News and Analysis

President Barack Obama’s idea to have the federal government rank colleges has stirred up debate across higher education and throughout Capitol Hill, but it’s not exactly new.

More than a century ago, the government placed schools into four classes based on how prepared students were for graduate school.

GW, which U.S. News and World Report has ranked the 52nd best in the country and considers a more selective university, was named a Class II university in 1911, alongside Georgetown, New York and Boston universities. GW now considers all three peer institutions.

The Department of Education ranked GW as a Class II university in 1911. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The U.S. Bureau of Education ranked GW as a Class II university in 1911. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Turns out many of the colleges that beat out GW back then still surpass it in rankings now. Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Lehigh universities were all considered Class I colleges in the early 1900s and are consistently ranked above GW today.

The University has pulled ahead of some schools that outranked it 100 years ago though, such as the University of Vermont, Purdue University and Lake Forest College.

A graduate from a Class II institution would likely require “somewhat more than one year’s graduate work,” to earn a master’s degree from a strong graduate school, according to the government’s explanation.

President Barack Obama hopes the federal government with rate colleges based in part on their accessibility to lower-income students. Hatchet File Photo

President Barack Obama hopes the federal government with rate colleges based in part on their affordability. Hatchet File Photo

Obama’s plan to rank colleges based on how well they improve their accessibility and affordability for lower-income applicants, among other factors, has faced opposition from university presidents, who have argued they could lose control over their schools’ priorities.

The White House hopes to tie federal financial aid allocations to the ratings, which means schools that the government considers lower-quality might not receive as much money.

Back in 1911, the Association of American Universities asked the precursor of the Department of Education to compile a ratings system. A former college president and top official in the U.S. Bureau of Education rated schools by reviewing students’ transcripts and interviewing university administrators.

Many college presidents, who mostly represented schools placed in lower classes, complained so fiercely about the system that President William Howard Taft issued an executive order forbidding the department from distributing the list, Vox reported this week.

The Department of Education is expected to release its latest template for college rankings by the end of this year.

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will speak in Lisner Auditorium Sept. 12 for a Constitution Day event. Hatchet file photo.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will speak in Lisner Auditorium Sept. 12 for a Constitution Day event. Hatchet file photo.

GW will once again celebrate Constitution Day with a Supreme Court justice.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a fierce advocate for women’s rights, will speak at Lisner Auditorium on Sept. 12 in a conversation with law professor Maeva Marcus, the University announced Friday. The sixth annual event celebrates the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

GW students, faculty and staff can order free tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis online starting Sept. 2 at noon. Ginsburg last spoke on campus in 2011, when she discussed the Affordable Care Act and the role of women on the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg, the second woman nominated to sit on the nation’s highest court, is an integral member of the court’s liberal wing. She is known for supporting women’s rights and has developed a loyal fan base through the popular “Notorious RBG” tumblr.

She will be the second Supreme Court justice to speak on campus this year, following Justice Sonia Sotomayor who attended the ribbon cutting of the Jacob Burns Legal Clinics building last spring.

Justice Antonin Scalia headlined the Constitution Day event last year, and talked about how he believes the Constitution does not hold the answers to all of the nation’s questions.

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So… do you think you can dance?

Well, actually it doesn’t matter. But you can watch people who think they can.

The live, national tour of the FOX TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” will head to Lisner Auditorium on Nov. 9, University spokeswoman Angela Olson said.

Tickets for the show, which will feature the competition’s top 10 dancers, will go on sale Aug. 15 at noon, Olson said in an email.

Students and faculty can also receive a 15 percent discount if they purchase the tickets at Lisner’s box office.

“So You Think You Can Dance” has won 11 primetime Emmy’s. The show will tour in more than 70 cities.

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Police are searching for two men who reportedly snatched “a few dollars” from a female student’s hand as she was waiting at a bus stop near campus.

Neither of the suspects were armed and were last seen fleeing east on Pennsylvania Avenue, according to an alert the University sent Thursday at about 2 a.m. The men allegedly robbed the student across the street from the GW Medical Faculty Associates building at 22nd Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

One suspect is a skinny black man in his 20s with “tight cornrows and scruffy facial hair,” and was carrying a white bag, according to the alert. The other suspect is a black man in his 20s wearing black shorts and no shirt.

University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay did not immediately return a request for comment.

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D.C. voters will be able to vote to decriminalize marijuana this November, the city's Board of Elections confirmed Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo

D.C. voters this November will weigh in on whether the city should legalize marijuana. Hatchet File Photo

Updated: Aug. 7, 2014 at 1:11 p.m.

Voters will have the chance to decide whether D.C. should legalize marijuana use this November, the city’s Board of Elections announced Wednesday.

D.C. residents would be able to legally possess a maximum of two ounces of pot if the city enacts the ballot initiative. They could grow as many as six cannabis plants indoors, share up to an ounce with another person at least 21 years old and use drug paraphernalia, though selling marijuana would remain illegal.

The unanimous vote by the city’s three elections officials comes after the D.C. Cannabis Campaign submitted a petition with 27,688 valid signatures, more than enough to get the measure on the ballot this fall, the Washington Post reported.

Even if voters weigh in favor of the initiative, the city would have to overcome several hurdles to legalize marijuana. Congress, which maintains oversight over D.C.’s laws, could shoot down the measure. The House of Representatives passed a budget bill last month that could block a legalization effort, as well as the decriminalization bill the D.C. Council passed earlier this year.

The decriminalization legislation went into effect last month, easing consequences for those caught with less than an ounce of weed. The penalty is now a $25 fine, though residents can still face arrest for smoking weed in public or carrying more than an ounce.

A Washington Post poll found in January that 63 percent of the city’s voters support legalization.

But even with support from residents, advocates for changing D.C.’s marijuana laws have seen their efforts derailed before. Sixteen years ago, activists gathered enough signatures to put legalization of medical marijuana on the ballot. Nearly 70 percent of voters supported the initiative, but federal lawmakers blocked funding to implement it until 2009, the Post reported.

The city’s new law has not altered policies at GW, and University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said last month that the University Police Department would wait for guidance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office before making any changes.

UPD Chief Kevin Hay has said that regardless of city laws, GW is a smoke-free campus.

This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that a measure to legalize marijuana use appeared on a 1998 ballot. The ballot initiative was to legalize medical marijuana. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that Congress blocked the votes from being counted. A court decision did allow the city to count the votes. We regret these errors.

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Two independent candidates officially became candidates in the race to become D.C.’s next mayor.

David Catania and Carol Schwartz filed this week more than double the 3,000 petition signatures needed to make it onto the November ballot.

Catania submitted 7,000 signatures on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, and Schwartz filed her 6,500 signatures Wednesday morning, her campaign announced in an email. This is Schwartz’s fifth mayoral run, this time campaigning as an independent.

Catania, D.C.’s independent At-Large Council member, and Schwartz, a former Republican Council member, will face off against D.C. Council member and Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser. 


Bowser collected 9,000 signatures in January to secure her spot on the primary ballot.

Independent candidates must submit petition signatures to appear on the ballot because there is no primary for independent candidates.

No Republicans are currently slated to run this election, and D.C. has always elected a Democrat as mayor.

Re-elected to D.C. Council four times, Catania is currently chair of the education committee. This June, he opposed a yoga tax which kept the sales tax for exercise classes from rising past 5.75%, calling it  a “penny-wise and pound-foolish proposition.”

Catania, who is gay, cut off ties with the Republican party in 2004 after President George W. Bush called for an amendment to ban gay marriage.

If elected, Catania would be the District’s first white mayor as well as its first openly gay mayor.

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Knapp and Gray

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, center, chose University President Steven Knapp, left, to co-chair the District’s Age-Friendly Task Force. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp continued work last Thursday on a city-wide task force to improve the quality of life for local seniors by 2017.

Knapp met with 22 other city leaders serving on the city’s Age-Friendly Task Force, which is part of a World Health Organization initiative, to begin drafting a strategic plan that addresses the issues facing D.C.’s elderly. Alumnus and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray chose Knapp to co-chair the group with Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services Beatriz Otero last October.

Committee members presented their findings on topics such as housing and transportation after conducting research with federal agencies like the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Health and Human Services. GW students and faculty also helped contribute to research on social inclusion and other subjects.

The task force’s members will come together again in the fall at the Marvin Center, and their strategic plan will be released to the public in October. The group’s coordinator is alumna Gail Kohn, who once served as executive director of the Capitol Hill Village, which connects volunteers to residents hoping to age in their homes.

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The Princeton Review named GW the most politically active campus in the country for the second year in a row while other D.C. colleges dropped several spots in the rankings released Monday.

Georgetown and American universities dropped from No. 3 and No. 4 in the annual ranking of politically engaged student bodies to No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.

Whether it’s interning at the White House or taking a semester off to work on a campaign, GW students have earned a reputation for political activism within and outside the Beltway.

And that activism doesn’t stop after graduation, as alumni go on to work on Capitol Hill or become political leaders themselves.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Lisner Auditorium in June. File Photo by Desiree Halpern | Senior Staff Photographer

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Lisner Auditorium in June. File Photo by Desiree Halpern | Senior Staff Photographer

Maybe that’s what happens when GW frequently hosts politicians and other U.S. officials like former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton, who both spoke on campus this summer.

The University also came in at No. 5 for “College City Gets High Marks,” falling two places from last year. Boston University clinched the top spot in the category, while Georgetown slid to No. 13.

Princeton Review recognized GW’s study abroad program and on-campus housing as the 14th and 12th best in the nation, respectively.

The University came under scrutiny last summer after residents complained about living conditions to a local TV station and created a Facebook page called “GW Housing Horrors.”

GW has since promised to upgrade residence halls more regularly, and several halls are undergoing renovations this summer.

Princeton Review releases annual rankings in 62 different categories based on student surveys.

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Former Secretary of State and GW alumnis Colin Powell spoke with the School of Media and Public Affairs director Frank Sesno at Lisner Auditorium Monday. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Former Secretary of State and GW alumnus Colin Powell, right, spoke with School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno at Lisner Auditorium on Monday. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

With his memoir in their hands, hundreds listened as Colin Powell described his journey from growing up in the Bronx to leading the State Department at Lisner Auditorium on Monday.

Powell’s second memoir, “It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership,” includes his “Thirteen Rules” of leadership and conduct – first published in Parade Magazine in 1989. The former Secretary of State, the first black man to take that post, discussed the rules that served him best throughout his career and during his toughest times in office.

Here are the key takeaways from the evening.

1. Optimism is an attitude, not a prediction

“It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning” is Powell’s first rule, and one that he continually referred to during his conversation with School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno.

Powell, who received a master of business administration from GW in 1971, said he has surrounded himself during his government career with people who share his motivation and optimism to finish the task at hand.

“It will look better in the morning. Well, maybe it will, maybe it won’t. It might be worse,” Powell said, prompting laughs from the audience. “It’s an attitude that’s helpful to you, it’s an attitude that’s helpful to your organization.”

Powell shared the rules which served him best in his career. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Powell shared the rules that served him best through his career. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

2. You’re born a leader

Powell noted that while growing up in the Bronx he never imagined he would become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1989, but he recognized the skills he possessed that would help him find success.

“I think you’re born with a certain empathy for people and a certain ability to influence people,” Powell said.

Powell added that leadership skills aren’t only reserved for those in positions of power.

“You don’t have to be running a division or a company to be a leader,” he said. “You can be a leader in a very small segment of your life.”

3. Leadership is about people

No matter your role, it is not the organization, a powerpoint presentation or a philosophy that will get things done, the retired four-star Army general said.

“It is people,” he said.

Powell said he has found that working with those who have had similar experiences as him, like people who also come from immigrant families, inspires him.

Powell also mentioned the leadership skills of President Barack Obama, praising the president for his ability to mobilize people toward certain tasks.

“Leadership is all about inspiring a group of people to achieve what needs to be achieved,” Powell said. “Motivation is OK, but I want people inspired. When you inspire them, they will do what you want them to do.”

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Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

The second level of the GW Bookstore will transform into doctors’ offices and counseling rooms. Hatchet File Photo

GW is shuffling the Marvin Center bookstore as it prepares to create a new student health hub.

The University has moved GW-branded merchandise to a new store on the 2100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, clearing space for the University Counseling Center, Student Health Service as well as the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education.

CADE will join the mental and physical health offices in the Marvin Center next spring, the University announced Monday, after GW finishes renovating the first floor of the bookstore late next semester.

Buff and Blue on Penn has opened as a “spirit store” where the University will sell GW-branded items.

The lower level of the bookstore will continue to sell textbooks, school supplies and electronics, and will have a separate entrance.

GW decided to move its health services to the Marvin Center in March after then-Student Association President Julia Susuni lobbied officials to bring UCC and SHS to a centralized location on campus.

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