News and Analysis

A GW employee was arrested last week in Eckles Library for assaulting another employee, a University spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said in an email that one employee reported minor injuries after another employee hit him “with a piece of equipment.”

“No guns or other weapons were involved,” she said.

The two employees were in a “verbal altercation” before one of them “picked up a silver metal object and began to strike” the other man in the head and face, causing “lacerations and bruises,” according to an arrest document from the Metropolitan Police Department.

The employee who was assaulted is not named in the documents, but the report states that he is 36 years old, male and a resident of northwest D.C. He was transported to Georgetown University Hospital for treatment, according to the document.

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The Avenir Foundation donated $5 million to the GW Museum and Textile Museum, the University announced Thursday.  Hatchet File Photo. Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Photographer

The Avenir Foundation donated $5 million to the GW Museum and Textile Museum, the University announced Thursday. Hatchet file photo by Jordan McDonald | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Avenir Foundation donated $5 million to update the conservation facility for the George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum, the University announced Thursday.

The facility, which will now be named the Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center, is located on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus. Officials will use the donation to purchase equipment for preserving items in the museum like a vacuum for cleaning the textiles gently and a microscope to study the weave structures of the items, according to a release.

The money will also go toward an endowment fund to hire and train conservation staff and cover other costs for the conservation lab in Virginia, the release stated.

The $5 million was given in two parts – partially in 2014 to purchase custom storage for the museum’s exhibits and for an endowed chair at the museum, and $2.19 million this March to create the Avenir Foundation Endowment for Textile Museum Conservation, according to the release.

The foundation, based in Colorado, supports projects in the arts and humanities, and has donated to the Textile Museum since 1994, the release stated.

John Wetenhall, the director of the GW and Textile museums, said in the release that the “significant” donation will be put toward the long-term preservation of the textiles.

“The textiles in our collections highlight the stories of diverse populations around the world,” he said in the release. “We are committed to preserving these textiles as we continue to showcase one of the world’s premiere collections of textiles.”

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The Department of Energy will award $430,000 to the GW’s Solar Institute to fund a two-year education project, according to a release Thursday.

Working in partnership with GW Planet Forward and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Solar Institute will develop a series of multimedia materials to educate firefighters, real estate agents, financiers and others about solar energy.

Amit Ronen, the director of the Solar Institute, said in the release that as solar energy becomes more popular, it is necessary to educate people about its benefits and risks. For example, firefighters may need training to know how to put out a fire on a rooftop solar panel, he said.

“We know our target audiences are super busy and don’t have the time or patience to sit through a day long training, so our goal is to use cutting-edge multimedia tools that will provide them with concise information in accessible and entertaining formats,” Ronen said.

The award comes from the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, a $10 million project aimed at educating the public about solar energy. The project will connect veterans with jobs in the solar industry through the Solar Ready Vets program.

The multimedia series funded through the grant will include educational and entertaining videos to explain topics that the Solar Institute will choose via a survey. The videos will be available to the public on the Solar Institute’s website.

Students and participants of Planet Forward, founded by School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno, will produce and edit videos.

“Storytelling can have immense impact to communicate information, best practices and the excitement of innovation,” Sesno said in a release. “Nowhere is this more apparent than in the story of solar, which is changing the energy landscape.”

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Updated: May 26, 2016 at 9:09 p.m.

Officials cut about 40 staff positions as part of the University’s most recent round of budget cuts.

GW’s libraries, technology, student affairs, safety and security and treasurer’s offices were all either reorganized or saw jobs eliminated, according to a University release. These were the first changes to come out of budget cuts to the University’s central administration, which University President Steven Knapp said in January would trim budgets 3 to 5 percent each year for the next five years.

Some of the roughly 40 eliminated positions included jobs that were already vacant or became vacant when staffers retired, according to the release.

The Office of Parent Services has also been dissolved, and will be replaced by a new department of Student Support and Family Engagement, which will be run by current student affairs staff.

Officials will also hire a new executive director to oversee the Colonial Health Center, which houses all of GW’s health services.

Peter Konwerski, the vice provost and dean of student affairs, said in the release that these changes were made with input from students, parents, staff, faculty and alumni.

“We remain committed to providing an array of services to parents and families,” Konwerski said in the release. “We believe this new structure will better align existing staff resources to work with the increasingly diverse mix of parents and families who work with the university to support their students through graduation.”

Konwerski said in an emailed statement that the new position, Executive Director of CHC, will eliminate the senior associate dean of students position, which Mark Levine held. He said an outside firm will help the University search for a director who has an “academic background in mental health or medicine” and prior administrative experience at a university.

“We are very grateful for Mark’s commitment to students at GW for the past 20+ years,” Konwerski said in the email. “We are working closely with him as we transition the current team in Colonial Health to this new structure, under a new Executive Director.”

Konwerski also said in the email that the transition in the student affairs office will eliminate the position of Director of Academic Integrity, currently held by Tim Terpstra. Andrew Sonn will oversee both the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, and report to Associate Dean Danielle Lico. Terpstra has been at the University for 20 years.

Within the University’s safety and security office, the Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Health and Safety will be consolidated into a new Office of Health and Emergency Management Services, according to the release.

Darrell Darnell, the senior associate vice president for safety and security, said in the release that the changes will take place this summer, and that they will increase the effectiveness of the two offices.

Interim Provost Forrest Maltzman said in the release that the decisions were made to direct more resources for the aid student and their families need, but conceded that the changes will impact students, faculty and staff.

“We’re trying to do this in a sensitive way to minimize the impact on our students and faculty,” Maltzman said in the release. “For example, we’ve reduced our IT Support Center call hours – based on limited demand – as a way to strategically adjust services.”

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 10:24 p.m.

Congress votes against D.C. budget autonomy

Congress approved a bill that rejects budget autonomy in D.C., The Hill reported Wednesday.

The approved bill repeals the D.C. Budget Autonomy Act, which would have allowed city officials to control how locally raised funds are spent. More than 80 percent of District residents approved of budget autonomy in a 2013 referendum, and a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the budget autonomy act in March.

The new bill, supported by Republicans and two Democratic members of the House of Representatives Wednesday, blocks D.C. from being able to spend funds on things like abortion clinics or regulating marijuana without Congressional approval. Republicans like Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, the chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee, argued that the budget autonomy measure violates the 1973 Home Rule Act, which established Congressional oversight for D.C.’s funds.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting representative in Congress, called the legislation “undemocratic” during the House meeting.

“It is profoundly undemocratic for any member of Congress in the 21st century to declare that he has authority over any jurisdiction except his own,” Norton said, according to The Hill.

The president’s advisers will recommend that U.S. President Barack Obama veto the Republican bill, according to a statement from the White House. The president “strongly supports” D.C. budget autonomy, according to the statement.

“Subjecting the District to the lengthy and uncertain congressional appropriations process for its use of local tax collections imposes both operational and financial hardships on the District, burdens not borne by any other local government in the country,” according to the statement.

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Researchers from GW, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Georgia found in a new study that conspiracy theories surrounding Zika virus vaccines published on social media can put vulnerable people at risk of not following medical advice, according to Science Daily.

The researchers, including David Broniatowski, a professor of engineering management and systems engineering at GW, used real-time social media monitoring to find conversations about Zika virus vaccines and identify the conspiracy theories being discussed.

“Even though the science is relatively clear, we found many conspiracy theories that could be affecting people’s health-related decisions, such as whether to vaccinate,” Broniatowski told Science Daily. “Unfortunately, the people most affected are from the most vulnerable communities, with little access to the facts.”

The researchers added that health authorities could use this technique to identify and respond to conspiracy theories that could potentially be harmful to public health, cutting the time it normally takes to respond and helping to debunk these conspiracy theories quickly.

“Shortly after Zika rose to prominence, we were able to track these conversations very quickly using our social media monitoring method,” said Broniatowski, the GW professor, according to Science Daily. “This is a promising approach to the fast response to disease, and could help counteract the negative impact of these conspiracy theories in future.”

The conspiracy theories studied included a claim that the Zika virus vaccine caused microcephaly – a condition in which babies are born with small heads and brains which has been linked the the Zika virus – and that pharmaceutical companies were blaming the Zika virus to profit off the vaccines.

“Once people have made up their minds about something it’s hard for them to change their opinions,” Mark Dredze, a professor from Johns Hopkins University and the lead author of the study, told Science Daily. “I’d find it surprising if this sort of story really had no impact whatsoever, and I can’t imagine it would make people more likely to pursue a healthy response.”

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Researchers at GW earned a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutions of Health to start a phase one clinical trial of a hookworm vaccine in Brazil, according to a press release.

The leading researchers – Jeffrey Bethony, a professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine and David Diemert, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and tropical medicine – will partner with the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz in Brazil, the University of California at San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University, as well as the Sabin Vaccine Institute to conduct the trial, according to the release.

“Tropical vaccines are getting a boost at GW,” Bethony said in the release. “We have the capacity to do vaccine clinical trials here and in developing countries. It’s what we’re good at. Besides malaria, there isn’t another group that does this for tropical diseases.”

The researchers will test two existing hookworm vaccines to see if they can create one effective vaccine, Diemert, one of the SMHS professors, said in the release.

“What we need to know is if by combining these two vaccines, the immune response to either of them is impaired,” he said. “We want to know whether there is competition between the vaccines and if there are any safety risks with combining them.”

Bethony and Diemert also received a planning grant from the NIH to vaccinate D.C. volunteers and then infect them with hookworm to test how well the vaccine works – the next step in a clinical trial from last year in which volunteers were also infected with hookworms, according to the release.

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University President Steven Knapp joined Eric Hoover, a senior writer at the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, at The Atlantic’s second annual Education Summit at GW last week. The three discussed contributing factors and potential solutions to the rising price of higher education.

Knapp said although costs of private institutions like GW are rising, they have risen about one eighth the amount of tuition at public universities has risen, considering returned financial aid funds. He said the media often focus on the high costs at elite universities, overlooking defunding state institutions.

“I actually think that is a national crisis,” Knapp said. “And I think it often gets obscured when it gets conflated with what happens at elite institutions which do have ample resources that they can return in student aid.”

Knapp highlighted ways that GW is helping students and families identify opportunities to make college affordable, like fixed tuition and the Trachtenberg Scholarship program, which awards local high school students with full-ride scholarships to GW each year.

Knapp said that after attending a conference at the White House on college affordability in 2014, he pledged to do more outreach to help families find scholarships.

“Families who have no previous experience going to college need some help in understanding where those opportunities are, how they can even fill out the forms,” Knapp said.

Knapp credited unfunded mandates from the government with contributing to the rising cost of education. He said initiatives that require an increase in staff, like turning out crime and fire reports and handling sexual assault complaints add costs to a operating a university.

“Each one of these things is well-intentioned and you can understand the rationale for it, but every time you do one of these things, you add to it,” Knapp said. “The money’s got to come from somewhere, there’s no question that these compliance requirements are part of the picture.”

Knapp said competition is fueled by national rankings lists. He criticized U.S. News and World Report’s annual list for ranking institutions based on how much money they spend on students. He said that university rankings on this list correspond almost directly with the size of their endowments. GW’s rank fell three spots last year.

“There’s no evidence that that’s a better pedagogical model than other models,” Knapp said. “You’re rewarding an industry for being inefficient. I think that’s a problem.”

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Lerner Health and Wellness Center will have limited hours this summer. Hatchet file photo

Lerner Health and Wellness Center will have limited hours this summer. Hatchet file photo

Before you head to the gym to work on your perfect beach body, check the gym’s hours first.

The Lerner Health and Wellness Center is restricting operation hours this summer due to budget cuts, according to an email to members Friday.

Andre Julien, the associate athletic director of the center, said in the email that Lerner Health and Wellness Center will operate with limited hours May 23 through August 19 because of “budget restructuring throughout the University community.”

The gym will be open Monday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and it will operate Fridays from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. On weekends, Lerner Health and Wellness Center will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Updated: May 20, 2016 at 6:14 p.m.

Secret Service officers shot a man with a gun outside the White House Friday afternoon, the Washington Post reported.

The man, who has not been identified, approached a security check point on West Executive Drive, near 17th Street, shortly after 2 p.m. and was shot after refusing to drop the weapon, according to the Post.

The suspect was taken to a hospital in critical condition. NBC Washington reported that the man is being treated at GW Hospital.

The Post reported that there was a “massive police response” near the Executive Mansion – two blocks from the eastern edge of campus.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said officials are monitoring the situation, but there were no disruptions on campus.

The White House and Treasury Department were placed on lockdown and a portion of 17th Street was closed while police investigated the scene.

President Obama was not at the White House at the time, Vice President Biden was secure inside the complex during the incident, the Post reported.

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