News and Analysis

Professors from GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences held a town hall Friday to discuss hte health risks from the Zika virus. Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

Professors from GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences held a town hall Friday to discuss the health risks from the Zika virus. Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Janna Paramore.

GW’s School of Medical and Health Sciences hosted a lecture and panel discussion Friday afternoon to discuss growing concern over the Zika virus in D.C.

Douglas Nixon, the chair of the microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine department, provided a brief overview of what the Zika virus is and why health concerns are growing about it globally. He explained that Zika has existed on the African continent for more than 60 years, but the mosquito-borne illness has recently spread to almost every country in the Americas and the number of cases has increased.

Using World Health Organization data, Nixon said about 20 percent of people who contract Zika virus show mild symptoms such as fever and rash, while 80 percent of affected individuals have no noticeable symptoms. He said there is currently no vaccine for the virus.

Huda Ayas, the associate dean of international medicine at SMHS, addressed concerns about how GW is ensuring the safety of its students studying abroad in Zika infected areas.

Ayas listed numerous resources the school has for students, such as travel guidelines, mandatory information sessions before travel and strong lines of communication that include sharing information daily to students in affected areas.

“We are not banning travel because of Zika,” Ayas said, but added that the University is suggesting that pregnant students talk to their doctor before traveling or postpone their trip.

Aileen Chang, an assistant professor of medicine, said the U.S. is unlikely to experience an enormous outbreak of Zika virus because the country “has a very different risk.”

“The transmission of these diseases are very much related to socioeconomic processes,” Chang said.

Lack of clean water supplies, limited access to air conditioning and a shortage of insect repellant are among the factors that create an environment best for mosquitos, but Chang said the U.S. does not face these challenges on the same scale as Central and South America, and the region is likely to see smaller impacts.

Gary Simon, the director of the division of infectious diseases, said scientists don’t know much about the virus, but the issue has gotten great deal of attention because of a media frenzy. He urged people to continue waiting for more information on Zika before becoming too concerned.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Julian Baker

The national organization Men Can Stop Rape partnered with Students Against Sexual Assault and LoveIsRespect to roll out an updated version of an app for sexual assault survivors and college students.

The updated app, U ASK D.C., lets users instantly share their GPS location with friends and send a pre-programmed message to a specific list of contacts. The updates were presented at a campus event Wednesday.

Men Can Stop Rape partnered with all eight universities in D.C. to roll out the app, which is meant to be an “immediate resource, specific to college campuses”, said Rachel Friedman, the deputy director of Men Can Stop Rape. The “Ask D.C.” app works similarly, but is targeted at all of D.C. instead of just college students.

In the updated version, users can send a specific message to their friends or family, for example, telling them if they feel unsafe in a specific location. The app also provides phone numbers for area resources, including the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and the D.C. Victim Hotline. The GW-specific features include resources like housing and schedule changes, as well as counseling information.

Men Can Stop Rape worked closely with GW administrators and students to make the app personal for GW students, Friedman said. GW’s chapter of Men Can Stop Rape disbanded last year after low participation.

Ariella Neckritz, the president of Students Against SExual Assault, said the app is important to help GW students find every resource available.

“People often don’t know what’s available. This app is an important next step,” Neckritz said.

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University President Steven Knapp spoke about how D.C. area universities can better contribute to the area's economy at a Metropolitan Washington Council of Government meeting Wednesday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

University President Steven Knapp spoke about how D.C. area universities can better contribute to the area’s economy at a Metropolitan Washington Council of Government meeting Wednesday. Dan Rich | Contributing Photo Editor

Updated: Feb. 11 at 9:56 a.m.

This post was written by Hatchet reporters Robin Eberhardt and Yueding Wang.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments agreed to set up a task force that will include a group of D.C. area universities in discussions on how to increase economic growth in the region.

The regional government group discussed ways to improve economic development in the D.C. metropolitan area at the council’s Board of Directors meeting Wednesday afternoon. University President Steven Knapp and John Cavanaugh, the president and CEO of the Consortium of Universities in the Washington Metropolitan Area, spoke at the meeting about how D.C. area universities contribute to the area’s economy.

Knapp, who was named chair of the consortium’s Board of Trustees over the summer, asked the metropolitan government to more effectively utilize university resources to improve economic development in the region.

Here are the main points of the the discussion:

1. Universities are key to the D.C. economy

Knapp said universities in the consortium contribute $15 billion to the area’s economy. He said students coming from outside the region and from other counties are forms of export because they pay for tuition and living expenses in the area and increase tourism revenue in D.C.

“Two-thirds of students who attend consortium universities are not from the D.C. region prior to enrollment, which itself is an important economic growth because they spend money as soon as they arrive there,” Knapp said.

Knapp said GW also contributes to the region’s economy by participating in the D.C. I-Corps program, which to trains scientists on how to better make their inventions into successful products for real customers.

“We’re turning that around and getting the scientists speaking in advance to potential customers,” he said.

Roger Berliner, the chair of the regional council, asked for the consortium to pay more attention to community colleges with large student populations, instead of focusing on private D.C. institutions.

“From our perspective, I have to say when we look at the economic development, and work opportunities in particular, it is the community colleges that we’re asking to step up to do this very important work,” Berliner said.

2. Lifting enrollment caps

Knapp said the maximum enrollment and employment caps in D.C. limits the productivity universities could have in creating and marketing inventions. He mentioned the opening of the Science and Engineering Hall more than a year ago, and said that if the caps were lifted, more employees and students could capitalize on GW’s resources and add to D.C.’s economy.

“If we can get those caps lifted, we can bring more graduate students in here who would help produce more inventions,” Knapp said. “I can tell you that would be an economic engine for this city and for the wider region because some of those companies would be founded right here in this region.”

3. Helping the economy through exports

Berliner, the regional council chair, announced that the consortium partnered with the Council of Governments and the Greater Washington Board of Trade to look at ways the groups can bring in more exports to help the economy. The group became the 29th member of the Global Cities Initiative, which discusses ways to improve the regional economy.

“It is the very first time that all three of our associations have worked together to really sit down and say “let’s see what we can do to grown regional economy with the focus on export,” Knapp said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet misspelled the name of the organization that held the meeting. It is the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, not Government. We regret this error.

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Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 12:31 p.m.

SEH shut down after water line break

Updated: Feb. 10, 2016 at 6:35 p.m.

The Science and Engineering Hall will be remain closed to most students and faculty Thursday, according to a campus advisory.

Some chemistry classes will be held in the building and faculty who have offices and research labs in the building will be allowed to enter between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., according to the advisory. The building closed Tuesday after a main water line broke, according to a separate campus alert.

The advisory did not say when the repairs would be complete or when the building would be fully reopened.

Students and faculty will be required to enter the Science and Engineering Hall using the 22nd Street entrance and check in and out with University Police Department officers, according to the advisory.

Classes scheduled to take place in the building Thursday will be held in alternate locations, the release reads.

A construction crew damaged the main sprinkler line while working on the building’s seventh floor and water leaked into the main stairway and surrounding areas. Water, power and GWorld access were shut off in the building on at least Tuesday.

Classes and labs in the Science and Engineering hall Tuesday and Wednesday were cancelled.

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Student Association Andie Dowd said she will not appoint another nominee for executive vice president. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Student Association Andie Dowd said she will not appoint another nominee for executive vice president.
Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by staff writers Sera Royal and Crystel Sylvester.

Student Association President Andie Dowd said she will not nominate a second candidate to serve as executive vice president.

Dowd said during an address at the senate meeting Monday night that her first nominee, Zack Speck, was qualified for the position. Speck needed a simple majority to win, but lost by two votes, to replace former executive vice president Casey Syron, who resigned last month.

Dowd sat in on a 20-minute closed executive session during the last senate meeting to answer questions about Speck, who’s served on the SA for three years. Interim Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno has now served in the role for nearly a month.

Sen. Brady Forrest, CCAS-G, said he was “confused” about her decision not to nominate another candidate to relieve Interim Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno.

“You say you want to collaborate with us and I’m not sure why you aren’t nominating someone,” he said.

Dowd said she was willing to meet with members of the senate but noted that no members had reached out to her to discuss a possible replacement.

“I’m going to focus on my projects,” she said. “I nominated someone that fulfilled qualifications. He is my nominee and I’m going to stick with that.”

The senate also formally passed a set of reforms presented by a special subcommittee which reviewed the senate’s financial bylaws. The group presented a series of changes to the way student organizations are funded at the last senate meeting.

The SA expects its budget, half of which is funded by student activity fees and then matched by GW, to increase by about 10 percent next year, bringing its total budget to $1.37 million. The recommendations add about $30,000 to the pool of money set aside for appeals, funds that groups can apply for if they are unhappy with their original allotment.

Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller said during public comment that a survey to gauge student interest in a discounted WMATA program will be conducted in the next two weeks. The senate will discuss at its Feb. 22 meeting adding the referendum to the election ballot.

“If this becomes a full thing that the University does, it could give $4.5 million annually to WMATA. It’s a really big commitment if this is something you decide to do,” he said.

Miller said as the deal with WMATA currently stands, students would pay about $240 per year through their tuition payment. Syron, the former executive vice president, proposed the discount, and it would be implemented incrementally over four years.

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Campus has been cleared after an attempted robbery at 19th street and Virginia Avenue Monday, according to a campus alert.

The alert was set at about 7 a.m. The suspect is a five-foot-seven black man with dark clothing and a dark backpack, according to the alert.

If the man is seen, call 911 or the University Police Department at (202) 994-6111, the alert reads.

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A professor has found a reason why some people find the smile of presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tx., unappealing.

Richard Cytowic, a professor of neurology, attributed the unpleasantness of Cruz’s face to his unconventional smile in a Psychology Today article this week.

Crytowic, after noting how several members of the Republican Party have shown disdain for Cruz, said humans read faces and make instant judgements based off facial expressions, a concept that dates back to the survival instincts of stone-age humans.

“Senator Cruz’s countenance doesn’t shift the way I expect typical faces to move. Human faces can’t help but broadcast what we feel, what we may be thinking, and even what we may intend,” he wrote.

He wrote that Cruz’s mouth typically tightens into a straight line when he smiles and the corners of his mouth bend down, not upwards. Downturned expressions, he stated, usually signal disagreeableness or disgust, but in a natural smile the corners of the mouth go up and are controlled by voluntary muscles.

“For the record I am not a Democrat. I’m at a loss to verbalize what unsettles me so when I watch the freshman senator,” Crytowic wrote. “But it leaves me cold.”

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Updated: Feb. 6, 2016 at 2:10 p.m.

GW’s body donor program is no longer accepting donations after officials were unable to identify and return ashes to families, the dean of the medical school said Friday.

Jeffrey Akman, the dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said in a statement that officials shut down the program after discovering that ashes of donors were misidentified. He said the individual responsible for managing the program no longer works for the University.

The statement was released following questions from The Hatchet.

The program accepted the cadavers of individuals who wished to donate their bodies to the medical school and was housed in the department of anatomy and regenerative biology. Students learned using the bodies to get a realistic understanding of how the human body works.

Akman said in the release that medical school officials learned last fall that management of the program was not fulfilling the standards that “donors and their families deserve and expect nor what I would expect as dean.” He said officials then stopped accepting donations and began an internal review of the program.

“It is with deep regret that I report that, despite exhaustive efforts, we have been unable to make a positive identification of certain donor bodies and as a result are unable to return ashes to some families who have requested them,” Akman said in the statement.

Akman said the school has contacted the families of the donors who they “believe may be affected by the program irregularities.”

“Our foremost concern has been the families who so generously honored their loved ones’ desire to donate their bodies to science and medical education,” Akman said in an email. “We have been working very hard to reconcile the records, and we will answer any questions from family members privately.”

The dean’s office is now handling oversight and management of the program, according to the release.

“As the dean and as a former medical student whose education benefitted greatly from the altruism of a body donor, I extend my deepest and most sincere apologies to all of the affected families and the entire SMHS community,” Akman said.

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Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 2:20 p.m.

Gray announces he will run for D.C. Council

Former D.C. mayor and GW alumnus Vincent Gray announced he will be running for a D.C. Council seat Thursday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Former D.C. mayor and alumnus Vincent Gray announced he will be running for a D.C. Council seat Thursday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Joseph Konig.

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced his candidacy for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat Thursday.

His bid comes about two years after he lost his mayoral reelection campaign to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. In a press conference Thursday, Gray said he was focused on where he could do the “greatest good” if elected.

“I’m a public servant at heart,” he told WAMU Thursday. “This is an opportunity to continue to do things for people.”

Gray, an alumnus, previously represented Ward 7 from 2005 to 2007 and later served as Council chairman. He has lived in the area for many years, and has spent time fixing up his home there since he left office.

“Ward 7 is home. I’ve lived in Ward 7 for a very long time,” Gray told WAMU. “There is, sadly, wide dissatisfaction at this stage with the representation.”

Council member Yvette Alexander currently represents Ward 7 on the Council. Polling done by a pro-Gray political action committee, Higher Ground PAC, has Gray leading Alexander by 16 points, according to a press release.

Gray’s reelection bid was marred by a years-long federal investigation into a $668,800 illegal campaign fund that allegedly buoyed his 2010 mayoral bid. Federal officials ended that investigation in December without bringing charges against Gray. Gray has since said if it were not for that investigation, he could have coasted to a reelection victory. Several of Gray’s associates were prosecuted as a result of the federal investigation.

“When people ask why I am returning to the campaign trail, I tell them, ‘Because we have a lot of work to do,’” Gray said in a statement Thursday.

The Ward 7 democratic primary will be held June 14.

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Updated: Feb. 4, 2016 at 1:26 p.m.

Undergraduate applications increased by 28 percent this year, months after GW went test-optional, according to a release on Thursday.

GW received more than 25,400 applications, with a “significant increase” in first-generation, international, African American and Latino students, according to the release. Students who chose not to submit test scores made up about 20 percent of the applications.

GW hopes to enroll a class of 2,500 to 2,600 students next fall, a potentially slightly larger class than the 2,574 students officials enrolled in the Class of 2019.

Applications dropped by 13 percent in 2014, GW’s first decline in nearly a decade, after GW began only accepting the Common Application.

Officials attributed the increase in applications this year to the test-optional policy, as well as “targeted outreach” to high school counselors, data-driven recruitment and an updated campus visit program.

“We adopted our test-optional policy to strengthen and diversify an already outstanding applicant pool by reaching out to exceptional students who have been underrepresented at selective colleges and universities,” University President Steven Knapp said in the release. “These initial results suggest that our efforts are on the right track.”

Applications from first-generation students increased by nearly 1,100, according to the release. When GW decided to waive the standardized test requirement this summer, officials said they hoped it would attract a more diverse group of students. But experts questioned at the time whether the policy – which about 125 other institutions also share – would do much to increase racial or financial diversity.

When Virginia Commonwealth University went test-optional last year, the Washington Post reported that the school received between 450 to 500 additional applications after the change – far lower than the about 5,080 applications with no test scores that GW received.

Last year, GW admitted 45 percent of students, the highest admission rate in more than a decade, as officials increased the size of the freshman class amid a budget shortfall. GW relies on tuition for about 75 percent of its revenue.

The students GW accepted early decision have an average GPA that is “slightly higher” than the previous class, according to the release. Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Retention Laurie Koehler said in the release that is a signal “GW is on its way to enrolling its strongest and most academically gifted class to date.”

“We are excited to see such a diverse group of applicants who feel that GW is a great fit for them,” she said.

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