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Christy Willis. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

Christy Willis. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

The head of GW’s office for Disability Support Services will retire this year, the University announced Wednesday.

Christy Willis, the executive director of DSS, will leave after 30 years at GW.

Willis, who began serving as director in 1990, led an office that works with professors to extend test-taking time, administrators to make housing accommodations and other staff to provide equipment to students. Over 900 students registered with the office last academic year.

“The legacy Christy leaves is one of service, passion, compassion and excellence, not only at GW but for disability support services in higher education nationally,” Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said in a release.

With 40 years of experience in disability support, Willis has led presentations at GW and off campus about mental health and also organized a symposium called “Composing Disability” with the English department. She previously worked as a teacher for the deaf and an interpreter.

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Albert Oglesby Jr., left, and Paul Willingham, two assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, hold a public information session for the GW community to offer comments on the University Police Department. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Albert Oglesby Jr., left, and Paul Willingham, two assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, hold a public information session for the GW community to offer comments about the University Police Department. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Sara Amrozowicz.

Only one member of the public spoke at a hearing Monday for the University Police Department’s accreditation review.

The forum is one part of the certification process that the department has undergone every three years. Before the hearing, two assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies described the process, which includes reviewing UPD protocol and an on-sight review.

Gabriel Slifka, the director of GW’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, was the only person to publicly speak about the department to the accreditors, using the time to highlight communication between UPD and his office.

“We need to work cooperatively with students,” Slifka said. “Communication is key as we address student concerns.”

Representatives from CALEA reviewed the department on site from Dec. 14 to 16. UPD will find out early next year whether it has earned reaccreditation.

The outside accrediting body also awarded GW’s police a seal of approval in 2006, 2009 and 2012. Only a handful of community members attended the last public forum on accreditation in late 2011.

CALEA has certified about 50 university police departments across the country.

Since March, three GW officers have filed complaints against the department for race, gender or age discrimination, which could factor into the accreditation process, CALEA’s executive director has said.

Paul Willingham, one of the assessors, said this year marked the first time he has personally reviewed GW’s police department.

“Their product seems to be improving each time,” Willingham said.

He added that the recent retirement of UPD Chief Kevin Hay would not have an impact on the accreditation process.

“There are still the officers,” Willingham said. “You gotta keep delivering.”

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University President Steven Knapp announced the launch of a faculty and staff task force Friday that will examine funding for employee benefits. Faculty and staff have made employee benefits a major area of debate across the University in the last year. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

University President Steven Knapp announced the launch of a faculty and staff task force Friday that will examine funding for employee benefits. Faculty and staff have made employee benefits a major area of debate across the University in the last year. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

A faculty and staff task force will take a deeper dive into GW’s benefits packages, University President Steven Knapp announced at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday.

The group will be charged with creating a set of recommendations about all GW benefits packages, which will help the faculty budget advisory committee decide how much money is allocated to certain areas, Knapp said. Rising health care costs across the country have forced employees to either pay more out-of-pocket or cut back on funds allocated to other types of benefits.

Knapp made the announcement after nearly 30 minutes of discussion about how the University rolled back tuition benefits this year, which allowed the amount of money employees pay out-of-pocket for health insurance to increase at a slower rate than in previous years.

“Clearly there was something that was done about it this year that had some unpopular features to it, and so the question is lets have a broader discussion,” Knapp said in an interview Friday.

Knapp said he will speak with the Faculty Senate executive committee to determine how members of the task force will be chosen.

The Board of Trustees allocates money to benefits annually, and has increased the amount about 3 percent every year for the last several years. The University, with advice from the fiscal planning and budgeting committee, allocates the money to different types of benefits packages.

After the Faculty Senate asked that GW’s contributions to health insurance increase, officials announced rollbacks to the tuition benefits program to save about $750,000, which was set aside for health care.

But staff members pushed back last month, creating a petition asking that current employees keep their benefits as they are now. Hundreds of faculty, staff and students signed the petition, making it one of the most widely supported appeals in recent University history.

The task force will have to look at the tradeoffs between allocating funds for salaries and for benefits, while answering the more “philosophical questions” about the issue, Knapp said.

“The faculty budget advisory committee I think has been doing a good job of looking at these issues, but it’s a relatively small committee,” he said. “I think given the importance of these issues to the whole University community, it’s time to probably step back, as we’ve done in a number of other areas.”

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GW announced that the new Colonial Health Center will open Jan. 5.

The center will bring Student Health Service, the University Counseling Center and the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education under one roof. The University also announced that the GW Parenting Initiative, which researches breastfeeding and parenting education, will have a space at the new location.

The move to the space that once held the Marvin Center bookstore has been in the works since November 2013. University President Steven Knapp announced at the time that he supported then-Student Association President Julia Susuni’s push for GW’s health and counseling centers to move from their K Street locations to the heart of campus.

As the waitlist for counseling has grown over the years, administrators and student leaders have lauded the new location for its larger space. The new center will have features like opaque glass and separate waiting rooms to ensure privacy for patients.

The center will be closed from Dec. 22 to Jan. 2, and services at the former locations will end according to their regular semester schedules.

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A Congressional spending measure will block marijuana legalization in D.C. Hatchet File Photo

A congressional spending measure would block marijuana legalization in the District. Hatchet File Photo

Congress could negate last month’s vote in favor of marijuana legalization in D.C. Thursday as part of a bill that will fund the federal government until September.

Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives agreed on the bill Tuesday, which lawmakers must approve by midnight to avoid a government shutdown. Under the spending bill, D.C. will not be able to legalize marijuana or allow the city government to find a way to tax and regulate the drug, the Washington Post reported.

The initiative would have legalized possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana and allowed home cultivation of up to three plants for those 21 and over. D.C. voters approved the measure by a 2:1 margin in the November elections.

Since D.C. is a federal district, the vote was subject to congressional approval, but city lawmakers had been optimistic that Congress would approve D.C.’s measure up until early this week.

Activists and city officials led protests Wednesday hoping to stop the budget deal from passing, including a sit-in at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., office, which lasted about two hours.

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Photos by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

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Lines for Monday’s taping of “The Colbert Report” featuring special guest President Barack Obama snaked down multiple city blocks, as students started lining up early in the morning to get good seats.

 

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University Police Department officers patrolled Kogan Plaza, where students lined up to enter Lisner Auditorium for Monday’s taping.

 

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U.S. Secret Service agents, including those from the K-9 unit, were on duty around Lisner Auditorium in preparation for Obama’s arrival.

 

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Stephen Colbert discussed the midterm elections results, the latest employment report and the ongoing health care enrollment process with Obama. He also tried to determine which numbers were in the U.S. nuclear launch codes, but Obama wouldn’t say.

 

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Obama is seen on a TV screen backstage.

 

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A teleprompter aids Colbert during his discussion with Obama.

 

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Students packed Lisner Auditorium to watch Monday’s taping of “The Colbert Report.” Their tickets were assigned out via an online lottery.

 

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Colbert shakes hands and takes photos with students after Monday’s taping of his show.

 

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Colbert waves goodbye to a crowd of students who gathered in Kogan Plaza to watch him leave after his show.

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Stephen Colbert interviewed President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium on Monday afternoon for the special episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.” Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Stephen Colbert interviewed President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium on Monday for a special episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.” Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

When President Barack Obama sat down with Stephen Colbert for an interview at Lisner Auditorium on Monday, Colbert took no time to grill him on key political issues – immigration, the midterm elections and why Obama chose to “burn the Constitution.”

At the taping of one of the final episodes of “The Colbert Report,” Obama held his own against a bevy of pointed questions from Colbert, whose character is a self-proclaimed conservative “pundit.”

The political satirist opened the show poking fun at GW, claiming it was named after the first U.S. president, “George University.” He also did a special take on one of his most famous segments, “Better Know a District,” this time called “Better Know a America.”

“When visiting America, don’t miss out on its signature dish, food,” Colbert said.

Obama appeared on stage in the middle of Colbert’s opening and, greeted by a standing ovation, told Colbert that he could take over for the rest of the segment. He then talked about the Affordable Care Act, this time in character as Colbert.

“This guy is so arrogant, I bet he talks about himself in the third person,” Obama said, referring to himself.

Obama used the segment to talk about enrollment numbers for health coverage while poking fun at congressional Republicans, who have tried to repeal the law multiple times since it passed in 2010.

He also talked about the ways his office has looked to get “young people” to sign up for health care.

“Young people don’t watch real news shows like this one,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama talked immigration and the midterm elections with Stephen Colbert during one of the final tapings of the Colbert Report,, held in Lisner Auditorium, on November 8, 2014. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

President Barack Obama talked immigration and the midterm elections with Stephen Colbert during one of the final tapings of the Colbert Report,, held in Lisner Auditorium, on November 8, 2014. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Students stood in line outside for hours before the doors opened at 1:30 p.m., braving low temperatures and wind before passing through tight security. Once inside, students took selfies with the Lisner stage in the background as they waited for the show to start.

Colbert filmed the episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014,” with an audience of nearly 1,500. While most regular episodes of “The Colbert Report” include segments with other correspondents or musical performances, Obama was Colbert’s only guest for this special.

During the interview, Colbert pushed Obama on the midterm elections, after Democrats lost 12 seats in the House of Representatives and their majority in the Senate.

“The election didn’t go as I would have liked,” Obama said.

Colbert then brought up the latest employment report, which found that over 320,000 jobs had been created in the past month.

“Why didn’t you fix the economy before the midterms?” Colbert asked.

Obama responded that even though there have been 57 months of job growth in a row, individual wages haven’t kept pace with the uptick in jobs. That meant the evidence that the economy was growing didn’t come until after Election Day, he said.

As photographers swarmed the stage during a break in the interview, Colbert and Obama spoke “pleasantly,” according to White House reporter Chris Johnson, and students took out their cellphones to snap pictures of the two. Before the show, the stage manager said the use of cell phones was prohibited, and students were frequently told by Secret Service agents to put away their phones.

Colbert also used his interview with the president to poke fun at the recent executive action Obama took on immigration.

“You realize you’re an emperor now,” Colbert said. “Why did you burn the Constitution?”

Obama said the executive action, which stops more than 4 million immigrants from facing deportation, came because Congress had passed laws on immigration but “left out things the president” wanted.

“Let’s focus on deporting felons and strengthening the border,” Obama said.

Obama and Colbert weren’t the only big names on Foggy Bottom on Monday. Prince William gave a speech at the World Bank condemning wildlife trafficking, after meeting with the president at the White House earlier in the day.

Obama last came to GW three years ago. In April 2011, he gave a speech on campus about the deficit and he returned in the fall for a World AIDS Day event. Colbert last spoke at the University in 2007 to talk about his book, “I Am America (And So Can You!),” in an interview with Tim Russert.

Colbert closed the interview, which was filmed in two segments and lasted about 20 minutes, by asking Obama to analyze his own time in office.

“Barack Obama: great president or greatest president?” Colbert said.

Obama said he’d leave judgment to the historians.

“I think I’m going to let someone else decide. Not you, but someone else,” Obama said.

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Stephen Colbert interviewed President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium on Monday afternoon for the special episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.” Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Stephen Colbert interviewed President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium on Monday afternoon for the special episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.” Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

President Barack Obama visited Lisner Auditorium on Monday for a sit-down interview with Stephen Colbert during a special taping of his show.

The motorcade arrived on campus at 3:06 p.m., according to a White House pool report.

Colbert announced last week that he would tape the final D.C. show of “The Colbert Report” – called “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014″ – at GW.

Obama and Colbert spoke “pleasantly, but were inaudible amid cheers from the audience and loud music overhead,” White House reporter Chris Johnson wrote. About 1,500 people were in the audience.

“The actual content of the show is embargoed until 11:30 pm ET, but take it from me: Funny,” Johnson wrote.

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President Barack Obama will visit campus Monday to appear for an interview with Stephen Colbert, who will tape a special episode of "The Colbert Report" in Lisner Auditorium. File Photo by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

President Barack Obama will visit campus Monday to appear for an interview with Stephen Colbert, who will tape a special episode of “The Colbert Report” in Lisner Auditorium. File Photo by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Stephen Colbert announced that he will interview President Barack Obama during a taping of his show in Lisner Auditorium on Monday.

Only GW students could enter a lottery to win free tickets, which closed Thursday at 10 a.m. Students will be notified if they have won tickets before Monday, according to a University release.

Obama came to campus in fall 2011 for a World AIDS Day event in the Jack Morton Auditorium. He also gave a speech there about the deficit and fiscal policy in April 2011, held a town hall in the Marvin Center the year before and visited Lisner for Attorney General Eric Holder’s installation ceremony in 2009.

Also in 2009, the Obama family attended a GW men’s basketball game in the Smith Center.

Colbert had said on “The Colbert Report” Tuesday night that he would return to D.C. to tape an episode of the show at GW. The special episode is called “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.”

The host of the award-winning satirical news show spoke on campus in 2007 with NBC’s Tim Russert.

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The D.C. Council approved $18 million in renovations to the historic Stevens School on Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

The D.C. Council approved $18 million in renovations to the historic Stevens School on Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Brandon Lee.

The D.C. Council approved major renovations to the Thaddeus Stevens School on Tuesday, preparing it to house a program for autistic students.

Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Council member and mayor-elect, proposed the emergency legislation for up to $18 million in renovations for the school, and to build a 10-story office building in the adjacent lot. Ivymount, an autism education program, will move into the 21st Street building once construction is complete, and will be the first occupant of the historically black charter school since it was shut down by D.C. Public Schools in 2008.

“We didn’t have any specific desire to move into the District, but when the opportunity came up, we knew it was a great location because it’s very close to GW,” Ivymount’s director of development, Molly Whalen, said.

Headquartered in Rockville, Md., Ivymount has worked closely with GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development to complete projects on autism spectrum and developmental research. The city will also use the school as a training ground for future public school teachers.

The plan has been well-received by neighbors, who had expressed concern several years ago when one group floated turning the Stevens school into an apartment building. Community leaders feared it would house rowdy GW students.

Part of the renovation plan, which was brought to the D.C. government in September, mandates site developer Akridge to erect a statue of Thaddeus Stevens, an abolitionist congressman during the Civil War, the Washington Business Journal reported.

The current site also temporarily houses a D.C. fire engine and firetruck while their original home at the West End fire station undergoes its own large-scale renovations next month.

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