News and Analysis

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Liz Provencher.

A student was assaulted early morning Saturday in what a Metropolitan Police Department document called a “suspected hate crime.”

According to a MPD document, a man walking with another person at around midnight on Sept. 12 was assaulted after being approached by six men, who yelled “homophobic slurs” in front of the Nine Twenty-Five Apartments on 25th Street. The men made statements like “you guys are faggots and queers,” according to the document.

Following the statements, one of the men proceeded to “punch the student with closed fists to the head.” The student then fell to the ground but a witness helped the student to his feet. Upon standing back up, the man continued to punch the student in the head until the student fell back to the ground.

“After the student fell to the ground once again, the six suspects fled in an unknown black vehicle in a northbound direction,” the incident report reads.

The document said four officers responded to the incident early Saturday morning.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said the incident is listed in GW’s crime log as a simple assault. He said in an email that MPD contacted the University Police Department “for assistance to identify the individuals involved.”

The crime log states that case is now closed and at least one student was referred to GW’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. The crime log also identifies the assailant and two victims as students.

Patrick Kennedy, the chair of a local Foggy Bottom neighborhood group, said in an interview that a MPD spokesman described the assault at the group’s meeting last week, saying that the incident involved members of two unknown GW fraternities.

“It is my understanding that the students involved were from two different GW fraternities,” Kennedy said.

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Journalist Jorge Ramos sat down with SMPA director Frank Sesno to discuss politics. Craig Hudson | Hatchet Photographer

Journalist Jorge Ramos sat down with SMPA director Frank Sesno to discuss politics. Craig Hudson | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporters Aishvarya Kavi and Brandon Bish

Journalist Jorge Ramos visited Jack Morton Auditorium Thursday morning to discuss activism, politics and his recent confrontation with presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

At a press conference with Trump last month, Ramos, a news anchor on the Spanish-language television program Univision, stood up and began asking a question about immigration reform when Trump told him to sit down and called on another reporter.

When Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, mentioned how critics have accused Ramos of overstepping his role as a journalist into the realm of activism, Ramos said it is necessary to ask tough questions.

“As a journalist, it’s not only appropriate, but it is your duty to challenge those who are in power when it comes to discrimination, racism, corruption, public lies, dictatorships or human rights,” Ramos said.

Ramos, who was born and raised in Mexico, said that with 60 million Latinos in the United States, candidates in the 2016 presidential election will need support from a majority of the Latino community to win.

He added that the only two Latino candidates, Republicans Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who both have parents that immigrated from Cuba, should be defending other immigrants.

When Sesno questioned what Ramos would ask Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Ramos said he would be equally tough on her.

“Our role is not to support any candidate, our role is to question every single candidate,” he said.

Attending the event was celebrity chef José Andrés, who backed out of plans to open a restaurant in Trump’s upcoming D.C. hotel in July because of Trump’s comments about immigrants.

Ramos, who called Andrés “a very brave man,” asked him to come on stage and speak about immigration reform for undocumented immigrants. Andrés briefly discussed how immigrants that work in the U.S. should be legalized so they can be paid for their work.

Toward the end of the conversation, Ramos was asked what advice he would give to aspiring journalists.

“Don’t shut up, don’t sit down and don’t get out,” he said. “Just speak up.”

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Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015 10:10 a.m.

Director of Mental Health Services steps down

Director of Mental Health Services Silvio Weisner stepped down from his position. Hatchet File Photo.

Director of Mental Health Services Silvio Weisner stepped down from his position. Hatchet File Photo.

Updated: Sept. 22, 2015 at 6:13 p.m.

Silvio Weisner, director of GW’s Mental Health Services, has stepped down, according to a University release.

Weisner came to GW in 2012, after the center went nearly a year without a permanent head. His two predecessors also stepped down suddenly after former employees said their leadership hurt the program. Officials will begin a national search for a new director – involving faculty, staff and students – starting this fall.

The release did not provide a date or reason for Weisner’s departure. He was not quoted in the release.

““We are grateful for Silvio’s leadership in overseeing the enhancement of Mental Health Services, and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” Mark Levine, senior associate dean of students, said in the release.

Gillian Berry, an associate director of Mental Health Services, will serve as interim director.

During his three years at GW, Weisner oversaw an increase in staffing, hiring five specialized clinicians in the spring. The ceneter also moved from K Street to the Colonial Health Center in the Marvin Center last semester. Weisner also added permanent counseling services to the Mount Vernon Campus after three student suicides on the campus in 2014.

He also changed the structure of the center to a triage system that included initial assessments and crisis intervention services over the phone and group counseling sessions to cut down wait times. Students with more immediate needs were also pushed to the top of the list.

Officials have had to contend with student complaints about long wait times for counseling appointments. Last spring Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski called for shorter wait times and more specialists during a Board of Trustee’s meeting. During that presentation he said individual appointments, psychiatry appointments and after-hours crisis incidents had increased over the 2014-2015 school year.

Mental Health Services, formerly called the University Counseling Center, was one of three departments to see budget increases last year. Officials have added specialists over the last several years in areas like veterans and international students. A portion of this fall’s 3.4 percent tuition hike will also go to strengthen mental health resources on campus.

Mental health has been a priority for student leaders over the last several years, with Student Association presidential and executive board candidates making it a key portion of their campaigns.

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GW’s Judaic Studies program will have a new professorship in honor of a former campus rabbi, the University announced Monday.

The Morningstar Foundation made a donation of an undisclosed amount to the Judaic Studies program to establish the Max Ticktin Professorship of Israel Studies, a new endowed professorship created to lead Israeli studies in the program.

The Morningstar Foundation is a family foundation established by Susie and Michael Gelman. Max Ticktin, a rabbi, was an assistant director of GW Hillel for more than a decade and also taught as a professor of Hebrew before recently retiring, according to the release. Susie Gelman took classes with Ticktin for “several years” while taking non-degree courses in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Michael Gelman did not attend GW.

“We are absolutely delighted to honor the legacy and impact on generations of students of our dear friend and beloved teacher, Max Ticktin, by establishing the Max Ticktin Professorship in Israel Studies. We are very excited to partner with the George Washington University in creating the cornerstone of what will be a significant academic enterprise that will strengthen the knowledge and understanding of the modern State of Israel, which is so important to Max and to our family,” the Gelmans said in the release.

The couple have shown interest in national Jewish community in the past. Michael Gelman is the chair of the executive committee of The Jewish Federations of North America, according to the website of his accounting firm, from which he has retired.

Ben Vinson, the dean of the Columbian College, said in the release that the addition of a faculty member to the program will help to improve what he described as an already strong department.

“The addition of a dedicated professor who will advance the discourse and knowledge of the field will help us reach our goal of becoming one of the premier academic destinations for the study of Israel,” Vinson said.

The grant to the Judiac Studies program marks the second major gift of an undisclosed amount announced this month. The gift counts toward GW’s $1 billion fundraising campaign, which has raised more than $790 million.

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Updated: Sept. 21, 2015 at 5:15 p.m.

About 20 percent of female undergraduate students at top national universities said they experienced sexual assault or other sexual misconduct this year, according to a new survey by the Association of American Universities.

Of the 20 percent of students who have experienced sexual misconduct, about 12 percent reported nonconsensual sexual contact through physical force or threats of physical force.

The survey also found low rates of victims reporting instances of sexual violence to campus or law enforcement officials with rates ranging from five to 28 percent, depending on the university. Students surveyed cited embarrassment or emotional difficulty as reasons for not reporting.

Researchers surveyed more than 150,000 students at 27 nationally prominent institutions, including most of the Ivy League universities. GW’s peer institution Washington University in St. Louis was included in the survey. GW was not included in the survey.

AAU researchers conducted this survey last year to better understand attitudes surrounding sexual misconduct on college campuses surveyed students at the end of this spring, according to the report.

GW conducted its own sexual violence campus climate survey last year. Results found that 36 percent of female upperclassmen had experienced unwanted sexual behavior on campus, and 80 percent of respondents said they did not know how to contact GW’s Title IX office.

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A juvenile male was mugged and assaulted by four men near Thurston Hall early Sunday morning.

The victim, a juvenile male, was approached by four men who “threw him to the ground” and assaulted him, a Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman said. He lost consciousness and his property was taken.

The spokeswoman did not say whether the juvenile was a GW student. He was transported to a local hospital, she said.

The robbery occurred at the 1900 block of F Street at about 12:30 a.m., according to a GW alert.

The suspects are four black men, one “possibly wearing a maroon or white shirt,” according to the GW alert, which was sent at 4:50 a.m.

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Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015 3:41 p.m.

Neighbors brainstorm ways to fight homelessness

Marina Streznewski organized the homelessness task force for neighbors to come up with solutions to homelessness. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Marina Streznewski organized the homelessness task force for neighbors to come up with solutions to homelessness. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporters John Glasfeld and Sam Tiratto.

The Foggy Bottom Association’s Homelessness Task Force met officially for the first time on Saturday at Duques Hall to discuss ways to confront issues that homelessness creates in the community.

Marina Streznewski, president of the Foggy Bottom Association and a long-time neighbor, led the meeting of roughly 20 people and urged those in attendance to consider “what we can do as a neighborhood” to alleviate problems caused by chronic homelessness in the area.

Though Streznewski directed the meeting, it was meant for others to join the conversation on how to improve living conditions for anyone in the neighborhood, including the homeless.

“I really believe if you’re living somewhere, you should be part of the solution,” Streznewski said.

Local residents like Christina Farmworth complained that Miriam’s Kitchen, a Foggy Bottom organization that provides meal assistance to homeless individuals in the neighborhood, brought “rowdy” individuals to the neighborhood.

Scott Schenkelberg, president and CEO of Miriam’s Kitchen, was at the meeting.

“We have a vision of ending chronic homelessness in D.C. and we work hard to ensure the resources necessary to do that,” Schenkelberg said.

Local resident Janet Sharp said that she came to the meeting out of curiosity. Sharp, who has been homeless in the past, said that she volunteers at the Georgetown Ministry Shelter and at Miriam’s Kitchen as a method of giving back to the community.

“But you can only help so many people at one time,” she said. “What we need is something like this downtown.”

Other issues related to homelessness were covered at the meeting included trash, noise, public urination, sexual harassment and blocked sidewalks.

Streznewski said the city should instal more trash cans near homeless encampments so homeless people can dispose of their garbage, but some neighbors argued that GW students produce more trash than the homeless. Neighbors have for years complained about student conduct off campus.

“The students are way worse, on trash, than the homeless” neighbor Kenneth Durham said.

Neighbors at the meeting, including Streznewski, said that they would welcome members of the GW community to participate in the task force, and that they aren’t helping as much as they should.

“I think it would be good to coordinate a little bit also this with the university,” Mary Ann Boukalis said. “I think they [students] can be very helpful. But also I think they are part of the problem.”

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Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 3:24 p.m.

Alumnus’s death in June ruled a suicide

Alumnus Keaton Marek died by suicide in June, the D.C. Chief Medical Examiner said this week.

Marek was found lying face down and unconscious at 24th and M streets after he came off the roof of the 2400 M Apartments on June 17. He died of “multiple blunt force injuries,” the medical examiner said. He was 22 years old.

Marek graduated in May with a degree in political science. He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity and the GW College Democrats. About 30 GW students traveled to New York for his memorial service last summer, his mother Cynthia Marek said.

Cynthia Marek said that she and other members of her family were told before the ruling that the death may be declared a suicide because police could not identify an exact cause.

“I don’t think he was in that state of mind, but I’ll never know for sure,” she said.

Four current students have died by suicide since January 2014.

Cynthia Marek also said she and her husband hope to create a scholarship to honor their son at his high school, Kenmore West High School in Tonawanda, N.Y. The scholarship would be for a graduating senior who is interested in studying Keaton Marek’s favorite subjects: history, philosophy or political science.

She said that since her son’s death, many people have reached out to her and her family to express their condolences, including a GW student who didn’t know the Marek family but lived across the hall from Keaton Marek during her freshman year.

“She just said such nice things about him,” Cynthia Marek said. “We were very touched that she reached out to us, even though she didn’t know us.”

Jacqueline Thomsen and Robin Eberhardt contributed reporting.

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Eve Zhurbinskiy was chosen as the new treasurer for the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Eve Zhurbinskiy was chosen as the new treasurer for the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC. Andrew Goodman | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Regina Park.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission tackled a full agenda Wednesday night, including homelessness initiatives, zoning expansions, the placement of the newest commissioner as the treasurer and other actions.

Here are some of the things that were discussed at the meeting Wednesday night in Funger Hall.

1. Granting homelessness a “new lease on life”

Michael Sherman, one of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s five new Housing Navigators from the city’s Department of Human Services, discussed “A New Lease on Life,” a rapid housing plan.

He said he hopes the plan will eliminate common homelessness by December. The new initiative is part of Bowser’s plan to end homelessness in D.C. by 2018.

“What we’re doing now is placing people in housing and letting them go on their own way – which makes no sense at all,” Sherman said.

The initiative will place the homeless people directly in permanent housing rather than temporary holding spaces such as hotel rooms or the Washington General, previously displaced families have been able to return to stable lifestyles faster.

Sherman cited rapid re-housing’s 85 percent success rate within D.C., and said the District has allocated enough funds to subsidize 1,100 families at this time. He said DHS is currently looking for landlords of affordable apartments within the District that would be agreeable to housing current homeless in return for a government subsidy on a one-year lease. Families would pay the remaining portion of the rent.

Commissioner Rebecca Coder suggested GW – as the second largest landholder within D.C. – should utilize some of its unused buildings as residential spaces for the homeless as part of the program.

“Not all of GWU’s buildings are in use for academic purposes,” Coder said.

2. Backlash against zoning expansions

The Commission also unanimously passed a resolution that spoke out against the new zoning expansions they said are threatening housing space in Foggy Bottom and West End. They said the proposed zoning changes make more room for nonresidential buildings and parking spaces, creating less room for residents.

Commissioners Florence Harmon and Coder drafted the resolution and argued that the expansions would allow for a higher density of people that is inconsistent with the surrounding residential area and will also increase the height allowed for buildings, limiting visibility.

“There is a disconnect between people that are writing the regulations and those who actually live in that area,” said Harmon.

3. Marking pedestrian routes to Georgetown

At the meeting, the Georgetown Business Improvement District put out a proposal to add signpost routes to help pedestrians that are coming from the Foggy Bottom Metro station navigate Georgetown. The proposal was passed unanimously by the ANC.

The new signs are one of the 75 recommended changes to Georgetown according to Georgetown 2028, a 15 year action plan designed to “enhance the Georgetown experience to visitors.”

“If you’ve walked that way [near K Street] recently, you’ll notice the sidewalk splits, there are a lot of crosswalks and it’s incredibly confusing to visitors,” said Maggie Downing, destination manager of the Georgetown BID.

4. A new treasurer

Sophomore Eve Zhurbinskiy, at her first meeting since she was elected as a commissioner, was also voted in unanimously for the ANC’s newest treasurer after being the only volunteer for the position.

Patrick Kennedy, chairman of the ANC, opened up the topic and asked the sitting commissioners if anyone wanted to nominate themselves for the position. The committee flew through the initial proposal, nomination and voting procedure within ten minutes.

“My district is an all-student district with frat housing, and I ran to represent the students as the only student commissioner,” Zhurbinskiy said in an interview.

The treasurer is responsible for filing the Commission’s quarterly financial reports, maintaining the Commission’s checkbook, entering Commission’s finances and setting up the budget, Kennedy said at the meeting.

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The 10 GW students studying abroad in Chile are safe after an earthquake Wednesday night, a University spokeswoman confirmed.

“We have been in touch with all of them and they are safe,” University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said. At least eight people died in the 8.3-magnitude quake, according to the New York Times.

One million people were evacuated from their homes near Santiago following the earthquake, which struck around 7:50 p.m. local time. The quake was felt as far away as São Paulo, Brazil, more than 2,100 miles away, the New York Times reported. About 243,000 homes lost power, the country’s under secretary of the interior said.

Tsunami issues were issued for areas as far away as New Zealand and California. The warning in Chile has since been lifted, according to the New York Times. Waves in one of Chile’s port cities reached as high as 15 feet, and many areas experienced severe flooding.

The University offers a program through GW in Santiago where students take classes at the University of Chile.

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