News and Analysis

Honors students at the University of Mary Washington will now have guaranteed acceptance to GW’s medical school, according a release published Wednesday.

Students in the public Fredericksburg, Va., college’s honors program can apply at the end of their sophomore year to the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. If they complete the minimum curriculum requirement, those students will be admitted to SMHS and will not have to take the MCAT, the standardized entrance exam for medical school in the U.S.

“We are delighted with this partnership,” said Diane McQuail, GW’s assistant dean of admissions for medical degree programs, in the release. “UMW’s Honors program provides students the ability to hone their academic, intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies defined by the Association of American Medical Schools as critical for success in the career of medicine.”

In February, SMHS announced a partnership with Virginia community colleges, where students with associate’s degrees can study health sciences programs at the school. The School of Nursing has a similar relationship with Montgomery College in Maryland and the Virginia Community College system that guarantees nursing students at those colleges acceptance to GW’s program.

The University has other feeder programs to the medical school, including some arranged with undergraduate students at GW.
Incoming freshman can apply to a seven-year accelerated program that cuts a year off of undergraduate study with early acceptance to the medical school, pending good academic and social standing.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015 7:27 p.m.

Asbestos found on hundreds of Metro cars


280 of the oldest Metro cars in use have been found to have asbestos. Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by assistant news editors Ryan Lasker and Robin Eberhardt.

Nearly 300 of the Metro’s oldest railcars have been found to have asbestos outside of the cars’ passenger cabins, NBC Washington reported Tuesday.

The hazardous material was found in the heater box behind each affected 1000-series railcar’s evaporator, according to a contractor proposal by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority last week. WMATA is asking for a contractor to remove the material and dispose of the 40-year-old cars as 280 of the 1000-series cars are phased out.

The 1000-series cars are the oldest ones currently in use by the Metro and are used on every line.

“It does not pose a hazard to riders. The only reason for this procurement action is due of the imminent disposal of the cars,” Metro spokesman Dan Stessel told NBC Washington.

Stessel also said that the asbestos is “non-friable, meaning it cannot be crumbled and will not release fibers unless it is abraded – drilled or sawed through.”

Metro spokesperson Sherri Ly also told NBC Washington that three of the 1000-series railcars have exposed asbestos, but they have not been in use since 2009.

Exposure to asbestos can have negative effects on one’s lungs and increase a person’s risk of lung disease and lung cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Metro spokespeople did not tell the news outlet where the contaminated equipment is one each metro car, but a 2009 WMATA document indicates the affected equipment is one the front and end of each 1000-series railcar.

A passenger can determine the series of a Metro car by looking at the number printed on the outside of the car near the top. The 1000-series cars have the number also printed on the interior door at the end of the cars.

The National Transportation Safety Board told Metro to remove the oldest cars from use, a move that was already underway and will continue once the asbestos are removed.

“As the 7000-series railcars enter service, Metro will begin the process of retiring every 1000-series railcar,” Ly told NBC Washington.

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One Metro Police Department director allegedly isn’t a fan of the maple leaf.

Laurie Samuel, a Canadian native who moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago, sued MPD this month because she said her supervisor, Diane Haines Walton, the director of the Human Resource Management Division at MPD, discriminated against her for her nationality, Washington City Paper reported Monday. Samuel claims in her filing that Haines had said Samuel “talked white,” which is not common for an “African American.”

Samuel began working as a project specialist in the human resources department in January 2006, according to court documents. Samuel started to take on more responsibility in the department two years later, and she noticed that Haines had “harbored resentment which manifested in snide remarks about [Samuel's] heritage and her work.”

Haines allegedly made a comment in May 2009 about how Samuel “talked white” despite her being black, and Haines also reportedly often started sentences by saying, “Here in America, we” to Samuel.

Samuel also said in the filing that she she wanted to apply for a better position in the department and was qualified for the job, but Haines was “very negative” in a discussion about the new position, which made Samuel decide not to apply. Samuel added that in November 2010, when she was trying to apply for permanent residency in the U.S., Haines tried to push Samuel out of her position to hire an American in her place.

The filing includes several other accounts of Haines’ discriminatory behavior because of Samuel’s Canadian roots, like trying to convince hiring managers to reject her applications to move up the job ladder at MPD.

In October 2013, Samuel was fired after complaining to senior officials about mistreatment from Haines. She is suing MPD for “loss of income, emotional distress, and pecuniary damages,” according to the filing. The filing does not list the amount for which Samuel is suing.

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Not everyone exposed to HIV ends up with the virus, a GW professor found.

Individuals with T cells called viral infectivity factor, or Vif, that responded to a protein in HIV did not become infected. The study was co-authored by Doug Nixon, the chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Tropical Medicine and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this summer. proved the relationship between the immune system and risk for infection from exposure to the virus.

Nixon said the Vif response could be recreated for a future vaccine. Finding that response in HIV-negative individuals would be key in creating a vaccine, he said.

“For a very long time, people have been looking for an immunological model that can tell whether a person will become infected or not,” Nixon said. “And now we have found it.”

Nixon and professors from other universities analyzed blood samples from a study that tested whether or not an antiretroviral medication could prevent HIV infection, and proved the medication was successful. That study inspired Nixon to research a vaccine blocking HIV, which would be an even more effective HIV prevention. And knowing what groups resist HIV will be key to developing the vaccine, he said.

“Some research groups, including my own lab in the past, had detected cells that reacted with the virus in people who were exposed to HIV, but who did not become infected,” Nixon said in a release. “And that makes you think, well, maybe the body is producing something that is helping to stop that exposure from becoming a systematic infection.”

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The University announced Monday that it will no longer require SAT or ACT scores, a move that comes after officials accepted 45 percent of this fall's freshman class. Photo Illustration by Katie Causey | Photo Editor

The University announced Monday that it will no longer require SAT or ACT scores, a move that comes after officials accepted 45 percent of this fall’s freshman class. Photo Illustration by Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Updated: July 27, 2015 at 10:18 p.m.

Prospective students will no longer need SAT or ACT scores to apply to GW, the University announced Monday.

The announcement comes amid a troubled admissions trend after 45 percent of applicants were accepted for this fall’s freshman class, the highest rate in more than a decade. The shift also makes GW one of the largest and the highest-ranked institutions to drop the testing requirement for applicants, allowing potential students to decide whether or not to include the scores.

The “test-optional” strategy was recommended by a University task force to help low-income students find success at GW, launched by University President Steven Knapp in 2014. Access to college, especially for minority and low-income students, has been a touchstone of Knapp’s administration, as schools nationwide increasingly focus on diversity and accessibility.

Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrollment management and a member of the task force, said no longer requiring test scores will make GW more accessible to “underrepresented” groups of students like minority students, low-income students and first-generation students.

“We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hard-working and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here,” Koehler said in the release.

Instead of relying on test scores, test-optional schools consider the future success of an applicant using their high school record and GPA. More than 125 schools are considered test-optional, including GW’s peer American University. Other peers like New York University allow students to submit results from Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests instead of the SAT or ACT, the Washington Post reported.

When Virginia Commonwealth University went test-optional this year, just 172 applicants did not send in their scores, the Washington Post reported. The school also saw about 450 to 500 additional applications after the change. A similar spike in applications would be a major boon for GW, because it relies on tuition for the majority of its operating revenue.

Officials have already expanded the freshman class to help make up for two years of missed budget projections. The University saw graduate and professional enrollment drop by about 1,200 students. Provost Steven Lerman said in April that officials expected to add about 150 to 200 students to this fall’s freshman class to boost revenue, explaining the higher acceptance rate.

Two years ago, GW admitted publicly for the first time that it put hundreds of students on the wait list each year if they could not afford to pay full tuition. The decisions impacted about 10 percent of GW’s 22,000 applicants each year, officials said then.

Dean of Admissions Karen Stroud Felton said in the release on Monday that the change will let “outstanding students from all over the world and from all different backgrounds” see that GW could be the right fit for them.

“Although we have long employed a holistic application review process, we had concerns that students who could be successful at GW felt discouraged from applying if their scores were not as strong as their high school performance,” Felton said in the release.

Homeschooled students or students from schools that use narrative evaluations or evaluations that do not include grades are excluded from the new policy. College athletes, and applicants looking to join a seven-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program are also not included.

Following the announcement, students and alumni took to Twitter to share their reactions.

-Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.

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Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Aristide Collins helped oversee GW's most successful year in fundraising. Hatchet file photo

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Aristide Collins helped oversee GW’s most successful year in fundraising. Hatchet file photo

Updated: July 27, 2015 at 5:31 p.m.

Updated: July 28, 2015 at 2:32 p.m.

GW tallied $230 million in gifts last fiscal year, marking the biggest fundraising year in University history.

In total, officials have raked in more than $770 million in donations since the $1 billion campaign began four years ago. The gifts collected in the last fiscal year mark a 21-percent increase from the year before, a positive sign for a school that has consistently aimed to grow its donor base.

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Aristide Collins confirmed in a statement that he expects all schools and units of the University to reach their specific campaign goals. The campaign has three years left, and officials had raised about half of the goal before the campaign publicly launched last summer.

“The momentum we have achieved is enabling us to focus on unmet needs,” Collins said. “We look forward to engaging an even broader spectrum of alumni, faculty and staff and friends as the campaign proceeds.”

Twenty-three donors made gifts of more than $1 million, three fewer than in fiscal year 2014. In total, 200 donors have given gifts larger than $100,000, according to a release, which made up 88 percent of the total fundraising haul. University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the number of donations held steady with fiscal year 2014, and totaled about 22,000 donors, but annual giving amounts increased in the last fiscal year.

In May, alumnus Gilbert Cisneros and his wife donated $7 million to establish the GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute and a scholarship fund for Hispanic students. Other gifts include $30 million from Siemens and $1 million from trustee and 1976 alumnus George Wellde to the Center for Career Services.

Assets gained from the University’s takeover of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, worth about $28 million, according to 2012 tax filings, were also included in last fiscal year’s donation total.

The amount given by donors who pledged annual gifts increased by 25 percent last fiscal year, the fourth year that annual gifts have increased. GW received about $15 million in annual gifts last fiscal year, according to the release.

Donations from undergraduate alumni grew by 5 percent last fiscal year. GW has historically had rates of alumni donations that are lower than its peers. Fundraising blitzes like Flag Day held during the last academic year were used to spur on donations from young alumni. Sixty percent of the past graduating class of seniors made gifts to the University, the highest-ever participation to the Senior Class gift campaign.

Nearly 57,000 people have contributed to the $1 billion fundraising campaign that went public last June, according to the campaign’s website.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to provide a monthly breakdown of fundraising totals and the average amount of each donation. She said that averages “can be skewed based on large gifts.” The release also did not say how many people donated to the University last fiscal year. About 22,000 people donated in fiscal year 2014.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the number of people who made annual gifts increased by 25 percent. The amount of annual gifts actually increased by 25 percent. We regret this error.

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Updated: July 27, 2015 at 3:37 p.m.

Summer reading is no longer mandatory for incoming freshmen.

The University’s “First Chapter” program, which assigned one book for all freshmen to read before moving on campus in August, has been discontinued after nearly a decade, University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt confirmed in an email. He said students’ interest in the books have lagged in the past few years.

“The First Chapter program was conceived as a way to unify the entire freshman class around reading, writing and discussion assignments,” Hiatt said. “In recent years, participation in activities around the book selected has been relatively light.”

The University launched the reading program in 2006 as a way for students to bond in the first weeks of freshman year, according to a 2011 University release. All students received a free copy of that year’s book at Colonial Inauguration.

The reading program’s books were never required reading for freshmen, but some classes used the book as supplemental material. Last year, one University Writing class centered its curriculum on the reading.

Participation in the program’s essay writing competition had dropped off in recent years. 2010 saw nearly 200 essay submissions, but that number dropped to 58 in 2011.

Hiatt added that the University will “continue to have many opportunities for students to read, reflect and write — including a required first-year writing experience.”

Last year’s selected novel, “The Good Food Revolution” by Will Allen, which chronicled Allen’s journey to create an urban farming system, sparked a research essay competition and a lecture in Lisner Auditorium given by Allen.

College summer reading programs have gained traction nationally over the past few years, with university officials beefing up their curriculum related to the book and often inviting the author to campus to discuss his or her work. While critics complain of a lack of fiction and classic texts being included on the lists, more colleges are encouraging their faculty to become more involved with teaching the book.

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One of the suspects arrested in an attempted carjacking near campus early Wednesday morning was also part of multiple car thefts and another carjacking in D.C., The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Davon Holland, 19, was one of two suspects arrested in an off-campus carjacking attempt. During the incident, a Metropolitan Police Department officer “inadvertently” fired his gun while getting out of his squad car near 23rd and H streets but did not injure himself or others, The Post reported. Holland was arrested near Munson Hall after a resident student reported a “suspicion person” hiding near the building, according to a campus alert.

The incident began when a man was held at gunpoint while trying to enter his green 2014 Toyota Prius on Tuesday night on Georgia Avenue, The Post reported. That vehicle was found about five blocks away, and the suspects allegedly then stole a Ford Fusion and a silver Ford Focus. When police officers attempted to stop the silver car, the Fusion and another car on Foxhall Road, the Fusion’s driver rammed a police car and led officers on a chase that ended on GW’s campus through 24th street, The Post reported.

MPD officers notified University Police Department officers of the incident around 3:30 a.m., according to a campus alert. Police arrested Holland, who they say was driving the Fusion, and charged him with armed carjacking, assault on a police officer and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, according to The Post. MPD officers also arrested a juvenile, according to The Post.

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The Milken Institute School of Public Health has features like a green roof that collects rainwater. Hatchet File Photo

The Milken Institute School of Public Health has features like a green roof that collects rainwater. Hatchet File Photo

The Milken Institute School of Public Health building glows the greenest in the District this year.

The National Capital chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Paladino and Company the “New Construction Award,” for their work on the school’s eco-friendly design this week, according to a release from the organization. Paladino and Company worked on the project as a green building consultant.

“A panel of leaders from various fields within the local sustainable design community and development industry” determined the award recipients, the release said.

The building received Gw’s first and only platinum LEED certification last July. The platinum rating is the USGBC’s highest sustainability rating.

Features like environmentally efficient heating and air conditioning systems and a green roof that collects rainwater contributed to the building’s LEED ranking. The school’s building also has hidden elevators and prominently located staircases to reduce building energy use and encourage people to use the stairs.

The organization honored five other construction projects in the District, which the release said “exemplify green building practices and principles.”

GW has a total of 11 LEED certified buildings, with the GW Museum and Textile Museum most recently receiving a gold certification in January. University President Steven Knapp has placed sustainability at the forefront of his administration since coming on board in 2007.

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Three members of GW’s physics department are spreading the word on a phenomenon happening 7,500 light years away.

Oleg Kargaltsev, an assistant professor of astrophysics, Jeremy Hare, a graduate student studying nuclear physics and Blagoy Rangelov, a postdoctoral fellow in the department, joined researchers from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Florida to publish an article in “The Astrophysical Journal” about a star that reportedly “punched a hole” in a gas disk near another star, according to a release published Wednesday.

A rotating star about 7,500 light years away from Earth, called a pulsar, caused a puncture in a gas disk located close to a nearby star, called its companion star. That hole forced a fragment of the disk to launch away from the two-star system at a rate of about 4 million miles per hour, the release said.

The pulsar, which is smaller than its neighbor star – which is roughly 30 times the size of the sun – is what’s left of a star that underwent a “supernova explosion,” or died out. The mass rotates 20 times per second and generates winds around it that near the speed of light.

The fragment that floated away from the stars is about 100 times larger than the size of the solar system, but is relatively flat, the release said. The gas fragment’s mass is about equal to the mass of all the earth’s water.

“After this clump of stellar material was knocked out, the pulsar’s wind appears to have accelerated it, almost as if it had a rocket attached,” Kargaltsev said in the release.

The group of physicists have observed the stars and the fragment of the gas disk three times since 2011. The most recent view occurred in February 2014, when the speed of the fragment reached about 15 percent of the speed of light.

Rangelov said in an email that the researchers are continuing to watch the system and has scheduled two more observations of the stars over the next two years.

“The binary system is very unique and definitely worth monitoring,” he said. “Of particular interest is, of course, the fast-moving clump that is seen in X-rays.”

NASA has given the researchers the chance to look at this system with its Chandra X-ray Observatory, which launched into space in 1999 as the organization’s “flagship mission for X-ray astronomy,” according to its website.

“With the additional observations from Chandra we will continue to trace the movement of the clump and study its X-ray properties,” Rangelov said. “This is a unique event that gives us the opportunity to gain rare insight into the physics of stellar disks and pulsar winds.”

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