you might want to start saving now.

Drink tickets will cost $9 at Inaugural Ball, GW’s sixth ever. Hatchet File Photo

One ticket for an alcoholic drink will cost $9, which you can pay with cash or credit card, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. Servers will be checking IDs, she added.

Light hors d’oeuvres and soft drinks will be served, too, but those will be free.

If you want to check your coat after getting to the Omni Shoreham Hotel, near the National Zoo, it’ll cost $5.

The event, which starts at 8 p.m. Monday, attracted a sellout crowd within 24 hours when the $100 tickets went on sale in November. The University expects to recoup about two-thirds of the $600,000 it poured into this year’s ball.

It will be the sixth-ever ball, and the largest in the University’s history.

  • Permalink
  • Comments (1)

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was profiled Friday by The National Journal. Hatchet File Photo

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg was spotlighted Friday by The National Journal as the instigator of a “tuition arms race” in higher education.

Trachtenberg, whose 19-year tenure transformed GW from a commuter school to a selective research university, also oversaw the University’s rise as the country’s most expensive school after a decade of campus expansions.

That strategy to cover GW with the gloss of “cafés, beautiful study spaces, and nicer dorms” before it improved academically drew a stinging comparison to the nationwide concern about student loan debt and tuition increases.

“The way Trachtenberg saw it, selling George Washington over the other schools was like selling one brand of vodka over another. Vodka, he points out, is a colorless, odorless liquid that varies little by maker,” National Journal staff reporter Julia Edwards wrote.

“He realized the same was true among national private universities: It was as simple as raising the price and upgrading the packaging to create the illusion of quality,” she wrote.

Now, undergraduate borrowers nationwide owe $28,100 on average,  a quarter more than they did a decade ago.

Since Trachtenberg stepped down in 2007, GW has stepped back in the tuition arms race.

Annual tuition increases for incoming students and capital investments like the $275 million Science and Engineering Hall continue, but GW no longer counts as one of the top 20 most expensive schools in the country.

The University instead has taken on more than $1 billion in debt and pinpointed cost-cutting or revenue-boosting strategies through the Innovation Task Force like online programs or satellite campus expansion.

But Trachtenberg, who came to GW in 1988, told The National Journal he wished he could have spent more.

“I would have been bolder,” Trachtenberg said. “I devoted too much time and energy worrying about a rainy day.”

  • Permalink
  • Comments (2)

Enough with the filibusters. It’s time for bar crawls.

Two seniors want to calm Washington political sniping by bringing policymakers together over beers – and they’ve set up a Super PAC to buy the brews.

President Barack Obama, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sergeant James Crowley took part in a “beer summit” in July 2009 after a race controversy at Harvard. Two GW seniors hope more beer summits can help secure the country’s fiscal future. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Daniel Bassali and Winslow Marshall registered the Slam Dunks, Fireworks and Eagles Super PAC with the Federal Election Commission in early June. ABC News reported Wednesday that they hope to raise $5,000 by September, tapping the checkbooks of family, friends and online supporters to pay for events where politicians can discuss issues over beer.

“This used to be an old Washington tradition that has unfortunately disappeared. We are bringing it back. America is sick of the partisan divide that is keeping us stuck,” Bassali told The Hatchet. “We believe that if we have a friendlier government then we will have a better government.”

Bassali and Marshall, who are roommates and members of Pi Kappa Phi, have targeted deficit reduction as the Super PAC’s signature issue – hoping Republicans and Democrats take a step back from fiscal cliffs and have a beer to settle their differences.

Bassali said he and Winslow were “frustrated” soon after registering their Super PAC, unable to come up with the group’s  purpose. “This was a project without a mission,” he said.

“Finally, my roommate and I sat down together and had a beer. We talked about what we were most concerned about as college students who will soon be joining the work force,” he added. “Even though Winslow leans a little to the left and I lean to the right, we both agreed that our nations deficit and fiscal irresponsibility eclipsed every other issue we face as a nation.”

To encourage more fiscal responsibility, they will use campaign finance laws as their wingman. People have no donation limits when they give to Super PACs, which aren’t tied to official campaigns.

The Slam Dunks, Fireworks and Eagles Super PAC is the latest in a string of political groups that have used absurdity to drum up attention for their cause. Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” set off the trend, paving the way for groups with names like “Raptors for Jesus” and “Joe Six Pac.”

But Bassali said Super PAC stunts weren’t his motivation.

“The concept that any average American, even those still in college, could create their own organization with the hopes of making their impact on democracy intrigued me,” he said.

  • Permalink
  • Comments