News and Analysis

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Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., called for the survey and released the results Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo

A survey of 440 schools – including GW – released Wednesday found that 41 percent of colleges are “failing” their students when it comes to sexual violence by not conducting any investigations into claims within the past five years.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., conducted the survey and is expected to introduce a bipartisan bill about colleges’ response to sexual assault later this summer. The problem, McCaskill says, is that when a victim reports sexual assault, it does not necessarily mean a school looks into the accusation.

“It’s troubling to me that they are reporting more incidents than they actually had investigations,” McCaskill told USA Today. “That means that they are reporting some incidents that they clearly have not even bothered to investigate.”

GW reported 37 alleged incidents of forcible sexual assault to the Department of Education between 2010 and 2012, according to the most recently available data.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar did not immediately return a request for comment regarding the total number of investigations GW has conducted over the last five years. But she confirmed that the University has conducted investigations into sexual assault complaints.

The issue of sexual assault on college campuses, which affects one in five women, has come to the forefront of national politics over the last several months after a White House task force formed to tackle the trend this spring. Still, aides say a McCaskill bill could face a tough congressional battle, taking up to two years to pass.

More than 20 percent of the nation’s largest private schools that were included in the study conducted fewer investigations than the number of reported incidents. The survey did not name the schools.

Sexual assault is one of the few crimes in which a victim can decide not to proceed with an investigation after reporting it. It is also one of the most underreported crimes nationwide, and fewer reports or investigations does not necessarily mean fewer assaults.

Terris Harris Reed, the University's vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said GW was one of the schools surveyed. Hatchet File Photo

Terri Harris Reed, the University’s vice provost for diversity and inclusion, said GW was one of the schools surveyed. Hatchet File Photo

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed, who oversees GW’s compliance with the federal anti-discrimination law Title IX, said the University meets many of the benchmarks listed in the survey, including offering confidential reporting and conducting an anonymous survey about harassment, stalking and dating violence.

“We are committed to working as an entire community and with the federal government to protect students from sexual assault,” Reed wrote in an email, adding that she had received a copy of the survey Wednesday and was reviewing it.

The study found that one-third of the schools did not educate their students about sexual assault, and about 20 percent of the schools did not provide training to faculty or staff. Sexual violence education is incorporated into GW’s Colonial Inauguration programming and several Greek chapters began holding bystander intervention trainings for their members this spring.

Though the survey only looked at a small sample of schools, it comes as more than 60 schools are under investigation for their responses to sexual assault. Under the federal Clery Act, colleges and universities are required to report sexual assaults and all crimes that occur on campus.

About three-quarters of the surveyed schools have no set procedures for how they and law enforcement officials should handle sexual violence, and about 30 percent of law enforcement officials at those schools do not receive any training on sexual violence.

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Adjunct professor Philip Muehlenbeck teaches a U.S. diplomatic history class. Hatchet File Photo

Adjunct professor Philip Muehlenbeck teaches a U.S. diplomatic history class. Hatchet File Photo

Freshmen, the ultimate test of how fast you can enter five-number sequences has arrived: class registration starts Thursday.

Your first time registering for college courses is exciting, but possibly anxiety-inducing as well. You’re going to want to avoid morning classes and you definitely don’t want class on Fridays. You have to start checking the boxes of your four-year plan with a few requirements, but you also want to go a bit outside of your comfort zone with a philosophy elective.

And what’s more, you’re wondering if you should register for the class your Colonial Inauguration leader highly recommended after you saw the professor’s abysmal score on RateMyProfessor.

First, relax and think ahead. Carve out some time to look over the new bulletin GW released this summer. The requirements for every major and minor are now in one place online, so you can start planning now.

Still worried? Don’t be. Here are some dos and don’ts for tackling the first step of your college career.


1. Have backups

You may have a dream schedule with only political science and history courses for your first semester, but so do hundreds of your classmates. You could have your heart set on one class, but make sure that you have other options ready in case it fills up quickly.

2. Take at least one class you’re dreading

Introductory classes for your science or math requirement will have plenty of open spots. As much as you don’t want to take them this year, you definitely don’t want to be the only senior in a lecture hall filled with freshmen because you pushed off the inevitable.

3. Look for classes on the Vern

You have to take University Writing there anyway this year, and the Mount Vernon campus offers smaller classes that are only available in large lecture halls on Foggy Bottom. With a day on the Vern, you can take advantage of some of the its perks like the quiet green spaces or the lunch offerings at Zebi in Ames Hall.

Hatchet File Photo

Hatchet File Photo


1. Hold yourself to a rigid schedule

Stay flexible in choosing courses for the morning, afternoon or evening, and switch it up from day to day. Even if you’re a morning person, you’ll regret running out before 9:30 a.m. after late nights studying or hanging out with your floormates in Thurston Hall.

2. Completely rely on RateMyProfessor

The website is definitely a valuable tool to gauge how much work you’ll have to put into the class and whether the professor cares more about essays or testing. But the reviews don’t always provide the full picture and can come only from students who either loved or absolutely hated the professor – or the course material.

3. Think this is your last chance to make your schedule

In the weeks leading up to the fall semester, students will tweak their schedules to accommodate jobs and internships, or just because they’ve changed their minds. If you’re unhappy after registering, keep checking to see if any spots in a class have opened throughout the summer.

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GW Hospital

Mohamed Koubeissi, the director of the GW Hospital Epilepsy Center, led the group of researchers. Hatchet File Photo

A team of GW researchers may have accidentally discovered an on-off switch for consciousness in the human brain.

The group was trying to find the source of a woman’s seizures when it made her lose consciousness by stimulating a part of the brain called the claustrum, according to a report published this week by the research magazine New Scientist.

Led by Mohamed Koubeissi, an associate professor of neurology and the director of the GW Hospital Epilepsy Center, the researchers activated the thin sheet of neurons in the center of the brain repeatedly, and the woman reacted the same way each time: She lost consciousness but had no recollection of doing so.

Koubeissi told the magazine that they are sure the loss of consciousness was not a side effect of a seizure. He likened the case to a car.

“A car on the road has many parts that facilitate its movement – the gas, the transmission, the engine – but there’s only one spot where you turn the key and it all switches on and works together,” he told New Scientist. “So while consciousness is a complicated process created via many structures and networks, we may have found the key.”

Because the woman has epilepsy, a healthy brain may react differently to the treatment. The team is now planning to test whether triggering the claustrum can jolt a patient out of a minimally conscious state.

“Perhaps we could try to stimulate this region in an attempt to push them out of this state,” Koubeissi said.

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

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

While a decriminalization bill remains stuck in Congress, District residents may get the chance to vote on marijuana legalization in November.

The D.C. Cannabis Campaign submitted 57,000 signatures to the city’s Board of Elections on Tuesday, more than twice the amount needed to get the measure on the ballot.

The group wants to push a D.C. Council bill that would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a step further, allowing adults to legally possess up to two ounces of pot, WTOP reported. The move would also allow adults to grow six plants and share – but not sell – up to one ounce to anyone older than 21.

About 63 percent of D.C. residents support legalizing marijuana, according to a recent Washington Post poll.

Several Council members, including mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser, have signed the Cannabis Campaign’s petition, the DCist reported.

Under the bill that the Council passed in March, possession for up to an ounce of marijuana would come with a $25 fine. That’s about as much as a parking ticket and the smallest fine of any state except Alaska, which has no fine, and Colorado and Washington, which have legalized marijuana.

House Republicans, led by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., blocked the bill from becoming law last month and proposed an amendment to keep the District from spending its own tax revenue on the measure. Like all D.C. laws, the bill has to undergo a congressional review period. It would have taken effect this month.

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The Milken Institute School of Public Health received the highest ranking under the LEED certification system, the University announced Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

The Milken Institute School of Public Health received the highest ranking under the LEED certification system, the University announced Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

A leading environmental organization has awarded the Milken Institute School of Public Health building its highest sustainability rating, the University announced Tuesday.

The U.S. Green Building Council endorsed GW’s newest academic building with a platinum-level certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The $75 million public health building, which opened its doors this spring, is the first University building to receive the organization’s top mark.

The Washington Circle structure features a green roof that reduces stormwater runoff, a rainwater collection system and an environmentally efficient heating and air conditioning system.

The building was also designed to promote a healthy lifestyle. Architects hid the elevators but highlighted a grand staircase in the middle of the building, for example, and all the offices offer standing desks.

The building, which houses all seven of the public health school’s departments under one roof for the first time, opened to students in May. Faculty began moving into the building two months earlier.

Five of GW’s newest buildings have earned the gold-level certification on the LEED scale.

Sustainability has become a major GW focus during University President Steven Knapp’s tenure. Last month, the University announced a partnership with GW Hospital, American University and Duke Energy Renewables to draw about half its energy needs from solar power.

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Updated: July 8, 2014 at 10:25 a.m.

A 21-year-old woman was killed after she was struck by a car Sunday in downtown College Park, Md., just three months after a GW senior died near the same intersection.

Janelle Marie Oni was crossing Baltimore Avenue, a busy strip of bars and restaurants near the University of Maryland, at about 3 a.m. when she was hit by a drunk driver, the Baltimore Sun reported. Oni is the third pedestrian to die because of a car accident near the intersection this year.

Police arrested the driver, Jacky Luangraj, shortly after the incident. His blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit, according to a release from the Prince George’s County Police Department.

GW senior Carlos Pacanins was also hit by a car and killed near the intersection in April. Just weeks away from graduation, Pacanins had crossed the street while the “do not walk” signal was flashing.

Six pedestrians have been struck near the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Knox Road this year, and law enforcement officials have described the intersection as particularly busy on Thursday and Friday nights.

Cory Hubbard, a 22-year-old student at the University of Maryland, was hit by a car and killed near the intersection in January.

More than 2,740 people have signed a petition calling on the city to build a brick wall along Baltimore Avenue, which would force pedestrians to use the crosswalk.

After Pacanins’ death, police and local lawmakers passed out fliers promoting pedestrian safety to people on the street. The College Park City Council and Mayor Andrew Fellows also sent a letter to the state highway administration proposing to lower the speed limit by 5 mph to 25 mph, install brighter lights and add flashing signs to the crosswalk.

University of Maryland president Wallace Loh said he will meet with the state highway administration Tuesday to speed up improvements to the intersection. Highway officials have already trimmed trees and changed the timers on traffic signals to give pedestrians more time to cross, the Sun reported.

“There are literally scores of young people crossing in the middle of the street after midnight. It’s not just one or two,” Loh told the Sun. “When you have hundreds of people crossing at any given time because there are thousands in these bars, just pleading with them is not sufficient. Just issuing tickets isn’t going to do it.”

Officials will install LED lights at the intersection this fall and a sign with flashing yellow lights warning of the pedestrian area. They have also conducted a speed analysis at the intersection, planned to design new medians and hoped to add countdown signals to pedestrian crosswalks.

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The Iranian president could appoint an alumnus as an envoy to the United Nations after the U.S. denied his first choice a visa.

Mohammad Nahavandian, chief of staff to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, is under consideration for the nomination, two UN Security Council diplomats and a European diplomat told Bloomberg News.

Mohammad Nahavandian, an alumnus, is the likely nominee for Iranian envoy to the United Nations. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons License

Alumnus Mohammad Nahavandian is the likely nominee for Iranian envoy to the United Nations. Photo used under the Wikimedia Commons License

Iran’s envoy has served as the country’s top emissary to the U.S. since the two nations cut off diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, Bloomberg reported.

Nahavandian received a master’s degree in philosophy from GW in 1990, as well as a Ph.D. in economics in 1994, according to the University’s Office of Alumni Relations. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tehran in 1977.

His appointment comes after the U.S. declined a visa to Rouhani’s first choice, Hamid Aboutalebi, because of his involvement with the militant group behind the Iran hostage crisis.

Rouhani tapped Nahavandian as his number two last year – his first executive decree as president. The two traveled to the UN General Assembly together a month later. News outlets described the cabinet appointment of Nahavandian, the former deputy president of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, as an attempt to reach out to the country’s private sector.

Bloomberg reported that Iran may fill the envoy slot by late July, after discussions with world leaders about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program are scheduled to conclude.

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Saturday, July 5, 2014 2:01 p.m.

José Andrés receives White House honor

Celebrity chef and University Commencement speaker José Andrés was honored Friday at the White House.

President Barack Obama recognized Andrés as an “Outstanding American by Choice” during a naturalization ceremony in which 25 members of the military, veterans and their spouses became U.S. citizens.

The Economist, Jose Andres

President Barack Obama honored chef José Andrés at the White House on Friday. Hatchet File Photo

Andrés, who became a citizen last November, was honored as part of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services initiative to highlight the achievements of naturalized citizens who display a commitment to civic duty.

Andrés is the founder of the World Central Kitchen, a charity he established after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He also serves on the boards of D.C. Central Kitchen and L.A. Kitchen, which focus on hunger problems in urban areas.

Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, tweeted a photo of Andrés and Obama with the message, “Congrats to @ChefJoseAndres for receiving the Outstanding American Award-he serves both delicious food & those in need.”

Andrés tweeted a similar photo, writing that he was “humbled” by the honor and “happy to be part of this great nation!”

In his remarks, Obama spoke about the 25 immigrants taking part in the ceremony and the urgency of immigration reform.

Obama vowed to “keep making our immigration system smarter and more efficient so hardworking men and women like all of you have the opportunity to join the American family and to serve our great nation.”

During his Commencement address this spring, Andrés, who immigrated from Spain 24 years ago, told graduates to reshape the American dream.

He has spoken out in favor of immigration reform in the past, notably in an op-ed in the Washington Post last December.

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President Barack Obama addresses college presidents at a summit this spring. Hatchet File Photo

President Barack Obama addresses college leaders at a summit this spring. Hatchet File Photo

A federal college rating system could dictate financial aid allocations based on how well institutions improve affordability and how accessible they are to lower-income applicants – areas GW has pinpointed as priorities this year.

The White House’s idea would link indicators such as a college’s graduation rate over time or number of first generation college students to whether it can receive funding from Pell Grants or other federal loans, several experts said. The idea, introduced last August, has gained steam this summer as the Department of Education pushes for ways to enact the proposal.

The department is expected to release a template of the system by the end of the year, said Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University who studies college rankings and financial aid.

If the government launches a ranking system, colleges that do not reach certain standards on indicators like graduation rates, cost of attendance or percentage of students receiving Pell Grants would lose their eligibility to receive federal funding for financial aid.

But without more details about what the system will look like, it’s hard to tell what sort of effect it would have on universities, Kelchen said.

“There are concerns about whether this is letting the camel’s nose under the tent too much,” Kelchen said. “It could open them up to more regulations in the future.”

If institutions are already focused on improving those metrics, though, the effect could be smaller, he said, adding that a federal system might not replace the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings, considered the gold standard of college rankings.

GW launched two task forces this year that were charged with tackling the issues in higher education that President Barack Obama has highlighted.

University President Steven Knapp created an access and success task force in January, after attending a summit at the White House focused on college affordability. Provost Steven Lerman also launched the University’s largest study into its graduation rate this winter. GW’s rate has hovered around 80 percent for the last five years.

Patrick Kelly, a senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, said more selective institutions, like GW, would not be strongly impacted by a federal ranking system because fewer students receive Pell Grants. About 14 percent of GW students received the grants this year.

Kelly said less selective institutions are much more likely to be concerned, since their students are typically from the area of their college and receive Pell Grants, and those students are less likely to use ranking materials.

“The majority of students attend colleges that are close to home, so the idea that all of a sudden students are going to shop around doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said.

Obama has faced fierce opposition to his administration’s idea. Some university presidents have opposed a national college ranking system, likely because they fear losing control over their institutions’ goals and priorities, Kelcher said. A bipartisan group of congressmen and a group of Republicans in the Senate have also attempted to block such a system.

Paul Hassen, director of communications and marketing at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said many groups have also opposed the system because there are too many questions the government has failed to address.

The government already scores colleges on a scorecard, which is available online, and Hassen said many wonder if an additional system is necessary.

“Do we need another system on top of this?” Hassen asked. “And who’s going to pay for this, who picks up the extra cost of supplying this information to the federal government?”

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014 10:10 p.m.

D.C. offers most STEM jobs in the U.S.

This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Rachael Gerendasy.

With more than 45,000 listings, D.C. has more open jobs in science, technology, engineering and math than any other major city in the U.S., according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The District beat out technology hubs like San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. for the most STEM jobs paying over $50,000 a year. Last year’s leader, New York City, fell to fourth place in the top 10 list with about 28,000 positions listed this year.

Mark Steinard, a recruiter at the jobs website Indeed, said the District has consistently ranked as a top city for STEM positions.

“It’s home to lots of defense and aerospace companies that are increasingly relying on qualified computer and engineering professionals,” he said. “Across the U.S., universities and even high school educators are realizing both the opportunity created by and the importance of STEM jobs.”

These occupations make up about 10 percent of the U.S. job market, according to the data.

GW and three local technology firms released a report in May that predicted the tech boom will create 20,500 jobs to the D.C. area in the next three years, and companies will likely look to hire recent graduates who studied in STEM programs.

In recent years, more GW students have majored in science and technology as the University has expanded programs to boost its research footprint in those fields. The School of Engineering and Applied Science had 122 computer science majors in 2013, a 23 percent increase from 2009.

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