News and Analysis

GW will pay for renovations to the Corcoran's 17th Street building as part of the merger. | Hatchet file photo.

GW will pay for renovations to the Corcoran’s 17th Street building as part of the merger. Hatchet File Photo.

The D.C. attorney general’s office endorsed GW’s acquisition of the Corcoran College of Art + Design late Wednesday, just days before a hearing on the merger.

City lawyers from D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan’s office said the deal would save the Corcoran from years of slumping fundraising, a shrinking endowment and a budgetary deficit, calling the merger justified in 233 pages of court documents.

“The District believes that the Corcoran’s proposed transactions will best ensure that the Corcoran’s charitable assets continue to exist in D.C., for the benefit of the public and supported by other artistic and educational D.C. institutions,” the attorneys wrote.

Their argument came just a day after Provost Steven Lerman submitted a letter to the court claiming a delay in the merger could threaten enrollment and complicate distribution of financial aid to Corcoran students.

D.C. Superior Court must still approve changes to the Corcoran’s charter before GW can take over its 17th Street building and art college, and before the Corcoran can pass on its 17,000 pieces of art to the National Gallery of Art.

Revenue at Corcoran fundraising events has not reached $1 million in the last five years, and the institution reported net losses for fundraising events from 2009 to 2012, according to financial statements submitted to the court. The records included past tax filings and written comments from 53 members of the public.

The financial distress kept the Corcoran from making necessary renovations to its aging building, according to the documents. GW will spend $25 million for the first phase of upgrades.

The Corcoran’s deal with GW and the National Gallery prevented the renowned art gallery from selling any artwork, the Washington Post reported. Former director Paul Greenhalgh wrote in a court brief that the Corcoran considered selling its art to salvage the faltering institution.

The city’s lawyers argued that without the merger, the Corcoran would soon be unable to operate the museum or school without borrowing from the dwindling endowment.

“The Corcoran and the public, accordingly face a future in which there is no Corcoran Gallery, and/or no Corcoran School, at all in D.C., and the 17th Street building is no longer viable for use as a museum,” they wrote.

The advocacy group Save the Corcoran – made up of curators, lawyers and artists – has tried to stop the deal by filing a motion to block the changes to the Corcoran’s charter. But city lawyers called the proposal “a short-term fix that will not alleviate the longer-term problems that the Corcoran faces.”

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A marijuana activist group submitted 57,000 signatures to get marijuana legalization on November's ballot . Hatchet File Photo

Those caught in D.C. with less than an ounce of marijuana can now expect a $25 fine instead of jail. Hatchet File Photo

Getting caught with less than one ounce of marijuana isn’t such a big deal anymore in the District.

Metropolitan Police Department officers will now set aside the handcuffs for a $25 ticket – and your weed – after the D.C. law decriminalizing the minor possession of marijuana took effect Thursday, following a two-month congressional review period.

But it’s uncertain how long the law will stay in place, with Republicans in the House of Representatives seeking to overrule the D.C. Council’s 10-1 vote. But until then, possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana will cost offenders less than the $75 fine for littering,

Under the new law, police officers must find evidence that an individual has marijuana before they can take any action – smelling the signature odor isn’t enough. Police also can’t demand photo identification from someone caught with less than one ounce of pot, the Washington Post reported.

Police can still arrest anyone caught smoking marijuana in public or in possession of more than one ounce – crimes unaffected by the new law.

MPD is the only police agency in D.C. with a new playbook for enforcing marijuana offenses. Federal agencies, like the U.S. Park Police, can still make arrests for possession of any amount of marijuana.

The University has not yet indicated whether the decriminalization law will change UPD enforcement of campus policy, which bars any amount of marijuana possession.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said UPD is still waiting for guidance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Students caught with drugs on campus are referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for disciplinary action and face consequences ranging from a small fine to suspension or expulsion, depending on the severity of the offense.

But University officials may not have to consider any changes if House Republicans have their way.

The House appropriations committee approved an amendment last month to a government spending bill proposed by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., that would prevent the District from enforcing the new marijuana law. The spending bill passed in the House on Wednesday, but will likely face opposition from Senate Democrats.

And the White House has threatened a veto if the bill reaches the president’s desk. The Office of Management and Budget wrote in a letter that the bill’s amended language “undermines the principles of States’ rights and of District home rule.”

Marijuana could even be fully legalized after November’s elections: The D.C. Cannabis Campaign submitted enough signatures earlier this month to put legalization to a referendum.

Voters are likely to say yes, according to a Washington Post poll, with 63 percent of residents in favor of legalizing pot.

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Updated: July 17, 2014 at 5:01 p.m.

The ousted dean of GW’s business school was one of the architects behind D.C.’s latest plan to kickstart the local economy.


Doug Guthrie, former dean of the GW School of Business, helped craft Gray’s economic plan. Hatchet File Photo

Doug Guthrie, who was fired from the deanship last August after the school overspent its budget by $13 million, spent the last eight months as part of a working group that crafted a three-year economic plan in the final year of Mayor Vincent Gray’s administration.

Guthrie left the University on June 30 to “pursue other professional opportunities,” University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said. He is now a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, according to a release from the mayor’s office.

Gray announced Wednesday the new strategy, which aims to spur development and start-up innovation. He brought Guthrie on as an adviser in December, just four months after he was fired for allegedly mismanaging the business school’s budget.

After losing in the April Democratic primary to Muriel Bowser, Gray’s economic strategy will go into effect in the final months of a lame duck administration.

If successful, the plan would create 10,000 jobs over the next three years while expanding the city’s tax base.

Vincent Gray, mayor

Mayor Vincent Gray announced a three-year economic development plan Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo.

The advisory group that crafted the strategy also included economic advisers in the deputy mayor’s office and consultants from the Kellogg consulting firm. They conducted 133 interviews with civic and business communities across the city, according to the release.

“The future of the creative economy in Washington, DC, is tied to visionary entrepreneurs and artists who have built it thus far, and government leaders like Mayor Gray who recognized that the District’s promise lies in its ability to draw creative individuals and innovative companies and nonprofits to its borders,” Guthrie said in the release. He did not immediately return a request for comment.

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GW plans to spend more than $25 million renovating the Corcoran's aging building on 17th Street. File Photo

GW plans to spend more than $25 million renovating the Corcoran’s aging building on 17th Street. Hatchet File Photo

As an advocacy group tries to block GW’s acquisition of the Corcoran, the University’s top academic leader is arguing that a delay in the merger would threaten enrollment and complicate efforts to provide financial aid.

Provost Steven Lerman sent a letter to the D.C. attorney general Monday arguing that if the D.C. Superior Court fails to approve a change to the Corcoran’s charter this week and waits until after the start of the fall semester, “the transition issues become far more challenging.”

“Delaying the transfer could create uncertainty that would discourage prospective students from applying, and thus could have a significant negative effect on enrollment,” Lerman wrote in the letter.

He added that GW would be unable to fully grant financial aid to Corcoran students without the court’s approval at a hearing Friday. Nearly 92 percent of Corcoran students receive need or merit-based financial aid, compared to about 87 percent of GW students.

The Corcoran’s federal charter must be revised, which requires court approval, before the institution’s buildings, art and college can be handed over to GW and the National Gallery of Art.

Earlier this month, the advocacy group Save the Corcoran tried to block the historic agreement. The group’s members, including curators and artists, are demanding the Corcoran provide a financial audit, appoint a committee to review the deal with GW, order all art to stay in D.C. and reject the agreement if officials find that mismanagement led to the Corcoran’s downfall.

GW will keep about 125 part-time and full-time Corcoran faculty after the merger, while about 150 Corcoran employees will face unemployment once it takes place. Lerman wrote that without a favorable court decision, the job offers and transition to GW would become “much more complicated.”

Provost Steven Lerman filed a letter with D.C. Superior Court Monday. Hatchet File Photo

Provost Steven Lerman filed a letter with D.C. Superior Court on Monday. Hatchet File Photo

Lerman also wrote that professors would have to receive their pay from the Corcoran’s dwindling financial resources, which are supposed to help cover the art school building’s restoration. GW plans to spend $25 million in the first phase of renovations to the Corcoran’s aging building on 17th Street.

The groups that accredit the Corcoran College of Art + Design have voiced concerns over the school’s financial state, but Lerman argued that issue would resolve itself once the school joins GW.

“A favorable ruling issued well before the start of the fall semester would help ensure a more stable and predictable transition, which would be in the best interests of the Corcoran College, its students, and its faculty and employees,” he wrote.

The Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Greater Washington Urban League, Cultural Tourism D.C. and the Federal City Council have also submitted letters backing the merger.

As the University prepares to welcome Corcoran students to campus this fall, it rolled out a website for the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. Students will move into their residence halls on Aug. 20, a few days before other students, and spend the next six days in orientation.

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Federal judges have once again ruled in favor of a university that factors race into its admissions process.

The 2-1 decision is the most recent in a series of rulings since Fisher v. University of Texas entered the judicial system six years ago. The lawsuit reached the nation’s highest court last year, when Supreme Court justices found that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had not looked at the case under a tough enough legal standard.

With the legal question sent back to them, judges determined Monday under strict scrutiny, the highest level of judicial review, that the University of Texas-Austin could consider race when admitting students.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, plan to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court again, which means the case could continue for at least another year.

In Texas, public universities automatically offer spots to public high schools students who land in the top 10 percent of their classes – a tool meant to diversify student bodies. University officials look at applicants holistically, using factors such as test scores, essays, socioeconomic status and race, to admit 20 percent of incoming classes.

Provost Steven Lerman has said that GW supports universities with policies that consider race in the admissions process. Hatchet File Photo

Provost Steven Lerman has said that GW supports universities with policies that factor race into the admissions process. Hatchet File Photo

The University of Texas-Austin managed to show that Fisher, who applied to the school in 2007, would not have gained admission regardless of her race because she was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and she failed to make the cut under the college’s “holistic” approach.

Affirmative action made its way to the Supreme Court again this spring, when the justices ruled that Michigan’s ban on the use of race-conscious policies at public universities was constitutional, making it the eighth state in the country to prohibit the controversial practice.

GW officials, including Vice Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed and Provost Steven Lerman, have said in the past that the University supports the consideration of race in college admissions.

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A decommissioned Israeli tank on a hilltop overlooking the West Bank. Jeremy Diamond | Hatchet Photographer

A decommissioned Israeli tank sits on a hilltop overlooking the West Bank. Jeremy Diamond | Hatchet Staff Photographer

GW is not yet considering evacuating 15 students who are studying in Israel and the West Bank as Hamas and Israel continue to exchange missiles and rockets.

The Office of International Programs has heard back from 14 of the 15 students. Donna Scarboro, the associate provost for international programs, said her office believes the other student is also safe.

Nine of the students are located in the West Bank and six are in Israel, according to University records. Some are studying at Birzeit and Tel Aviv universities and the University of Haifa. Others are interning or conducting research, Scarboro said.

A GW faculty member left the region Saturday as previously planned. Scarboro declined to name the professor.

Mimicking efforts during the last major escalation between Israel and Hamas in 2012, Egypt attempted to broker a ceasefire between the two sides this week. Hours into the ceasefire, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, and the Israeli air force responded with air strikes on Gaza.

The University did not evacuate students from the country after a string of attacks in 2012, and a group of MBA students in Turkey completed a program last summer amid anti-government protests in the country.

Last summer, the University helped evacuate six of the seven students who were in Egypt as political protests broke out across the country days after the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. GW also helped clear students from Egypt in 2011 when protests against President Hosni Mubarak took a violent turn.

Scarboro said her office monitors the situation through the U.S. Department of State, risk management providers and other study abroad programs in the country as well as the University’s academic experts on the region to determine whether students should leave.

“If it becomes evident that the dangers or distractions may be too serious to allow continued study in the area, we then enlist the necessary assistance to help students leave the area,” she said in an email.

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Riverside Liquors is located near the corner of E and 21st streets. Hatchet File Photo

Riverside Liquors is located near the corner of E and 21st streets. Hatchet File Photo

Riverside Liquors on E Street reported that a man claiming he had a gun robbed the store Tuesday.

The man allegedly took an unconfirmed amount of money from the liquor store at 2123 E Street, about a block from the Elliott School of International Affairs building, said Metropolitan Police Department public information officer Hugh Carew.

The suspect, a 5-foot-10 black man wearing a black and white hoodie, black pants and light-green shoes, reportedly said he had a gun but never displayed a weapon. He fled the scene at about 6 p.m. in the direction of 21st Street, Carew said. Police did not receive reports of any injuries.

MPD does not believe the suspect was armed, though the University alerted students to look out for a suspect with a handgun. The suspect is in his 20s and has a thin build, according to the alert.

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The Corcoran handed pink slips to all of its employees, and about one-third have not yet found other employment. File Photo by Hatchet Staff Photographer Zach Montellaro.

The Corcoran handed pink slips to all of its employees, and about one-third have not yet found other employment. File Photo by Hatchet Staff Photographer Zach Montellaro.

One in three Corcoran employees will likely be without a job next month as the art school becomes a part of GW.

The Corcoran handed pink slips to all of its 465 employees, but about a third already have other jobs lined up and the other third will keep their positions under new management, the Washington Business Journal reported. More than 150 employees, mostly part-time faculty and staff, will be scrambling for a paycheck after Aug. 16.

Corcoran’s full-time professors will continue teaching at GW, and the National Gallery of Art will employ its curators. Corcoran officials have said that the remaining employees have already found work elsewhere.

A D.C. government website first posted a notice about the layoffs in June.

Details about the deal have left some Corcoran College of Art + Design students uneasy about the transition away from a tight-knit community, even prompting one advocacy group to try to stop the merger.

GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences will absorb Corcoran’s 550 students starting this fall, and students enrolling as early as 2015 could see changes to their curriculum – with more math and science requirements.

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The Milken Institute School of Public Health received a $2.5 million donation for an endowed professorship. Hatchet File Photo

The Milken Institute School of Public Health received a $2.5 million donation for an endowed professorship. File Photo by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Milken Institute School of Public Health has received a $2.5 million donation earmarked for a specialist in obesity prevention, the University announced Monday.

The endowed faculty member will lead the public health school’s obesity center, and will likely attract top professors to apply for the position that includes funding for research and tenure.

Dean Lynn Goldman said the gift would help solidify the school’s focus on treating chronic conditions with prevention strategies.

“This position will help to strengthen the school’s expertise and ability to target obesity and other health conditions with preventive strategies that are effective at keeping people healthy before serious health problems get a chance to develop,” Goldman said in a release.

Staecy DiLorenzo, the school’s communications director, did not immediately return a request for comment.

The professorship is sponsored by Sanofi US, a global healthcare company based in New Jersey that researches therapeutic solutions for patients. The endowed position is one of the first of what officials hope will be many since the University landed a landmark $80 million gift from billionaire philanthropists Michael Milken and Sumner Redstone.

The University is also looking to add about 100 endowed professor positions across schools over the next decade as part of its strategic plan.

That goal will also be a focus of GW’s $1 billion fundraising campaign, which launched last month. The University hopes to raise $500 million to hire faculty and improve academics.

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Officials announced a flurry of security measures Monday for the road in College Park, Md. where three pedestrians have died this year.

By the end of this month, highway officials will reduce the speed limit on Baltimore Avenue from 30 mph to 25 mph, according to a statement released Monday, a change that city leaders have called for since the spring. They state will also build a fence to deter walking outside of the crosswalk, install brighter LED lights and add countdown signals.

Lined with bars and restaurants just off the University of Maryland’s campus, the intersection has been the site of three pedestrian deaths this year.

GW senior Carlos Pacanins was struck and killed at the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Knox Road in April after he crossed the street while a “Do Not Walk” sign was flashing.

Last week, 21-year-old Janelle Marie Oni was struck by a drunk driver in the area and died. Six total pedestrians have been hit this year.

The College Park City Council will hold a vote Tuesday to expand speed camera operating times to help enforce the lower speed limit.

The University of Maryland will also partner with bars and restaurants to launch an information campaign for students this fall to educate them about safe crossing practices, according to the release. UMD president Wallace Loh met with highway officials last week to speed up improvements at the intersection, and said the announced changes were “important actions” to improve pedestrian safety.

UMD and College Park police will continue to patrol the area and conduct sobriety checks to help combat drunk driving.

Highway officials have already changed the timing of traffic signals, added pedestrian crossing warning signs at all crosswalks, placed signs reminding pedestrians to not cross in the median and re-painted the crosswalks at intersections along Baltimore Avenue.

By October, the state will also add yellow flashing lights north and south of the intersection with signs that read “Pedestrian Area – next 1.5 miles,” according to the release.

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