News and Analysis

University President Steven Knapp said his predecessor was free "to express his personal views." Hatchet File Photo by Elise Apelian | Senior Staff Photographer

University President Steven Knapp said his predecessor was free “to express his personal views.” Hatchet File Photo by Elise Apelian | Senior Staff Photographer

University President Steven Knapp highlighted GW’s efforts to prevent sexual assault on campus and support victims Friday, three days after his predecessor’s remarks about sexual violence generated a wave of criticism from advocates across the country.

Knapp’s message came in response to former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s comment that, to combat sexual assault, colleges should educate women about the dangers of over consuming alcohol. Knapp said the former university president, who now serves as a University Professor of Public Service, was free “to express his personal views.”

“My responsibility as president is to make my own and the university’s position – and the steps the university is actually taking – as clear as I can,” Knapp said. “My strongly held position is that sexual assault under any guise and regardless of the circumstances is utterly repugnant and unacceptable.”

He pointed out that the University hired its first vice provost for diversity and inclusion, Terri Harris Reed, in 2011 to in part ensure compliance with the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX. GW is also looking to hire two officials to replace Deputy Title IX Coordinator Tara Pereira, who stepped down nine months ago.

Knapp said this group of administrators “is advancing our efforts to create a university culture in which every member of our community understands that sexual assault must not and will not be tolerated.”

The statement was based on letters Knapp had sent to students, faculty and alumni who had contacted him about Trachtenberg’s interview Tuesday on the Diane Rehm Show.

“Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave,” Trachtenberg said on the show.

Media outlets such as Jezebel slammed Trachtenberg for the comment, and student groups on campus have launched petitions and written open letters to the former president in response.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Navdeep Kang was a fourth-year medical student. Photo courtesy of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Navdeep Kang was a fourth-year medical student. Photo courtesy of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Updated: Aug. 28, 2014 at 10:32 p.m.

Fourth-year medical student Navdeep Kang died after he was struck by a car while riding a motorcycle in Maryland, the University announced Thursday. He was 25 years old.

Kang and the driver of a BMW SUV were going in opposite directions on a road in Potomac, Md. when the SUV tried to turn left, crashing into Kang. Witnesses stopped and gave Kang first aid on the scene, according to a statement from the Montgomery County Police Department.

Kang was pronounced dead Wednesday at Suburban Hospital. The driver of the SUV, 46-year-old Ritula Mehndiratta, was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The Montgomery County Police Department is investigating the incident, which occurred at about 3:53 p.m.

School of Medicine and Health Sciences Dean Jeffrey Akman wrote in a letter to the medical school community that he had spoken with Kang’s parents in Pittsburgh.

“Nav was a wonderfully caring, engaging person, an incredibly bright light in our school, whose absence will leave a tremendous hole in our community,” Akman wrote.

The school invited students, faculty and staff to gather on the seventh floor of Ross Hall at 4 p.m. Thursday to remember Kang.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the name of GW’s medical school. It is the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, not Health Services. The Hatchet also incorrectly spelled the last name of the school’s dean. It is Akman, not Ackman. We regret these errors.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 2:33 p.m.

Cold War Kids to headline Fall Fest

Photo courtesy of flickr user Nan Palmero used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Photo courtesy of flickr user Nan Palmero used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Updated: Aug. 30, 2014 at 9:21 p.m.

Blues-infused indie rock group Cold War Kids will headline Fall Fest, the Program Board announced Thursday.

The choice is a departure from previous years, when electronic dance and hip-hop artists such as DJ Diplo and Timeflies have celebrated the start of the academic year.

Cold War Kids is best known for the 2007 single “Hang Me Up to Dry,” and is set to release a new album this October.

Program Board Executive Chair Liz Moses said the organization was looking to book a different kind of music act after Timeflies drew a smaller crowd last year compared to previous festivals.

“It’s a little bit of a test drive. We’re trying some new things and seeing how students react to it,” Moses said.

Moses declined to provide the cost of this year’s performance. Booking agency Pretty Polly Productions, which specializes in college campus shows, reported that signing Cold War Kids costs between $35,000 and $50,000. Last year, booking Timeflies was estimated to cost $35,000.

Soul-funk artist Moses Sumney, an up-and-coming solo artist who has built up most of his audience on Soundcloud and through a recent SXSW performance, will take the stage as the opening act.

Before Sumney, student band Bencoolen, another indie rock group that played the Black Cat in April, will perform as Fall Fest’s first-ever student opener.

It will mark the second time student talent has opened for a University-wide concert, following DJ Haile Supreme, who was a senior at GW when he dropped beats before Jay Sean at last year’s Spring Fling. Moses said Program Board hopes to highlight student talent more at its events, an effort that will continue when a GW’s Got Talent winner opens for Spring Fling in 2015.

This year also marks the first time in recent years that the student organization fair has moved from its spot in University Yard to H Street and Kogan Plaza. The fair will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 3 p.m., before the performances.

Students can also head over to University Yard early to grab the popular free tank tops, ride a mechanical bull and win prizes from various sponsors, including a chance to score free tickets from the 9:30 Club. Taste of GWorld will also offer samples from vendors like Whole Foods, FreshFarm Markets and Bobby’s Burger Palace.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled the name of the student band. It is Bencoolen, not Ben Coolen. We regret this error.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Updated: Aug. 28, 2014 at 5:22 p.m.

The Metropolitan Police Department is leading an investigation into a report that a male student sexually assaulted another student in the Phi Sigma Kappa house at 601 21st St.

The University will work with the fraternity’s national organization “to conduct a thorough investigation,” according to a statement released Thursday. The fraternity house is privately owned.

“GW takes all allegations of sexual assault very seriously,” the statement read. “We do not have an update regarding any charges or sanctions.”

Michael Carey, the executive director of Phi Sigma Kappa’s national organization, said he had not been contacted by GW and could not comment further. Interfraternity Council president Peyton Zere did not return a request for comment.

Campus police had contacted the suspect Thursday, according to an alert GW released at 1:47 a.m. “The investigation is continuing at this time,” the alert read, adding that students with more information should contact MPD.

GW first alerted students Thursday at about 12:35 a.m., describing the suspect as a white man in his 20s with “shaggy blonde hair.” He was last seen wearing a flat-brimmed yellow ball cap, a pink polo shirt and blue shorts. His name may be “Sonny,” according to the first alert.

Colleen Murphy contributed reporting

  • Permalink
  • Comments

The Global Women’s Institute will partner with international researchers over the next five years to study violence against women and girls in South Sudan, the University announced Tuesday.

The study, which is part of a project led by the International Rescue Committee, will aim to create strategies for preventing and addressing violence against women and girls during humanitarian crises.

Faculty from the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the Elliott School of International Affairs and the GW Law School will also work on the project.

The director of the Global Women’s Institute, Mary Ellsberg, and its research director, Manuel Contreras-Urbina, made a preliminary trip to the country earlier this month. They will return to do research alongside several other organizations, including CARE International UK.

“The cumulative effect of [violence] on women, who have been living in a war zone for more than 20 years, can be both psychologically and physically devastating,” Ellsberg said in a release.

South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, but war broke out in the region again in 2013.

The project is funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development.

The Global Women’s Institute, which was established in 2012, has expanded over the past two years, tripling its staff and forming partnerships with groups such as the Malala Fund.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Updated: Aug. 28, 2014 at 3:02 p.m.

How to prevent sexual assault has become a top question on campuses nationwide as colleges grapple with how to protect their students.

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg faced that question Tuesday in an interview on the Diane Rehm Show. And his answer has drawn a storm of criticism: Trachtenberg said schools should educate women about the dangers of over consuming alcohol.

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg caught heat for comments he made about sexual assault on the Diane Rehm Show. Hatchet File Photo.

Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is facing criticism for comments he made about sexual assault on the Diane Rehm Show. Hatchet File Photo.

“Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave,” Trachtenberg said on the show. “And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.”

More than 70 colleges and universities are under investigation by the Department of Education for their handling of sexual assault on campus. And last spring, the White House released a set of recommendations to improve college’s response to sexual violence. GW is not among the schools under investigation.

Jezebel, a liberal women’s issues blog, sarcastically called Trachtenberg’s plan “real fresh thinking” and a “failproof solution.”

Trachtenberg said Wednesday in an interview with The Hatchet that his response has been taken “out of context.”

“I don’t believe that because a woman drinks, that shifts responsibility from a predator to her. What I’m saying is you want to have somebody you care about like your daughter, granddaughter or girlfriend to understand her limits because she will be less likely to be unable to fight off somebody who is attacking her,” Trachtenberg said.

About one in five women will be victims of attempted or completed sexual assault in college, experts say, and about half of all sexual assaults involve alcohol, though estimates have topped 70 percent for both victims and perpetrators, according to a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Trachtenberg said solving sexual assault on campus is a “two-way street.”

“You need to educate the men but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to arm your women with the ability to defend themselves,” Trachtenberg said. “It doesn’t shift the blame, ultimately, but you have to be wise and street smart.”

While alcohol can play a role in sexual assault, experts say education programs like bystander intervention – similar to the sessions GW held at Greek chapters last year – can also help.

The University released a statement Thursday that sexual assault on campus will “not be tolerated.”

“Sexual assault under any guise and regardless of the circumstances is repugnant and unacceptable,” the statement read.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith declined to comment on Trachtenberg’s remarks, deferring to a GW Today article released Wednesday that highlighted sexual assault resources available on campus.

“Creating a safe environment is a top priority and something that takes a community response to address,” Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said in the release. “GW students, no matter their gender, should never fear sexual violence or assault during their time on our campuses.”

The University reported 37 incidents of alleged sexual assault to the Department of Education between 2010 and 2012, the most recent data available, and launched an anonymous survey last spring on sexual harassment, stalking and dating violence to gauge the campus climate.

Trachtenberg appeared on the show to discuss fraternity and sorority life on campus, along with author Andrew Lohse, Chronicle of Higher Education contributor Jeffrey Selingo, The Atlantic’s Caitlin Flanagan and Peter Smithhisler of the North-American Interfraternity Conference.

Here are a few tweets that followed Trachtenberg’s comments on the show:

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Chief of Schools John Davis said School Without Walls students likely will never take classes at the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, an elementary school that merged with the high school. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Chief of Schools John Davis said School Without Walls students likely will never take classes at the Francis-Stevens Education Campus, an elementary school that merged with the high school. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Maeve Tierney.

D.C. Public Schools relieved parents last week after it announced that School Without Walls students will likely never take classes at a local elementary school, though concerns remain over how one principal will lead both schools.

The announcement comes two years after Francis-Stevens Education Campus, a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school at 24th and N streets, escaped closure by linking with the G Street school. With 400 students enrolled this fall, Francis-Stevens will not have room for high school students in its classrooms, according to a letter from DCPS.

The city had hoped the merger would easy pressure on the School Without Walls’ building, which was over capacity with 585 students enrolled last school year. Classrooms are supposed to hold 450 students at most.

The letter from Chief of Schools John Davis highlighted the “positive student interactions and benefits of the merger.” Davis wrote that high schoolers had offered to tutor students at the elementary school, and School Without Walls hired an art teacher and guidance counselor using money from the two shared budgets.

DCPS has now decided to split the schools’ budgets, though the letter encouraged staff to “create efficiencies.”

Richard Trogisch, who serves as principal of both schools, defended the merger last spring after more than 1,000 parents signed a petition against the plans.

Terry Lynch said his daughter, who graduated from School Without Walls last spring, was “significantly shortchanged by the merger.” He said without Trogisch’s full attention, he failed to properly manage the top magnet high school.

“Having a campus split by a mile makes it even that much harder to justify having one principal,” Lynch said. “Logistically, it makes no sense. It’s almost impossible to have students at the high school over at Francis-Stevens because they can’t participate in the array of other activities when they’re not a part of any one class at Francis-Stevens.”

In an effort to lift the reputation of Francis-Stevens, parents have held neighborhood meetings with prospective families.

“They have been going to a lot of public events trying to get word out about the school, calling it a hidden gem,” said Peter Sacco, a senior at GW and member of Foggy Bottom’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

Chris Sondreal, who has a kindergartener at Francis Stevens, said Trogisch has helped elevate the curriculum at the elementary school.

“He rehired some of the staff and brought in a lot of new staff, and is really pushing academic rigour and really pushing the teachers who push the students to get to the basics,” Sondreal said.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

GW signed off on final agreements with the Corcoran College of Art + Design Thursday. Hatchet File Photo.

GW signed final agreements with the Corcoran College of Art + Design on Thursday. Hatchet File Photo.

GW and the Corcoran College of Art + Design finalized their landmark merger Thursday, several days after a D.C. Superior Court judge approved the plans.

The deal, now complete after a month of hearings in D.C. court, will bring about 180 undergraduate students to GW. The Corcoran will no longer charge admission to its 17th Street gallery starting Friday, according to a release.

Corcoran students will continue to take classes, which start Aug. 27 for them, in the Corcoran’s building. They will also have access to GW services and facilities.

GW has offered housing to freshmen and sophomore Corcoran students in University residence halls, while juniors and seniors can choose to have their names placed on a wait list, according to the Corcoran’s website.

“These inaugural activities, as stated in the February partnership agreements, are just the beginning of the implementation of the agreements, which ensure that the historic building remains a showplace for art and a home for the Corcoran school and its programs, creating a global hub for the arts at GW,” the release from GW, the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art read.

The National Gallery of Art, the third player in the merger, will renovate the second floor of the gallery, which will host exhibitions of modern art and works from the Corcoran’s collection, according to the release.

The gallery will close Oct. 1 for construction. GW will pay $25 million for initial renovations to the building, though total costs could eventually reach $80 million.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 6:52 p.m.

Mount Vernon’s ZeBi gets a new name

Unlike its old moniker, a Mount Vernon eatery’s new name has no allusion to male genitalia.

The Ames Hall venue ZeBi has changed its name to Zime, though its menu of flatbread sandwiches, salads and baked goods will remain the same. Amin Bonnah, an Arabic professor at GW, said he has a hunch about why food provider Sodexo wanted to change the name.

In most Arabic dialects, “Zebi” sounds like the word for “penis,” Bonnah said.

“Perhaps, someone was aware of the implication in Arabic of the first word, so they wanted to avoid that by changing the ‘B’ to ‘M,’” he said in an email.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said the name change is part of Sodexo’s rebranding effort, but declined to answer further questions. Sodexo is changing the name ZeBi, which stands for Zest Bistro, at all of the shop’s locations.

ZeBi opened in Ames Hall in 2012 after the building underwent 18 months of renovations.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

The Corcoran merger with GW. Hatchet file photo.

D.C. Superior Court gave a green light to GW’s merger with the Corcoran on Monday. File Photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

GW cleared a major legal hurdle Monday when a D.C. Superior Court judge approved the Corcoran’s merger with the University and the National Gallery of Art.

The judge ruled that the Corcoran could change its nonprofit charter, which will allow GW to absorb the art school and the National Gallery of Art to acquire the Corcoran’s 17,000 works of art, according to a joint press release from the three institutions.

The ruling ends a month-long legal battle with Save the Corcoran, an advocacy group made up of artists, Corcoran professors and students who tried to block the agreement and preserve the Corcoran’s independent status.

The court battle drew University President Steven Knapp to the courthouse to testify as lawyers pored over the Corcoran’s financial statements, fundraising history and GW’s role in absorbing the school.

“Today we take a dramatic step toward realizing a dynamic partnership that will safeguard the Corcoran legacy for generations to come,” Knapp said in the release.

The Corcoran has faced mounting financial troubles for decades, and GW has touted the merger as a way to save the reputable art school while boosting its own art programs.

Corcoran students will begin classes as GW students this fall and may have to complete GW’s general education requirements. They will continue to take classes in the Corcoran’s building, according to the release.

In court last month, Knapp said renovations to the Corcoran’s aging building on 17th street could top $80 million. The University has already committed $25 million for the first stage of upgrades – which will fix problems with heating, cooling and mechanical systems – starting in October.

GW has given full-time Corcoran professors one-year contracts, but about 150 part-time faculty and staff will lose their jobs once the partners implement the agreement.

Provost Steven Lerman wrote a letter to D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Okun in July pushing for a timely decision about the merger. Lerman said in the letter that a delay could impact enrollment and complicate efforts to provide financial aid.

  • Permalink
  • Comments