News and Analysis

The Corcoran will transfer $43 million to GW to cover building renovations and program costs. Hatchet file photo.

The Corcoran will transfer $43 million to GW to cover building renovations and program costs. Hatchet File Photo.

GW is set to receive $43 million in funds from the Corcoran College of Art + Design to cover building renovations and programming costs, the University announced Wednesday.

About $35 million of that pool will cover renovations to the Corcoran’s aging 17th Street building, while the remaining $8 million will fund the Corcoran School of Art + Design’s operations. The fine arts school officially moved under the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences last month.

The first phase of renovations, which will repair the building’s heating, cooling and mechanical systems is expected to cost $25 million – nearly a third of the total GW plans to spend renovating the building.

GW plans to sell the Fillmore building, the Corcoran’s Georgetown property, at the end of this academic year. Profits from that sale will also go toward the $80 million renovations and the school’s operational costs.

Provost Steven Lerman said in a press release that GW has begun fundraising to support Corcoran renovations and continued programming.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the university to not only preserve the historic legacy of the Corcoran but also enhance and build upon the innovative arts education we provide in the heart of our nation’s capital,” Lerman said in the release.

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Four GW alumni and political journalists returned to campus to talk about their reporting and the 2014 midterm elections. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Four GW alumni and political journalists returned to campus to talk about their reporting and the 2014 midterm elections. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Sept. 16, 2014 at 1:28 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Brandon Lee.

A panel of journalists who graduated from GW returned to campus to discuss their reporting experiences and the upcoming midterm elections Tuesday.

Roll Call’s Emily Cahn, Reid Wilson of the Washington Post, Shawna Thomas of “Meet the Press” and The McClatchy Company’s Vice President of News Anders Gyllenhaal met at the Jack Morton Auditorium to share their experiences with students, faculty and fellow alumni.

Here are the big moments from the evening.

1. Americans don’t vote often in midterms, but they should

Why do so few Americans vote in midterm elections, moderator and School of Media and Public Affairs associate professor Cheryl Thompson asked to kick off the discussion.

Wilson took a stab at the answer by first recognizing that the lack of enthusiasm is understandable.

“The average American is going through a tough time right now,” Wilson said. “When you struggle to make ends meet, you don’t have time to read the paper everyday.”

And while a majority of eligible voters take a pass on the midterms, 1974 GW graduate Gyllenhaal said the stakes of the 2014 elections could excite people.

“It’s hard for people who aren’t as addicted to this stuff as the folks in this room to be excited about midterms,” he said. “But it’s also true that the Senate is up for grabs, and if you focus on that, you are looking at something very suspenseful.”

2. The GOP will most likely take the Senate

Thompson, who is also an investigative reporter at The Post, asked the panel how President Barack Obama’s shrinking approval rate will impact the outcome in November. All four journalists agreed the president’s numbers would have an effect.

“They can’t bring in the star power of the president anymore,” Thomas said. “You want the money that a president can bring in, but in these tight races, he is nowhere to be found.”

Thomas, who graduated from GW in 2002, added that Obama’s absence from the campaign trail is intentional. And that shows Democrats are trying to distance themselves from the President, said Cahn, a 2011 alumna.

“These important races are happening in states that Obama had already lost [in 2012],” Cahn said. “Then you look at how poorly he’s doing now, that’s going to hurt his party with even the base voters in his party. That’s definitely a big problem for the Democrats.”

3. Take advantage of opportunities at GW

The alumni also mentioned how attending GW shaped their careers.

Students get “to be in the center of everything,” said Thomas, who joined “Meet the Press” this summer.

While at GW, Thomas interned at Fox News and stayed in D.C. to work as a lobbyist after graduation.

“Half, if not all, of your professors have connections,” she said. “Everything you can do in D.C. and still go to class is what GW can offer you.”

Wilson recalled interning on Capitol Hill while taking classes at the University.

“I love politics to my core. Because of that, there is no better place than here,” he said. “Forget about Georgetown, that’s way too far away.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the last name of SMPA associate professor Cheryl Thompson. It is Thompson, not Thomson. We regret this error.

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Jimmy McMillan, the founder of New York's The Rent is Too Damn High party, took to D.C.'s streets to promote an Uber competitor. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Jimmy McMillan, the founder of New York’s The Rent is Too Damn High party, took to D.C.’s streets to promote an Uber competitor. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Victoria Sheridan.

The political activist known for lambasting New York rent prices for being “too damn high” rode a float across campus Monday because “Uber’s rates are too damn high.”

Jimmy McMillan, founder and central candidate of New York’s Rent is Too Damn High Party, turned his efforts to GW’s campus to promote Hailo, a car service app that is marketing itself as a cheaper version of Uber. Passersby took pictures as the float made its way through campus on a route that also took it past the Verizon Center and down U Street.

McMillan said young people, like GW students, deserve “extra money in their pocket to spend” on other luxuries and “necessities like breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

“This is not about us,” he said. “This is about the millions of public people who can’t afford to make ends meet.”

Known for his catchy campaign slogans and unique facial hair, McMillan’s 2010 campaign to become governor of New York gained national attention and mockery. McMillan became the focus of many parodies, most notably when Kenan Thompson portrayed him on Saturday Night Live after McMillan announced his candidacy for the 2012 presidential election.

McMillan said when officials from Hailo reached out to him, he decided to join the app’s advertising campaign because it was “the first company that listened to me and believed my message, other than Saturday Night Live.”

The app claims to be cheaper than competitors because it will reduce prices by 50 percent for a limited time every weekday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to Hailo’s press release from the event.

Jonna Humphries, the D.C. marketing manager for Hailo, said another way the app works to make rates lower than similar taxi services, like UberX, is by removing surge prices for ordering a cab. She said along with the D.C. area, the app provides service to Arlington, Alexandria and Prince George’s County.

McMillan said he wanted to publicize the app in the District because several members of the Rent is Too Damn High Party were elected to the D.C. Democratic State Committee this past year.

“I’m going to let them know how they can download the app,” McMillan said.

Sophomore Austin Lavin, who stopped to meet McMillan and other Hailo promoters, said he was drawn to the float because of McMillan’s internet fame.

“He doesn’t have a lot of authority or credibility, but I think it’s really clever that the service uses him as a catchphrase to market their program,” Lavin said. “It’s impossible to hail a cab around D.C., and Uber is kind of expensive, so I definitely will be looking into Hailo.”

Another sophomore who noticed the campaign, Sachin Kumar, said he downloaded the Hailo app to see if the company’s claims about lower rates were true, but he found no proof that their prices were cheaper than Uber.

He said unlike Uber, Hailo doesn’t allow users to look at a fare quote, which allows them to find out in advance the cost of arriving at their destination.

“I guess you only find out once you get there,” Kumar said.

Hailo charges users each time they call for a cab, but when the cab arrives, customers pay drivers per standard metered fare rates, according to consumer issues blog the Consumerist. While Hailo cannot reduce the typical fare rates cab drivers charge, they have reduced the $1.50 fee for hailing a cab.

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Then-Junior Joe Holleran, right, and then-second-year law student Alex Schneider, middle, each received a free year of tuition for their cost-saving ideas last spring. The University is hoping to entice faculty and staff to pitch similar ideas with a cash prize or free parking. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

Then-junior Joe Holleran, right, and then-second-year law student Alex Schneider, center, each received a year’s worth of free tuition for their cost-saving ideas last spring. The University is now hoping to entice faculty and staff to pitch similar ideas with a cash prize or free parking. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

The Innovation Task Force is offering a $3,000 cash prize or a year of free campus parking to a faculty or staff member who pitches an idea for the University to make or save $1 million annually.

The competition marks the first time GW has asked faculty and staff to pitch ideas to cut costs or raise funds for the six-year-old program. Last year, the task force’s chair encouraged students to propose projects for the first time.

Two students each received a year of free tuition last spring for their ideas to automatically turn off energy-consuming technology across campus and stop using a third-party company to make international payments. Dave Lawlor, senior associate vice president for finance and chair of the innovation task force, said in a release that the competition for faculty and staff will be similar to the student competition,

Lawlor received 47 pitches for the student contest last year, and GW will offer another $50,000 scholarship to a student who pitches the winning project this year.

Before last fall, primarily administrators in departments across the University had created and led cost-saving and revenue-generating initiatives.

“For the university, the best ideas for new revenue, fundraising, research, savings, whatever the category, often come from the folks who are, on a day-to-day basis, running GW,” Lawlor said in the release.

Faculty, staff and students will have until Oct. 24 to submit their ideas to be eligible for their respective prizes.

Officials are looking for ideas in areas that went largely untapped after they softened expectations for the signature program. Last year, its directors decided to no longer count the $25 million they had set aside from various projects because the dollar-earning potential of some projects had been exaggerated.

That announcement slowed the program’s quick success, and some faculty said they doubted it would continue to grow. University President Steven Knapp’s original goal for the program was to identify $60 million in new savings or revenue by 2015, which officials have said they still expect to meet.

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GW slipped two spots to No. 54 in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings of the nation’s best colleges Tuesday, the third straight year the University has dropped on the list.

U.S. News ranked colleges based on data for the class admitted in 2013, rather than the University’s most recent admissions cycle, which saw GW admit 43 percent of applicants – a 10-point increase from the year before. GW dropped to its current slot over the last three years after hitting its top spot at No. 50 in 2011.

GW shares the No. 54 spot with Ohio State, Pepperdine and Tulane universities. GW, Ohio State and Tulane all tied last year, as well.

But The University of Washington and the University of Texas at Austin, which both tied with GW last year, passed GW to come in at No. 48 and No. 53, respectively, this year.

Princeton University claimed the top spot for the second year in a row.

U.S. News stripped GW of its No. 51 ranking in 2012 after officials admitted they had inflated admissions data for more than a decade.

The magazine also ranked several schools in the top half of the rankings in a separate “Best Value” list, though GW did not make the cut. Pepperdine University snagged the No. 24 spot on that list.

U.S. News stuck with the same methodology it used last year to compile the 2015 list. Last year, it decided to give less weight to areas like the percentage of incoming students in the top of their high school class.

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Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Finance Chair Ben Pryde sponsored a bill to create the SA’s “Innovation Fund” to help students with creative ideas. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Students looking to launch a creative project at GW without the help of a student organization can now turn to the Student Association.

The SA amended its bylaws on Monday to create a $3,000 “Innovation Fund” separate from funding for student organizations to help students with“innovative and unique” projects. Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ben Pryde, U-At-Large sponsored the bill and said he hopes the fund will spur more ideas like the solar table, Before I Die wall and What I Be projects, which were all launched by students individually.

“A good idea is something the Student Association should invest in, and students should be coming to us regardless of whether they have the CSE-registered label attached to them,” Pryde said.

Until now, these types of projects had to be temporarily housed under the banner of student organizations to receive funding, since the SA could only allocate money through groups verified by the Center for Student Engagement.

The $3,000 pool would ideally go to one large project, Pryde said, though the SA could potentially split the fund among two smaller proposals.

The money will be drawn from the SA’s cosponsorship fund.

Finance Committee Vice Chair Caroline Bourque insisted the fund would not hurt student groups looking for funding.

“This money for the Innovation Fund isn’t going to negatively impact student organizations on campus. It’s not going to take money away from them,” Bourque said.

Students hoping to secure funding for a project will apply through the SA’s cosponsorship form.

If approved, Pryde and another member of the finance committee will work with the recipient as the project develops.

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University President Steven Knapp launched an access and affordability task force last year. The New York Times ranked GW on Monday as less economically-diverse than more than 85 percent of the country's top institutions. Hatchet File Photo

University President Steven Knapp launched an access and affordability task force last year. The New York Times ranked GW on Monday as less economically-diverse than more than 85 percent of the country’s top institutions. Hatchet File Photo

GW landed in the bottom fifth of the New York Times’ first-ever ranking of the most economically diverse top colleges.

The newspaper gave GW the No. 84 slot on Monday out of the 99 schools it evaluated for efforts to attract and enroll poor and middle-class students.

Listing only U.S. colleges with a four-year graduation rate of at least 75 percent in 2011-12, the Times ranked schools based on their endowment per student, out-of-pocket costs for low- and middle-income students and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.

Researchers for the Times’ website The Upshot combined those factors into a College Access Index for each school. GW earned a -1.4, while the top school, Vassar College, earned a 3.1.

The data used to determine college access shows a stark contrast between GW and the liberal arts college in New York.

While 13 percent of GW freshmen on average received a Pell Grant (meaning their family income is less than $50,000) between 2012 and 2014, about one in four Vassar freshmen received Pell Grants on average during that same period.

Vassar College’s $340,000 endowment per student also dwarfs GW’s per student endowment of $70,000, though Vassar enrolls only about 2,500 students compared to GW’s roughly 10,000 undergraduates.

And while families earning between $30,000 and $48,000 annually paid about $18,300 after financial aid, families in the same income bracket paid a net price of just $6,000 a year on average for a degree from Vassar.

Families in that income bracket have seen their net price to attend GW rise 28 percent over the last five years.

Most of the schools GW considers its peers, including New York, Emory and Duke universities, outranked GW.

Still, GW ranked slightly higher than Boston University (No. 87) and Washington University in St. Louis (No. 92).

The ranking – not the first time GW has received low marks for attracting lower-income students – comes after University President Steven Knapp’s repeated assurances that accessibility is one of his priorities. Knapp launched a task force to tackle the affordability last winter, and has attended White House summits on the issue.

Universities can also expect the first draft this fall of the federal government’s system to rate universities, which will look to incentivize colleges to improve affordability.

- Jeremy Diamond contributed reporting.

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The newly sworn-in Secretary of Health and Human Services gave her first public address Monday in GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium.

Three months after the Senate confirmed her, Sylvia Burwell used her time at the podium to defend the Affordable Care Act, saying the landmark health care law is about “making progress” and not “making a point,” The Hill reported.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sylvia Burwell made her first public speech Monday at GW. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Burwell replaced her embattled predecessor Kathleen Sebelius, who stepped down from the post after a botched rollout of the online enrollment website for the new healthcare system.

And Burwell made clear that she plans to stay above the political fray over Obamacare, pledging not to “fight last year’s battles.” Instead, she vowed to focus on the challenges ahead.

“Transparency builds trust, and it is something we take very seriously,” she said. “Even if the numbers aren’t quite where we want them to be on something, we’re going to tell you about it.”

The health secretary also used the speech as an opportunity to remind students and faculty that they can make a difference in their field by taking on leadership roles.

Burwell’s remarks come just two months before the second enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which begins Nov. 15.

A Twitter account for Burwell was also created today, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

Freshmen prepared letters and care packages for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Surivors, which helps families who have lost a family member in military service. Charlie Lee | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Tim Palmieri.

Freshmen and University President Steven Knapp huddled around bingo cards Saturday with veterans at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.

“I-26,” Knapp called out before freshmen Hannah Silverman and Elyssa Clauson gave each other a high five as their team moved one space closer to victory.

Freshmen split into groups at the retirement home for veterans of the armed forces, with some writing thank-you cards and filling care packages for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors while others played bingo and chatted with the elderly veterans. The freshman class spread across the District on Saturday for the sixth annual Freshman Day of Service to volunteer with more than two dozen community groups.

“It’s a great way to get involved in the D.C. community,” freshman Ashna Kapoor said. “All of us coming together from different parts of the country and coming together to help out is something special.”

The students who worked with TAPS prepared packages for families still reeling from the death of a loved one during service in the military.

“Working with TAPS has been great,” said freshman Zoe Dorau. “It’s sad to know every name on the card list has suffered, but it’s a great experience and I’m really happy I came.”

Between licking stamps and stuffing envelopes, conversations began with the usual questions: “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?” But students quickly found common ground with the veterans, and the groups started to share cheesy knock-knock jokes and the names of favorite TV shows.

Students listened as the veterans shared some words of wisdom and the veterans in turn asked about college life.

“I’m impressed the University throws this event, especially when talking to my friends from other schools who don’t do anything like this,” freshman Peter Baumann said.

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Former Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) presented a GW freshman with a Beta Theta Pi scholarship. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., presented a GW freshman with a Beta Theta Pi scholarship. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Updated: Sept. 4 at 12:45 a.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Brandon Lee.

Former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., joined fellow members of Beta Theta Pi in the Marvin Center on Wednesday to present the fraternity’s Men of Principle scholarship.

The former senator also used his time to recall his fraternity days as a member of Beta Theta Pi at Denison University, and spoke out against hazing and excessive alcohol use in Greek life.

1. Men of Principal scholarship

Freshman Austin Hansen, who is not a member of the fraternity, beat out 13 other students to win the $500 Men of Principle scholarship. The award is an annual honor given to a male student who displays leadership on campus.

“I came here to be in D.C., to be in that bubble of famous people,” Hansen said. “To be able to shake hands with people like Dick Lugar, it reminds you why you’re here. I’m honored, and I have no other words to describe it.”

2. Hazing and alcohol

The scholarship’s name comes from a nationwide Beta Theta Pi initiative called Men of Principle, which aims to curb hazing and substance abuse.

“There had been an excessive use of alcohol and drug abuse in the Greek houses,” said Lugar, who spent 36 years in the U.S. Senate.

He added that students can have the most impact on changing that culture on college campuses.

3. Beta memories

Lugar, 82, also recalled his own time as an active member of the fraternity. He joined Beta as a freshman, when his chapter had a “no smoke, no drink, no horsing around ethic.”

“Turns out, that was sort of difficult to maintain,” he joked. “I must confess, when I was in the second floor of the house, I saw the occasional beer can floating around, which caught my attention.”

Greek life gave him a sense of community and friendship he still appreciates, Lugar said.

“By the end of freshman year, life had changed for me,” he said. “It was a new opportunity and a new beginning, and I knew that everything was gonna be OK.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported the amount of money given with the Men of Principle scholarship. The award is a $500 scholarship, not $1,000. We regret this error.

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