News and Analysis

Alia Bouran, who was born in Amman, Jordan, and started her career as a professor of environmental science, took on her first ambassadorial role in 2001 and has since advanced through government posts. Katie Causey | Hatchet Photographer

Alia Bouran, who was born in Amman, Jordan, and started her career as a professor of environmental science, took on her first ambassadorial role in 2001 and has since advanced through government posts. Katie Causey | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Hanna Willwerth

With her country embroiled in a nearby civil war in Syria, the first female ambassador from Jordan told a packed room of about 50 students and professors Tuesday that the country was dependent on its relationship with the U.S. to help support the growing number of Syrian refugees.

Here are the biggest takeaways from Alia Bouran’s hour-and-a-half-long talk:

1. Consequences of the Syrian crisis

Some 600,000 refugees have fled to Jordan since the crisis began, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees there to 1.3 million, in addition to millions of Iraqis and Palestinians. The refugee crisis has strained Jordanian resources and infrastructure, but most Syrians view their support as a source of national pride, Bouran said.

“You know that they fled danger, torture, rape and death to take shelter here in Jordan, so this is sympathy, this is something we take pride in,” Bouran said.

2. Jordan’s key relationship with the U.S.

The two countries have had a long-standing relationship that helped Jordan support refugees after the crisis in Syria broke out. Bouran said Jordan was able to “shoulder this mighty responsibility” because of support from the U.S.

The Jordanian government will use U.S. loans to invest in human capital, sustainable energy and new infrastructure, Bouran said. One plan looks to connect the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to produce electricity for desalination.

3. A focus on diplomacy

Bouran said peacefully reaching a solution would be key to resolving civil war in Syria. Jordan will continue to encourage combatants in the Syrian civil war to participate in international peace conferences to come to a solution, she said.

4. Advocating for a two-state solution

To resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian border dispute, Bouran advocated for a two-state solution. She said Jordan’s location, which borders both Israel and the West Bank, means the country is a key stakeholder in the peace process.

“This is the future of the Middle East. No other solution will provide Israel the security or give the Palestinians the state that they need,” she said.

5. A unique experience in the Arab Spring

While there were many demonstrations in Jordan during the Arab Spring, the country did not spiral into conflict or unrest like other countries. The Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization for international politics, has ranked Jordan as “not free” – which Bouran disputed.

“There were [11,000] demonstrations but no deaths, no shots. Police went unarmed and gave protesters water and juices so they could express ideas freely,” Bouran said about the conflicts.

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Terri Harris Reid, the University's vice provost for diversity and inclusion, was hired in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Terri Harris Reid, the University’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion, was hired in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

The Supreme Court upheld its ban on affirmative action in Michigan on Tuesday, a decision that could pave the way for states across the country to restrict universities from considering race in the admissions process.

The 6-2 ruling signals a shift away from supporting racial preferences in admissions – a practice that GW uses when considering its applicants.

Higher education and legal experts say the ruling could ultimately lead more states to ban affirmative action in admissions, but University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said Tuesday that the Supreme Court decision will not change policies at GW.

“GW continues its commitment toward using lawful and appropriate means to attain a diverse student body,” she said in an email.

Eight states have now banned affirmative action in public university systems, including California and Texas. Last summer, the Supreme Court also ruled that affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas would need to be retried in a federal appeals court, which justices said botched its decision.

Vice Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said shortly after she was hired in May 2011 that she would be looking to reevaluate the way GW recruits more diverse students.

She said in December 2011 – after the federal government released new guidelines that expanded universities’ legal freedom to consider race in admissions – that the ruling could give GW more leeway in pursuing a diverse pool of applicants.

“What we will do is look at the guidance to see if there are things we can do that we weren’t doing, that we may have been more cautious to do,” Reed said then. She was not available for comment Tuesday.

Mikyong Misun Kim, a higher education administration professor in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said a ban on racial preferences in college admissions could negatively affect classroom discussions.

“You want to, and should have, plenty of diversity in your class,” she said. “A little more diversity could improve a student’s perspective.”

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Massive development plans that will transform the West End neighborhood will move forward after a lawsuit delayed construction for two years.

The construction project that will revamp the vacant, 47-year-old West End Library and fire station will break ground “as soon as possible,” the developer’s president told the Washington Post.

It will set off a construction boom in the quiet neighborhood, with plans to build affordable housing and add retail space.

A lawsuit levied by the D.C. Library Renaissance Project, a group affiliated with consumer activist Ralph Nader, has held up construction since 2012. The organization sued the city for giving public land to a private company that planned to earn $40 million in profits in five years. The District Court of Appeals, D.C.’s highest court, struck it down earlier this month.

The Library Renaissance Project claimed that D.C. would lose $30 million through its deal with developer EastBanc, Inc. That arrangement gave EastBanc ownership of the downtown properties in exchange for EastBanc paying for construction.

EastBanc will invest $45 million in the project.

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The Metropolitan Police Department responded to a mob of 60 young people who were jumping on cars and vandalizing the area near the Watergate complex Monday, according to its public information office.

City police received a call at 7:12 p.m. reporting that about 60 teenagers were jumping on cars between 25th St. and Virginia Ave. Officers also deployed to the 800 block of New Hampshire Ave. after hearing of destruction of property there at 7:21 p.m.

No arrests were made, MPD spokesman Paul Metcalf said. A nearby resident, Trey O’Callaghan, said he saw officers question two young men, who had been handcuffed, about an hour after the group passed by.

Witnesses said at least a dozen law enforcement vehicles blocked off the streets surrounding near the Watergate. Police vehicles sped down Virginia Avenue toward the Watergate, where witnesses said they had seen a boisterous crowd of dozens of young people.

Brandon Morris, who lives at 24th and H streets, said he watched police officers order two men to get on the ground around 8:30 p.m. He had also seen the large group shouting as they marched toward the Watergate.

“The shouting seemed angry, then celebratory, almost like a sporting event,” he said.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said the University Police Department has no records of vandalism to GW facilities or the Foggy Bottom Metro station.

Dan Stessel, the Transit police spokesman, said the office did not receive reports of criminal activity in Foggy Bottom.

In recent months, there have been reports across the country about “robbery flash mobs,” where groups use social media to organize large, disruptive events. Last month, about a dozen teenagers robbed a True Religion clothing store on M Street, stealing thousands of dollars worth of jeans in several minutes.
– Zaid Shoorbajee contributed to this report.

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Hatchet File Photo

Hatchet File Photo

GW’s fundraising chief is the 18th highest paid fund raiser in higher education, but was beat out by several of his peers at GW’s top competitor schools.

Michael Morsberger was paid $491,816 in 2011 for meeting deep-pocketed donors and overseeing GW’s fundraising and alumni relations arms, according to GW’s 2012 tax filing. Chief fundraisers at five of the schools GW calls its peers, including New York, Tulane and Vanderbilt universities, the University of Southern California and Washington University in St. Louis, earned higher salaries that year, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education analysis.

Morsberger out-earned his contemporaries at Georgetown, Emory and Southern Methodist universities.

The top earner among the 14 schools GW says it competes with was Albert Checcio at the University of Southern California, who had a $722,317 salary in 2011. He ranked fourth on the total list.

Susan Feagin of Columbia University topped the list with a salary of $1,066,951 as the university’s former executive vice president of university development and alumni relations. She now works as a special advisor to the university’s president.

Since joining the University in 2010, Morsberger has guided the University towards a likely $1 billion fundraising campaign which will go public within the year. He also lead the division as it pulled in the two largest donations in GW history.

Last month, officials announced billionaire philanthropists Michael Milken and Sumner Redstone would donate a combined $80 million to GW’s public health school. In 2011, the University also received a $25 million donation for the GW Textile Museum.

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President Stephen Knapp

University President Steven Knapp announced Monday that GW would join the Real Food Challenge. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp announced Monday that one-fifth of all food at GW’s dining halls will come from local and sustainable sources by 2020, becoming one of the largest private universities to make the commitment.

GW is the first university in D.C. to sign the Real Food Challenge, a student-led campaign across the country to improve sustainable dining options.

“It’s important that we play a leadership role like this in convening dialogue about that, that we set goals that are aspirational goals, and then over time I think this will get defined as the dialogue proceeds,” Knapp told a group of students and administrators in Kogan Plaza ahead of Earth Day on Tuesday.

But Knapp said shaping GW’s specific goals would pose challenges – and take time.

“There’s a whole question about definition here: what counts as real food, what doesn’t count as real food? I just think as a University it’s important to be a part of that dialogue,” Knapp said.

About 9.6 of GW’s dining hall is currently labeled as “real” food, Knapp said. That’s far more than the Food Justice Alliance had estimated earlier this year.

Senior Jesse Schaffer, who has helped lead advocacy by the Food Justice Alliance, said the group will work with Sodexo to find more local sources for produce and poultry.

He and other members have researched a year’s worth of GW invoices to calculate its sustainability score, he said. That research helped convince Knapp to sign on to the project, he said.

“We’ve had hundreds of student signatures, large amounts of student orgs that have supported it, and so maintaining that momentum is key,” Schaffer said. He added that the group would focus on maintaining J Street prices.

Sodexo, GW’s dining service contractor, signed on to the challenge last year.

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More than 1,400 people have signed a petition calling for a brick wall to be added to the sidewalk along Baltimore Avenue and Knox Road, where senior Carlos Pacanins was killed after being struck by a car.

Media Credit: Hatchet file photo by Sam Johnson | Hatchet Photographer

Adding a wall to the intersection, which is lined with bars and restaurants near the University of Maryland’s campus, would keep pedestrians from entering the road before arriving at the crosswalk.

The petition, created by a UMD student and addressed to the city’s mayor, comes after four people have been hit in the area since January 2013. A UMD student, Cory Hubbard, was killed in the area in January.

“We need to make it so that all pedestrians are directed towards the marked crosswalks so that incidences like these don’t happen,” the petition read.

Since the April 11 incident that killed Pacanins, the city has stationed officers on street corners, installed temporary lights and placed large signs calling it a pedestrian safety zone. Police officers have also passed out fliers about pedestrian safety to people walking down the street.

The College Park City Council and Mayor Andrew Fellows sent a letter last week to the state highway administration, proposing to lower the speed limit by 5 mph to 25 mph, add flashing signals at the crosswalk and install better lighting.

Marc Limansky, a police department spokesman at UMD, said cars often drive faster than the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit in the area, which can become even more congested when the bars close.

Limansky said he could only recall two deaths in his 20 years patrolling the area, which he said was “very lucky given the number of people that cross the street there.”

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Jay Carney gave students a glimpse into the White House’s decision-making process Thursday.

Journalism and political communication students packed Jack Morton Auditorium on Thursday, listening to the former reporter and current White House press secretary detail the differences between both fields.

Formerly the Washington bureau chief at Time Magazine, Carney said he had never imagined himself on the other side of the interview. But since becoming the face of the administration’s line on the National Security Agency leaks, the Affordable Care Act and the Ukrainian conflict, he said he believes the new media landscape has increased sensationalism in the news.

The temptation is greater than ever for journalists to focus on smaller incidents, calling them scandals.

“I can’t tell you how many times the presidency has been at stake since I’ve been press secretary,” Carney joked.

Katie Causey | Hatchet Photographer

Katie Causey | Hatchet Photographer

Carney called the White House under Barack Obama one of the most transparent administrations in recent history, pointing to open communication during the botched rollout and the announcement of CIA Director John Brennan’s recent visit to Ukraine.

Even as press secretary, Carney said he’s not always informed about major decisions and that sometimes when a top official says they do not have the answer to a reporter’s question, they actually do not.

“I’m not always going to know everything,” he said.

Speaking to students about to graduate, Carney recalled his own uncertainty making a career move, but that he learned to trust his instincts.

“I woke up every morning for probably six months wondering if what I was doing was cut out for the job,” Carney said.

SMPA distinguished fellow and CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett moderated the talk, which lasted for about an hour. The event organizers also had to turn away dozens of student ticket-holders after running out of seats.

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GW students graduated in 2012 with an average debt of $33,399. Hatchet File Photo.

GW students graduated in 2012 with an average debt of $33,399. Hatchet File Photo.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Avery Anapol.

Students who take out federal loans will face even steeper fees next fall as interest rates surpass 5 percent.

Undergraduates will have to pay 30 percent more in interest compared to last year after a new law goes into effect tying interest rates to the 10-year Treasury note, Vox reported Wednesday.

The jump is still far less than the increase that would have gone into effect without last year’s stopgap legislation – though the interest rates will rise past 7 percent over the next four years, according to estimates released this week by the Congressional Budget Office.

This year, interest rates will rise to 5.04 percent from 3.86 percent in the 2013-2014 academic year.

Interest rate increases have faced opposition from Democrats. Led by President Barack Obama, activists and students launched the “Don’t Double My Rate” campaign last year.

At $33,399, the average debt load for GW students is higher than the national average of $29,400. But only 1.5 percent of students default on those loans, which is well below the national average.

The good news: federal student loans are subject to a fixed rate. For students who have already taken out their loans, their interest rate will not increase.

Congress will have the chance to change the law again this year, but its unlikely to lower interest rates as the government is projected to possibly make billions of dollars on student loans over the next decade.

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When prospective students size up colleges by their sticker prices, they’re only getting a sliver of the full picture, a GW researcher wrote this week.

Instead, students and parents should look at a range of metrics – from expected earnings to which kinds of graduates finish with debt – when deciding between colleges, said Sandy Baum, a higher education finance expert.

President Stephen Knapp

University President Steven Knapp has pledged to tackle the rising costs of college attendance.

Students should also factor in a school’s prestige and alumni network for job searches, Baum said.

“If you don’t learn anything no matter how cheap it is, it doesn’t matter,” Baum said Tuesday. “If it doesn’t increase your earnings over time, then it’s not affordable.”

GW ranked No. 207 for its return on investment in a report released last month, falling behind competitor schools such as Duke and New York universities.

Graduates made an average of $370,000 more than a high school graduate 20 years after completing their degree, according to PayScale. But after factoring in GW’s about $230,500 sticker price, that’s just $7,000 a year more.

Baum, who is also a senior fellow in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, is also one of about two dozen members on a task force to improve GW’s affordability for low-income students. The move comes after University President Steven Knapp and about 100 other college presidents met at the White House and pledged to tackle the rising cost of attending college.

While GW’s total price tag will break $60,000 next year, the average net price is less than half – about $24,000 a year.

Although GW’s loan-default rate is relatively low at 1.5 percent, the average debt load for graduates was $33,399 in 2012, according to the most recent data.

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