News and Analysis

The D.C. Council voted Tuesday to raise the stakes for businesses caught selling synthetic marijuana, making it a $10,000 misstep on the first violation, DCist reported Tuesday.

The bill calls for a $10,000 fine to any business caught dealing the synthetic marijuana for the first time, and doubles the amount on the second offense. Emergency legislation introduced by Mayor Muriel Bowser two weeks ago also allows the police chief to shut down any business caught with selling the substance, according to DCist.

District officials began to show concerns about synthetic marijuana after at least seven people in D.C.’s largest homeless shelter overdosed on the substance, the Washington Post reported earlier this month.

Synthetic marijuana offers similar effects to authentic marijuana, and is comprised of a herbal mixture, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The synthetic concoction is often marketed as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana despite reports of it containing unnatural substances like chemical additives.

Marijuana was decriminalized in July and voters in D.C. passed a ballot initiative in November to legalize the substance.

Bowser announced the bill two weeks ago, along with two new units in the Metro Police Department centered on drugs and related crimes, DCist reported earlier this month.

“We believe these significant strategic changes will be of great help for our police department, both in terms of combating the new environment of illegal drug manufacturing and sales as well as increasing their visible presence in our communities and interacting with our residents,” Bowser said in a statement when introducing the bill.

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A national organization that helps to govern sorority life on college campuses released recommendations made by a task force last month in an effort started last year to raise awareness and prevent sexual assaults.

The National Panhellenic Conference, which includes all of the social sororities with chapters on GW’s campus, highlighted ways that sororities can better their education on reporting sexual assault, like understanding campus resources and raising awareness for sorority members. The conference also announced the next steps of a national task force started last year that focuses on sexual assault on college campuses.

The report identifies seven areas for lower-level sorority governing organizations to hone in on when educating members. The seven topics tackle different aspects of sexual assault, like encouraging awareness, campus resources, resources within each sorority, leadership, collaboration with sexual assault awareness groups and advocacy within each sorority against sexual assault.

The recommendations “are the result of many hours of thoughtful and deliberate conversations, inquiries and surveysfocused onadvocacyfor our members as well asall women on college campuseswith regard to student safety and sexual assault,” the report said.

The Student Safety and Sexual Assault Awareness Task Force will focus on many of those same seven topics and plans to expand as the year continues, the report said.

Greek life leaders said in February that they would make sexual assault a priority as part of the Greek Life Task Force. About one-third of students on campus are involved in Greek life.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015 2:30 p.m.

GW takes two Emmy Awards back to campus

Students can now say they attend the Emmy Award-winning George Washington University.

GW won its first-ever Emmy Awards on Saturday night, University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar confirmed in an email Monday. The University’s office of marking and creative services won two of the four awards they were nominated for in animation graphics and commercial campaigns from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

“Financing a GW Education,” a video explaining how students pay for tuition at GW won an award for animation graphics. The GW Virtual Tour, a website filled with videos featuring different areas of campus, was also nominated in the category.

The virtual tour and the University’s “#OnlyAtGW” videos, a series of short clips where students describe the unique experiences they’ve had at GW, were both nominated in the commercial campaign category. The “#OnlyAtGW” videos took home another Emmy for GW.

Leah Rosen, the associate vice president of marketing and creative services, said in an statement that “we are thrilled to be recognized for our work and honored to be able to tell the stories of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

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Updated: July 1, 2015 at 12:55 p.m.

The University’s fundraising office has been on the hunt for 10 new employees to help push its $1 billion fundraising campaign past the finish line.

Ten positions have become available over the past six weeks in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and only five remain open, according to the University’s employment website. Experts say adding new blood in a fundraising office in the middle of a major fundraising push can be a critical step to keep the donations rolling in and maintain momentum as a school nears its goal.

The new hires also come after three high-level members of the University’s fundraising office have left over the course of the last year.

Titles for the positions include school-specific fundraising positions, like an associate director of development for the Elliott School of International Affairs – which has been filled – and an associate director of development for major gifts to the School of Business. But larger, big-picture posts are also available, including a senior director of planned giving and an associate director of corporate relations. Each school has its own smaller fundraising goal as part of GW’s $1 billion campaign, led by the school’s dean alongside the fundraising office.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to comment on whether the positions are newly created or are open as a result of layoffs or staff departures. She also declined to comment on the timeline to fill the positions and qualifications needed, citing a policy that the University does not comment on “personnel matters.”

The University announced in April that it would lay off 46 staffers. University officials have declined to confirm in which departments those cuts were made.

Two senior fundraising officials left the office recently, and both had been in their posts for no more than about a year, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Aristide Collins confirmed in an interview last month.

Bernard Davisson, who was the senior associate vice president of development at GW, left the University in April to become West Virginia University’s senior vice president of development and chief development officer. Davisson had spent nearly three years at GW. Dwight Dozier left GW for the Georgia Tech Foundation in March to serve as chief information officer. He spent about one year as senior associate vice president at GW, according to his LinkedIn page.

“People go looking for people who are successful, and so you go and you want to pick off from schools where they’re going great things,” Collins said in the interview. “There is such momentum, there are so many great things going at at GW.”

Collins added that when a school makes progress in its own fundraising campaign, officials at other schools may lure those fundraiser in hopes of seeing similar success. GW has raised about $740 million since its campaign went public last summer.

“You go to places where there’s success and there’s momentum and wind and energy, and you say, ‘Let me get that person,’ and that happens all the time,” he said.

This is not the first time in the last year that there has been turnover in the fundraising office. Former head of fundraising Mike Morsberger stepped down in October, and was replaced with Collins, who was previously the vice president and secretary of the University, in February. Morsberger is now vice president for alumni relations and development at the University of Central Florida.

Arthur Criscillis, a managing partner at the fundraising consulting firm Alexander Haas, said that as officials add new members to the fundraising office, they will need to learn to work with existing staff in order to wrap up the campaign.

“They need to have good communication skills, need to be able to have good organization skills,” he said. “They have to have some degree of self-direction even though there are guidelines for what they are going to need to do. They’ve got to get out there and function.”

Jennifer Browning, the vice president of communications for the fundraising consulting firm the Winkler Group, said in an email that fundraising campaigns can still be successful, even with new staff members added during a campaign.

“Coming into a school in the middle of a campaign isn’t all that unusual and shouldn’t hinder success,” she said. “Good development or advancement professionals are quick studies.”

Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.

This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
Due to a reporting error, the Hatchet incorrectly reported that Bernard Davisson had spent less than a year at GW. He had been at GW for nearly three years before leaving his position. We regret this error.

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The Board of Trustees approved three resolutions that will change how faculty can participate in governance at GW, according to a University release Monday.

The changes include allowing more professors — including specialized and contract faculty who are considered associate professors — to participate in the Faculty Senate, updating how faculty members are awarded tenure and streamlining how deans of each school are chosen.

Board of Trustees Chairman Nelson Carbonell said in the release that the changes will help the University be “more in line” with peer schools.

“There has been broad consensus that the goal of the GW community is to move the university into the ranks of the most respected and admired institutions in the world,” Carbonell said in the statement. “The changes to the Faculty Code will help us achieve our aspirations by enhancing the university’s ability to attract and retain top faculty and deans, strengthening tenure at George Washington and expanding participation in shared governance.”

It is unclear from the release whether or not the wording of the resolutions passed by the Board of Trustees differed from that approved by the Faculty Senate last month, a concern many faculty members raised in April. Carbonell and the chair of the board’s academic affairs committee, Madeleine Jacobs, said at a Faculty Senate meeting later that month that trustees would be sure to include faculty input when finalizing the resolutions.

The resolution for promoting professors calls for “written criteria” to outline how promotions will be granted and requires that professor’s department to verify that those criteria have been met, according to the release. A University-wide committee for appointment, promotion and tenure, which has been widely discussed in the past, will not be created.

In May, the Faculty Senate passed three resolutions that would revise the Faculty Code to update how faculty participated in dean searches and individual school by-laws. The senate decided to table one resolution on extending governance rights and participation in the Faculty Senate to specialized faculty, but the board chose to adopt a similar measure. University President Steven Knapp will present that resolution to the Faculty Assembly for approval in October.

The Faculty Senate also approved a proposal that would change the percentage of tenured faculty in each school, but the Board of Trustees requested “further study” on the proposal, according to the release.

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A longtime faculty member of the Elliott School of International Affairs will take over the position of the school’s interim dean next month, according to a University release.

Hugh Agnew, a professor of history and international affairs and the senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs at the Elliott School, will start his role as interim dean July 1, Provost Steven Lerman announced to the school’s faculty and GW leadership Friday. Agnew will continue in the position until a permanent replacement is announced for dean Michael Brown, who officially steps down from the post on the same date.

Agnew, who came to GW in 1988, said in an interview Monday that he is “humbled” by the appointment and will continue his current duties at the Elliott School while fulfilling the dean’s responsibilities. His plans for the summer include welcoming new faculty arriving at the school for the academic year and maintaining the “rhythm of the school” until the new dean takes over.

“I see my role as carrying this accomplishment into the new hands of the new dean without dropping it,” Agnew said.

Agnew has previously served as associate dean for academic programs and associate dean for faculty affairs at the school. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses primarily focused on eastern Europe, and has written extensively on Czech nationalism.

Brown announced in October that he would leave the dean post at the end of the academic year but would continue in a faculty role at the school. Since then, a dean search committee made up of Elliott School students and faculty vetted candidates and brought them to campus before sending on their top three unranked choices to Lerman and University President Steven Knapp, who will make the final appointment. That announcement is expected to come at some point over the coming weeks although the process can sometimes take longer, search committee chair Jennifer Brinkerhoff said in an email earlier this month.

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Updated: June 26, 2015 at 2:16 p.m.

Gay marriage is legal in all 50 states after the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in a landmark decision Friday. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the ruling, which marks the culmination of a years-long fight for gay rights activists. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004. Gay marriages began in D.C. in 2010.

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Kennedy said in the ruling.

We went to the Supreme Court to capture the reaction to the ruling:

Hundreds of people flocked to the front of the Supreme Court Friday morning to celebrate the decision.

Hundreds of people flocked to the front of the Supreme Court Friday morning to celebrate the decision. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor



Tom Fulton, 57, and Robert Westover, 51, kiss during an interview following the Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. Westover said the gay rights movement “needs to move at lightning speed.” Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor



The attendees of the Supreme Court case exit the building and are greeted by a throng of spectators and reporters. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor



Representatives from religious groups showed their support for the decision, including Pastor Jill McCrory from Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, M.D. and Phil Attey from Catholics for Equality. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor



Supporters turn towards the Capitol Building to cheer on public figures leaving the Supreme Court grounds. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor



Ikeita Cantú and Carmen Guzmán display colorful signs as they stood in front of the Supreme Court. Cantú and Guzmán regularly attend LGBT-related rallies outside of the Supreme Court. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

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Friday, June 26, 2015 12:23 p.m.

Homicides in D.C. increase by 20 percent

Homicide rates increased by 20 percent in 2015, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The Post reported that there have been 64 homicides so far this year, as compared to 53 by the same time in 2014. There have been 14 homicides in the past 17 days.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told The Post that detectives had not found any patterns in the homicides, but added that while overall violence has decreased in D.C., “the lethality of the violence is up.”

Lanier said the Metropolitan Police Department will increase targeted patrols, including a group of detectives targeting dealers of synthetic drugs.

Lanier and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower said Thursday that the spike in homicides in the city is linked in part to the sale and use of synthetic drugs, according to WUSA 9.

“You will get lots of batches of it where it is much, much more potent, and when that happens you see these spikes in overdoses and violence,” Lanier said, according to WUSA 9.

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This post was written by assistant news editors Ellie Smith and Ryan Lasker.

After a group of faculty and staff found that GW’s employee benefits are not competitive with those at peer universities, officials announced they would only adapt one of the committee’s recommendations.

The benefits task force recommended in a report last month that the University absorb any rise in health insurance premiums above the 3 percent employee pay raise, restore tuition benefits to 2014 levels and expand health care funding to align with inflation. Administrators agreed to keep the premiums at about 3 percent but will maintain tuition benefits at current levels, University President Steven Knapp announced during a meeting of the benefits advisory committee earlier this month, according to a University release.

Knapp created the group following an uproar from faculty members after officials announced last September that GW would roll back its tuition benefits this January, saving the University about $750,000. Those savings would help limit how much out-of-pocket health care costs rose last year.

“We are committed to acting on the task force’s main short-term recommendation, to keep the premium increase at or close to an average of 3 percent for employees,” Knapp said in the release. “Above all, we want our plans to be competitive so that we can attract and retain the best possible faculty and staff.”

Andrew Zimmerman, the president of the Faculty Association and a history and international affairs professor, said it was a “relief” that the task force recognized that benefits for GW employees don’t measure up to other university’s benefits.

“For the most part, everyone in the top administration was denying what we were able to show with our figures,” he said.

But while the University is tackling health care premiums for employees, administrators are not addressing two other aspects of the task force’s short-term focuses — tuition benefits and retirement benefits.

Zimmerman said that what was most “striking” about Knapp’s response “is how much of his own at the report of his own task force he chose to ignore.”

The group also proposed measures like capping maximum salary increases, freezing discretionary bonuses and forgoing supplemental University retirement contributions to the highest-paid employees in order to make the recommendations they set out possible. Members of the group, which included six staff members had six faculty, had a May 1 deadline to evaluate short term issues, including tuition benefits, retirement plans and health care, and will continue to work on longer term goals about the overall compensation of faculty and staff through December.

Joseph Cordes, an economics professor and a member of the benefits task force, said health care benefits are more straightforward to analyze and will be harder to change, as health costs continue to rise nationwide.

“The biggest issue is still the question of what to do with the situation of health care costs, because in all likelihood they are increasing more rapidly than merit pay increases,” Cordes said.

Merit pay, which includes salaries and wages, are generally rising at about 3 percent while health care costs are rising at a rate of up to 8 percent, Cordes said.

Members of the Staff Association said last month that while they agree with other proposals by the task force, they should also include tuition reimbursements for employees enrolled in degree programs prior to Jan. 1 who were affected by the change in tuition benefits earlier this year.

The group of staffers also sent out a newsletter following the release and said that they find the decision to reduce tuition benefits for staffers is a “cynical disregard for GW’s own recent commitment to shared governance.”

Robin Kuprewicz, a department operations supervisor for the University and a member of the Staff Association, said in an email that the group plans to have a town hall with administrators next month to clarify the decision to roll back those benefits.

“As of now, the administration has not yet formally communicated the decision on grandfathering to staff who were impacted and we have heard reports that some offices are advising staff that they will be grandfathered,” she said.

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For one GW student, humor trumps politics.

Once Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president more than a week ago, senior Conor McGrath decided to poke fun at the real estate mogul with a Facebook page in mock support.

He said he hopes GW Students for Donald Trump will get more likes on Facebook than a similar page in support of presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Since launching on May 16, McGrath’s page has more than 150 likes.

“When you talk about Donald Trump, the guy is a joke,” McGrath said in an interview this week. “I think it’s a way to have fun. It’s the summer, you see what’s up and see how much traction you can get.”

Since May, students have started at least two other groups to support presidential candidates, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Florida governor Jeb Bush.

McGrath hasn’t registered GW Students for Donald Trump as a student organization, but said he may still host happy hours to mock happy hours held as fundraisers for candidates.

“If Jeb Bush can have one, why can’t we?” he said.

McGrath added that he is not in charge of a Twitter account in support of Trump, “Donald Trump for GW.” The creator of that account gave an interview over Twitter on Thursday.

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