News and Analysis

Judge Robert Okun ruled that Save the Corcoran's members who are currently affiliated with he Corcoran have  the right to represent their special interest in the merger. Hatchet File Photo.

Judge Robert Okun ruled that Save the Corcoran’s members who are currently affiliated with the Corcoran have a right to oppose the merger. Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Surya Greer.

Nine current students, faculty and staff of the Corcoran College of Art + Design and the Corcoran Gallery of Art will be allowed to intervene in legal proceedings to finalize the art school and gallery’s merger with GW and the National Gallery of Art, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled Monday.

Judge Robert Okun said members of the advocacy group Save the Corcoran who are currently affiliated with the Corcoran can make their case to stop the merger. Former employees and alumni cannot.

Save the Corcoran is looking to intervene in the Corcoran’s petition to change it’s nonprofit charter, a necessary step before GW can acquire it. Save the Corcoran blames financial mismanagement for the school’s inability to operate independently.

Okun said the smaller group is allowed to challenge the proposal because the merger “would fundamentally change the very nature of their institution.”

He said it has legal standing in the case because the members have a “special interest” that isn’t represented by the Corcoran or D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan’s office.

Nathan’s office has already sided in favor of the deal, endorsing the merger in 233 pages of documents, two weeks after Save the Corcoran filed its motion to intervene.

The members of Save the Corcoran will be able to voice their opposition to the merger at a July 28 hearing.

Save the Corcoran can now sift through seven years of the Corcoran’s audited financial records as well as the minutes from Board of Trustees’ meetings since 2010, the Washington Business Journal reported.

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Ryan Shucard, a press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., came into the Cannon House Office Building carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun. Hatchet File Photo

Police say Ryan Shucard, press secretary to Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., entered the Cannon House Office Building with a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun in his bag. Hatchet File Photo

The alumnus who was arrested for bringing a gun into a House of Representatives office building last week was released from police custody Saturday after pleading not guilty to a felony weapon charge.

Ryan Shucard, press secretary to Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination and will return to court on Aug. 7, CQ Roll Call reported. If a court finds him guilty, Shucard could face up to five years in prison.

But Shucard’s attorney said Saturday that his client did not mean to bring a gun to work, the Washington Post reported.

“Everything points to this being completely inadvertent,” he said. “Ryan didn’t intend to bring a gun into the office building.”

Shucard was placed on unpaid leave after he was arrested Friday morning. He allegedly passed through a security checkpoint at the Cannon House Office building with an unloaded 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and a magazine of hollow-point bullets in his bag.

Shucard, who studied in the School of Media and Public Affairs in 2009, graduated from the University of Northern Colorado before he attended GW. He began working in Marino’s office in May after spending 18 months as a staff assistant to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Shucard is not the first congressional staffer to bring a weapon into a Capitol Hill office building.

In 2007, an aide to then-Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to work. Prosecutors eventually dropped that case, Roll Call reported.

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Advocacy group Save the Corcoran hopes a D.C. judge will allow them to intervene in court proceedings for the Corcoran to turn itself over to GW. File Photo by Hatchet Staff Photographer Zach Montellaro.

Save the Corcoran hopes a D.C. judge will allow it to intervene in court proceedings before the art institution turns itself over to GW. File Photo by Hatchet Staff Photographer Zach Montellaro.

A D.C. Superior Court judge will rule Monday on whether an advocacy group has a stake in the University’s deal to acquire the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

Save the Corcoran, an organization made up of curators, artists, Corcoran professors and alumni, is looking to intervene in the nonprofit’s petition to amend its charter, a necessary step for the merger with GW.

In a room filled with about 80 onlookers, Judge Robert Okun heard arguments Friday from attorneys representing the Corcoran’s trustees, the D.C. attorney general’s office and Save the Corcoran.

Save the Corcoran’s lawyer, Andrew Tulumello, told Okun that mismanagement on the Corcoran’s part undercut the institution’s ability to operate on its own.

“We believe that management choices that have been made over the last several years contributed significantly to the issues that the Corcoran has brought before the court,” he said.

Tulumello argued that the Corcoran should release financial records from the last ten years, proving that poor management caused its collapse.

Charles Patrizia, the attorney representing the Corcoran, told the judge that the group’s concerns were already represented by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, who speaks on behalf of the public interest. Patrizia said the advocates lack clear legal standing that would give it a right to intervene.

“Concerns and fears are not the establishment of an interest,” he said. “A legal interest is more than just ‘I’m interested’ or ‘I’m worried’ or ‘I have fears and concerns.’”

Nathan endorsed the merger on Wednesday, even after Save the Corcoran filed a motion to block the merger earlier this month.

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The Israeli Defense Force salutes. Photo courtesy of Tomer Canaan

Troops in the Israeli Defense Force salute during a military ceremony. Photo courtesy of Tomer Canaan.

Updated: July 21, 2014 at 9:05 a.m.

When two GW students boarded planes to Israel at the beginning of the summer, neither gave much thought to whether they would find themselves in the line of rocket fire a month later.

But in the past week, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated, juniors Tomer Canaan and Samantha Beck have both heard air raid sirens that have sent them running for cover as rockets tear through the sky. Over the past week, Israel and Hamas have traded rockets and missiles, leading to two Israeli deaths and hundreds of Palestinian casualties.

They are just two of the six students who are registered with GW’s Office of International Programs as located in Israel. Nine others are in the West Bank this summer, and the University has not made plans to evacuate any of the students from the region.

Canaan, who is originally from Israel but now lives in New Haven, Conn., spent the month of June in a cultural immersion program in a village in the Galilee region, but has spent the last few weeks visiting family about 30 minutes south of Tel Aviv.

The first time he heard the sirens, Canaan said he thought it was coming from the television or a ringing phone, but his father told him it was a rocket siren, and the pair realized they weren’t near a bomb shelter.

“We are essentially sitting ducks in this case. If a rocket were to fall on our roof, there would be nowhere to hide,” he said in an email. “Unlike what is shown in international media outlets, Israeli bomb shelters are common, but not common enough that every civilian has access to a nearby shelter.”

And while Beck is studying in Jerusalem, further from the Gaza Strip, she has also had to rush to bomb shelters – twice in one hour last weekend, she said. Hamas fired several long-range rockets that were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system above Jerusalem.

A decommissioned Israeli tank on a hilltop overlooking the West Bank. Jeremy Diamond | Hatchet Photographer

A decommissioned Israeli tank sits on a hilltop overlooking the West Bank. Jeremy Diamond | Hatchet Staff Photographer

During some of the Hamas strikes, Canaan said he watched from the balcony of his family’s home as the Iron Dome missiles stopped the rockets.

While the defense system has kept the civilian casualty count in Israel at just one, Canaan said the rockets have had a serious psychological impact.

“Countless times I was awoken by rockets and I panicked and began sweating profusely,” he said. “The sirens and explosions do not make you feel safe, even if the Iron Dome system is shooting down rockets.”

Beck said she was inspired by how Israel came together as a nation after three kidnapped teenage boys were found dead about three weeks ago.

When Hamas began firing a daily barrage of rockets, Beck said she was “scared of the unknown,” but felt more confident after seeing how well-prepared the country was for the conflict.

She witnessed that readiness when sirens sounded as she was traveling on Jerusalem’s light rail. Soldiers instructed passengers to exit the train, lay on the ground and cover their heads.

Beck said her time in Israel has been eye-opening, as she has watched people carry on with their daily lives as Israel and Hamas trade fire. But living in Jerusalem, she doesn’t feel as threatened as those living near the Gaza Strip, where civilians have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter.

“They live with this notion every day, and it’s sad to think that it’s normal for them,” she said.

Canaan plans to return to the U.S. on Friday, but Beck will stay in Jerusalem for another month.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Tomer Canaan is from New Canaan, Conn. He is from New Haven, Conn. We regret this error.

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Ryan Shucard, a press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., came into the Cannon House Office Building carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun. Hatchet File Photo

Ryan Shucard, a press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., came into the Cannon House Office Building carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun. Hatchet File Photo

Police arrested an alumnus Friday on Capitol Hill after he tried to bring a gun into a House of Representatives office building.

Ryan Shucard, a press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., came into the Cannon House Office Building carrying a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun and magazine, Politico reported. The gun was not loaded.

U.S. Capitol Police arrested Shucard at 9:15 a.m. for carrying a pistol without a license, a felony charge. The weapon was found during a search that all staffers are subject to when they enter the building, which includes stepping through a metal detector and sending their bags through an X-Ray machine.

Marino’s chief of staff, William Tighe, told CQ Roll Call that the congressman’s office had placed Shucard on unpaid leave “until we know more about the situation.”

Shucard studied in the School of Media and Public Affairs in 2009, according to his LinkedIn page.

The Colorado native started his job for Marino in May, after working 18 months as a staff assistant to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. Before studying at GW, he graduated from the University of Northern Colorado.

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GW will pay for renovations to the Corcoran's 17th Street building as part of the merger. | Hatchet file photo.

GW will pay for renovations to the Corcoran’s 17th Street building as part of the merger. Hatchet File Photo.

The D.C. attorney general’s office endorsed GW’s acquisition of the Corcoran College of Art + Design late Wednesday, just days before a hearing on the merger.

City lawyers from D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan’s office said the deal would save the Corcoran from years of slumping fundraising, a shrinking endowment and a budgetary deficit, calling the merger justified in 233 pages of court documents.

“The District believes that the Corcoran’s proposed transactions will best ensure that the Corcoran’s charitable assets continue to exist in D.C., for the benefit of the public and supported by other artistic and educational D.C. institutions,” the attorneys wrote.

Their argument came just a day after Provost Steven Lerman submitted a letter to the court claiming a delay in the merger could threaten enrollment and complicate distribution of financial aid to Corcoran students.

D.C. Superior Court must still approve changes to the Corcoran’s charter before GW can take over its 17th Street building and art college, and before the Corcoran can pass on its 17,000 pieces of art to the National Gallery of Art.

Revenue at Corcoran fundraising events has not reached $1 million in the last five years, and the institution reported net losses for fundraising events from 2009 to 2012, according to financial statements submitted to the court. The records included past tax filings and written comments from 53 members of the public.

The financial distress kept the Corcoran from making necessary renovations to its aging building, according to the documents. GW will spend $25 million for the first phase of upgrades.

The Corcoran’s deal with GW and the National Gallery prevented the renowned art gallery from selling any artwork, the Washington Post reported. Former director Paul Greenhalgh wrote in a court brief that the Corcoran considered selling its art to salvage the faltering institution.

The city’s lawyers argued that without the merger, the Corcoran would soon be unable to operate the museum or school without borrowing from the dwindling endowment.

“The Corcoran and the public, accordingly face a future in which there is no Corcoran Gallery, and/or no Corcoran School, at all in D.C., and the 17th Street building is no longer viable for use as a museum,” they wrote.

The advocacy group Save the Corcoran – made up of curators, lawyers and artists – has tried to stop the deal by filing a motion to block the changes to the Corcoran’s charter. But city lawyers called the proposal “a short-term fix that will not alleviate the longer-term problems that the Corcoran faces.”

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A marijuana activist group submitted 57,000 signatures to get marijuana legalization on November's ballot . Hatchet File Photo

Those caught in D.C. with less than an ounce of marijuana can now expect a $25 fine instead of jail. Hatchet File Photo

Getting caught with less than one ounce of marijuana isn’t such a big deal anymore in the District.

Metropolitan Police Department officers will now set aside the handcuffs for a $25 ticket – and your weed – after the D.C. law decriminalizing the minor possession of marijuana took effect Thursday, following a two-month congressional review period.

But it’s uncertain how long the law will stay in place, with Republicans in the House of Representatives seeking to overrule the D.C. Council’s 10-1 vote. But until then, possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana will cost offenders less than the $75 fine for littering,

Under the new law, police officers must find evidence that an individual has marijuana before they can take any action – smelling the signature odor isn’t enough. Police also can’t demand photo identification from someone caught with less than one ounce of pot, the Washington Post reported.

Police can still arrest anyone caught smoking marijuana in public or in possession of more than one ounce – crimes unaffected by the new law.

MPD is the only police agency in D.C. with a new playbook for enforcing marijuana offenses. Federal agencies, like the U.S. Park Police, can still make arrests for possession of any amount of marijuana.

The University has not yet indicated whether the decriminalization law will change UPD enforcement of campus policy, which bars any amount of marijuana possession.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said UPD is still waiting for guidance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Students caught with drugs on campus are referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for disciplinary action and face consequences ranging from a small fine to suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity of the offense.

But University officials may not have to consider any changes if House Republicans have their way.

The House appropriations committee approved an amendment last month to a government spending bill proposed by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., that would prevent the District from enforcing the new marijuana law. The spending bill passed in the House on Wednesday, but will likely face opposition from Senate Democrats.

And the White House has threatened a veto if the bill reaches the president’s desk. The Office of Management and Budget wrote in a letter that the bill’s amended language “undermines the principles of States’ rights and of District home rule.”

Marijuana could even be fully legalized after November’s elections: The D.C. Cannabis Campaign submitted enough signatures earlier this month to put legalization to a referendum.

Voters are likely to say yes, according to a Washington Post poll, with 63 percent of residents in favor of legalizing pot.

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Updated: July 17, 2014 at 5:01 p.m.

The ousted dean of GW’s business school was one of the architects behind D.C.’s latest plan to kickstart the local economy.


Doug Guthrie, former dean of the GW School of Business, helped craft Gray’s economic plan. Hatchet File Photo

Doug Guthrie, who was fired from the deanship last August after the school overspent its budget by $13 million, spent the last eight months as part of a working group that crafted a three-year economic plan in the final year of Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration.

Guthrie left the University on June 30 to “pursue other professional opportunities,” University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said. He is now a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

Gray announced Wednesday the new strategy, which aims to spur development and start-up innovation. He brought Guthrie on as an adviser in December, just four months after he was fired for allegedly mismanaging the business school’s budget.

After losing in the April Democratic primary to Muriel Bowser, Gray’s economic strategy will go into effect in the final months of a lame duck administration.

If successful, the plan would create 10,000 jobs over the next three years while expanding the city’s tax base.

Vincent Gray, mayor

Mayor Vincent Gray announced a three-year economic development plan Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo.

The advisory group that crafted the strategy also included economic advisers in the deputy mayor’s office and consultants from the Kellogg consulting firm. They conducted 133 interviews with civic and business communities across the city, according to the release.

“The future of the creative economy in Washington, DC, is tied to visionary entrepreneurs and artists who have built it thus far, and government leaders like Mayor Gray who recognized that the District’s promise lies in its ability to draw creative individuals and innovative companies and nonprofits to its borders,” Guthrie said in the release. He did not immediately return a request for comment.

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GW plans to spend more than $25 million renovating the Corcoran's aging building on 17th Street. File Photo

GW plans to spend more than $25 million renovating the Corcoran’s aging building on 17th Street. Hatchet File Photo

As an advocacy group tries to block GW’s acquisition of the Corcoran, the University’s top academic leader is arguing that a delay in the merger would threaten enrollment and complicate efforts to provide financial aid.

Provost Steven Lerman sent a letter to the D.C. attorney general Monday arguing that if the D.C. Superior Court fails to approve a change to the Corcoran’s charter this week and waits until after the start of the fall semester, “the transition issues become far more challenging.”

“Delaying the transfer could create uncertainty that would discourage prospective students from applying, and thus could have a significant negative effect on enrollment,” Lerman wrote in the letter.

He added that GW would be unable to fully grant financial aid to Corcoran students without the court’s approval at a hearing Friday. Nearly 92 percent of Corcoran students receive need or merit-based financial aid, compared to about 87 percent of GW students.

The Corcoran’s federal charter must be revised, which requires court approval, before the institution’s buildings, art and college can be handed over to GW and the National Gallery of Art.

Earlier this month, the advocacy group Save the Corcoran tried to block the historic agreement. The group’s members, including curators and artists, are demanding the Corcoran provide a financial audit, appoint a committee to review the deal with GW, order all art to stay in D.C. and reject the agreement if officials find that mismanagement led to the Corcoran’s downfall.

GW will keep about 125 part-time and full-time Corcoran faculty after the merger, while about 150 Corcoran employees will face unemployment once it takes place. Lerman wrote that without a favorable court decision, the job offers and transition to GW would become “much more complicated.”

Provost Steven Lerman filed a letter with D.C. Superior Court Monday. Hatchet File Photo

Provost Steven Lerman filed a letter with D.C. Superior Court on Monday. Hatchet File Photo

Lerman also wrote that professors would have to receive their pay from the Corcoran’s dwindling financial resources, which are supposed to help cover the art school building’s restoration. GW plans to spend $25 million in the first phase of renovations to the Corcoran’s aging building on 17th Street.

The groups that accredit the Corcoran College of Art + Design have voiced concerns over the school’s financial state, but Lerman argued that issue would resolve itself once the school joins GW.

“A favorable ruling issued well before the start of the fall semester would help ensure a more stable and predictable transition, which would be in the best interests of the Corcoran College, its students, and its faculty and employees,” he wrote.

The Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Greater Washington Urban League, Cultural Tourism D.C. and the Federal City Council have also submitted letters backing the merger.

As the University prepares to welcome Corcoran students to campus this fall, it rolled out a website for the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. Students will move into their residence halls on Aug. 20, a few days before other students, and spend the next six days in orientation.

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Federal judges have once again ruled in favor of a university that factors race into its admissions process.

The 2-1 decision is the most recent in a series of rulings since Fisher v. University of Texas entered the judicial system six years ago. The lawsuit reached the nation’s highest court last year, when Supreme Court justices found that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had not looked at the case under a tough enough legal standard.

With the legal question sent back to them, judges determined Monday under strict scrutiny, the highest level of judicial review, that the University of Texas-Austin could consider race when admitting students.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, plan to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court again, which means the case could continue for at least another year.

In Texas, public universities automatically offer spots to public high schools students who land in the top 10 percent of their classes – a tool meant to diversify student bodies. University officials look at applicants holistically, using factors such as test scores, essays, socioeconomic status and race, to admit 20 percent of incoming classes.

Provost Steven Lerman has said that GW supports universities with policies that consider race in the admissions process. Hatchet File Photo

Provost Steven Lerman has said that GW supports universities with policies that factor race into the admissions process. Hatchet File Photo

The University of Texas-Austin managed to show that Fisher, who applied to the school in 2007, would not have gained admission regardless of her race because she was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and she failed to make the cut under the college’s “holistic” approach.

Affirmative action made its way to the Supreme Court again this spring, when the justices ruled that Michigan’s ban on the use of race-conscious policies at public universities was constitutional, making it the eighth state in the country to prohibit the controversial practice.

GW officials, including Vice Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed and Provost Steven Lerman, have said in the past that the University supports the consideration of race in college admissions.

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