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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Kiara Bhagwanjee.

President Barack Obama highlighted education as a key driver to improving the economy’s future success at his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Obama told members of Congress he hoped to work with them to offer free community college around the country and enhance tax credits for education and child care. Those initiatives would help ease the financial pressures on middle class families, he said.

He told the story of a  middle class family from Minnesota, who have struggled to pay off student loans, save for retirement and pay for childcare, which Obama said cost as much as a year of tuition at the University of Minnesota for their two children.

 “Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go,” he said.

Building on an announcement earlier this month that he’d seek to create a plan for free community college, Obama said that having a higher education degree would give more Americans an edge up in competitive job openings.

He praised a job-training program established by Vice President Joe Biden that prepares community college students for higher-paying jobs in fields like coding, nursing and robotics.

“Free community college is possible,” he said. “I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams,” he said.

Obama also urged businesses to follow in the footsteps of companies like CVS and UPS, asking that they offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships.

“We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world,” he said. “This plan is [their] chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt,” he said.

Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who gave the official Republican Party rebuttal, didn’t directly address any of Obama’s goals for education, instead focusing on issues concerning Obamacare and the generation of jobs for Americans through international markets.

Other Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), questioned how Obama’s community college goals would be funded during and after his speech.

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GW came under the national spotlight Monday in a New York Times article that explored a unique idea to help stop sexual assault: allowing sororities to have alcohol in their houses.

With national experts saying many sexual assaults on college campuses occur in fraternity houses, a Times reporter asked female students whether they would feel safer at a sorority-hosted party.

“I’ve been to parties run by girls, and they’re much more protective – they keep an eye on each other,” junior Amber McLeod told the Times. “At frat parties, it’s more of a hunting ground. Not all guys are like this, of course, but sometimes it feels like the lions standing in the background and looking at the deer. And then they go in for the kill.”

The University is noted in the article for its “fairly typical Greek presence.” The Greek community makes up about one-third of the undergraduate population and hasn’t had any “high-profile” sexual assault cases, though one assault was reported at Phi Sigma Kappa’s townhouse in the fall.

The Times reported about GW: “While students have options for where to imbibe, from dorm parties to off-campus bars, fraternities have a disproportionate presence in campus social life, some students said, mostly because of the free-flowing alcohol.”

Members of GW’s Greek community are typically not allowed to speak to the media or must receive permission first from their national organizations. Panhellenic Association President Mollie Bowman and Interfraternity Council President Tim Stackhouse did not immediately return requests for comment about the article.

The piece also highlighted schools like the University of Virginia, which made headlines after Rolling Stone published a controversial feature about a gang rape that allegedly occurred in a fraternity on its campus.

Experts in the Times article questioned whether sorority-hosted parties would change the culture surrounding sexual assault. Many sororities are not allowed to purchase alcohol for events, and more parties could mean more alcohol abuse, the experts said.

Many sororities at GW register events, like formal, with GW officials so they are able to serve alcohol at a cash bar. Depending on their national organization’s rules, sororities may not be allowed to host events in their townhouses where alcohol is served.

In the past two months, seven Greek organizations on campus have faced sanctions for violations like hazing and underage drinking.

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Just in time for the State of the Union address, Politico released its annual “State of the States” ranking, putting the District at No. 40.

That’s a six-spot jump from last year’s list, which considers factors like crime, obesity, education and life expectancy in its analysis.

D.C. led in the income category, with a per capita income of $45,290. But it also came out in front in the unemployment category, with a rate of 7.4 percent.

About 18.6 percent of D.C. residents live below the poverty line, which is a larger proportion than that of 44 states, according to Politico.

Minnesota topped this year’s list, edging out last year’s winner, New Hampshire. More than 92 percent of high school students graduate in Minnesota, one of the highest rates in the country.

Mississippi, which Politico says is “the poorest and, in some ways, sickest state,” took last place for the second year in a row.

Neighboring Maryland also moved up six spots, landing at No. 13. Virginia is ranked No. 18.

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Student volunteers rearrange and organize toys at A Wider Circle, a nonprofit dedicated alleviating poverty. The toys will be donated to underprivileged children as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Olivia Harding | Hatchet Photographer

Student volunteers rearrange and organize toys at A Wider Circle, a nonprofit dedicated alleviating poverty. The toys will be donated to underprivileged children as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Olivia Harding | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Nanami Hirata.

Students spread out across the city to honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service Monday – and a few worked side-by-side with members of the First Family.

President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and oldest daughter Malia volunteered at a Boys and Girls Club on Monday with three GW students who were working with Jumpstart, an organization that supports children’s literacy. Over 700 other students, faculty and staff volunteered at different sites throughout the city.

Erin Agnew, a sophomore who was at the Boys and Girls Club with the Obamas, said she spoke briefly with Obama, and that she was impressed with how humble the First Family was when it came to working closely with children at the site.

“They very genuinely worked on projects with the kids,” she said. “We were trying to include the kids as much as possible, so we talked a lot about healthy eating and the Let’s Move campaign.”

Before heading out to the service sites, students gathered in the Marvin Center to hear from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

She told the volunteers that they should understand the balance between the importance of community service and the full meaning behind King’s legacy as a civil rights leader.

“King wanted us to use his life to make our lives better. This means using his life to solve the unsolved issues for which he gave his life,” she said. “King’s admonition that genuine equality means income equality will haunt your generation until those most affected take on income disparity that is consuming the American Dream.”

Participants volunteered at twelve locations both on and off campus, including senior centers, child care centers and a middle school, where they helped restore buildings and worked with children and the elderly.

At A Wider Circle, a nonprofit based in Silver Spring, Md., a group of nearly 40 volunteers organized furniture, toys and dishware as part of the neighbor-to-neighbor program, which provides basic household goods and furniture to more than 4,000 families every year.

Volunteers went on a tour of the site, before loading trucks with mattresses and other household items to showrooms, where families can choose different items to bring home. Students packed up donated toys and reminisced over their childhood favorites.

Melissa Erickson, a volunteer coordinator who was at A Wider Circle, said the organization relied on the students to accomplish their goals at this time of year.

“Although we have an amazing dedicated team here. We really can’t do what we do without the help of big groups like the George Washington students, and we really appreciate the work they do for us,” she said.

In D.C.’s Knox Hill neighborhood, the University partnered with the D.C. Office of Aging and ServeDC to send volunteers to visit with the area’s elderly residents.

Bhujit Saini, a freshman site leader, said that visiting with the residents of Knox Hill – one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods – made her realize the importance of human communication.

“The people we talked to really appreciated the fact that there was someone who cared. The small things we do really matter, especially when it comes to the elderly. Giving some time of your day to other people is not only the right thing to do but is also very satisfying,” she said.

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed reporting.

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Local children gather in front of the bouquet placed at the wreath-laying ceremony held this morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Local children gather in front of the bouquet placed at the wreath-laying ceremony held Monday morning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and President and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, Harry Johnson, stand together in a moment of silence in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Harry Johnson, president and chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, stand together in a moment of silence in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

Masters of Ceremonies Jeff Johnson opens the wreath-laying ceremony held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in observance of the national day of service held on King's birthday. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Master of Ceremonies Jeff Johnson opens the wreath-laying ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in observance of the national day of service held on King’s birthday. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

Children joined in today's parade and peace walk in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

Children marched in Monday’s parade and peace walk in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

 

Coast Guard Member shares information with families during the festivities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

Coast Guard members share information with families during the festivities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

 

The parade took place on the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue this Monday afternoon. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

The parade took place on the historic Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast D.C. on Monday afternoon. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

 

The Martin Luther King Jr. Parade included campaigns of local politicians in addition to community members and schools. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

The Martin Luther King Jr. Parade included campaigns for local politicians, in addition to community members and schools. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

 

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GW’s Science and Engineering Hall opened for classes for the first time this week. The building had been under construction since 2011. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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The SEH houses 118 faculty and researchers from both the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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University officials hope to add the Science and Engineering Hall to the five new buildings on campus that have already received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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Common areas are spread throughout the building, including a “teaching tower” that architects designed as a study space for students. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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Faculty were given the chance to create “wish lists” of equipment and other materials they wanted in their labs, and will pitch those requests to donors. Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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Faculty and staff began moving into the building in December, a month earlier than University officials had initially expected. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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The opening of the hall freed up in space in other campus buildings, which means GW won’t renew its leases at 2020 K St. and 1776 G St. Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer

 

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University officials were forced to change the funding plan for the Science and Engineering Hall after fundraising fell through for the $275 million building. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

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Pope Francis will be in the District this fall. Photo by George Martell/Pilot New Media used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

Pope Francis will be in the District this fall. Photo by George Martell/Pilot New Media used under a CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

Boston may have beaten D.C. for the nation’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics, but residents will have the chance to see Pope Francis next fall.

The head of the Catholic Church announced Monday that he would visit New York and D.C., in addition to Philadelphia, when he makes his first papal trip to the United States in September.

The 78-year-old pontiff plans to celebrate mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in the country, on Catholic University’s campus, NBC News reported.

Though his itinerary hasn’t been finalized, he could also visit the White House, Ground Zero and the United Nations headquarters.

Francis has visited 10 countries since he was elected to the papacy in 2013, including Brazil and South Korea.

He returned to the Vatican early Monday after a week-long trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. He also plans to visit South America and France before traveling to the United States.

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A top leader at the American University Washington College of Law accused the GW Law School of poaching students in a Facebook post this week.

Anthony Varona, the associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at American University’s law school, wrote that he thought GW’s move to bring more than 50 transfers from American University was “downright predatory” and caused “quite a bit of disruption” at the school. Varona’s post was republished on the TaxProf Blog on Wednesday.

GW’s law school enrolled 97 transfer students this year, 54 of which had attended American University during their first year in law school.

GW also enrolled 539 first-year students. Their average GPA (3.71) and LSAT score (165) matched those of the fall 2013 class. But universities don’t have to factor transfer students’ scores into the data they submit annually to the American Bar Association.

Sophia Sim, the GW Law School’s associate dean for admissions, told the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog that GW “does not actively solicit for any transfer student, by virtue of our location and robust curriculum we attract a strong transfer pool.”

“GW Law selects transfer applicants based on their prior law school performance because the best indicator of how well a student will do in law school is how well they have already performed in law school,” she told the Journal.

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The Metropolitan Police Department released a surveillance video this week that shows three men who could be connected to the stabbing at McFadden’s.

The video shows three men involved in the fight at the bar in December, which left five people injured. Police say McFadden’s employees are then seen in the footage helping the possible suspects escape out of a parking garage, the Washington Post reported.

Police have not determined why the people shown in the footage were fighting, the Post reported, and the victims have refused to cooperate with investigators.

A little more than a week ago, the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s chairman, Patrick Kennedy, said the bar would not reopen after the city suspended its liquor license. The D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board found that McFadden’s staff cleaned up blood from the floor and did not assist injured patrons after the incident, the Post reported.

MPD released images of two persons of interest in the case on Jan. 2. Police are offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 9:50 p.m.

Knapp visits North Carolina solar power farm

University President Steven Knapp poses with  Eleanor Davis and Zorah Roy at a solar power farm in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

University President Steven Knapp poses with junior Eleanor Davis and senior Zorah Roy at a solar power farm in North Carolina. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Ryan Lasker.

University President Steven Knapp visited the North Carolina site harvesting solar power for GW with a group of students and staff Tuesday.

The visit comes two weeks after the University began sourcing 25 percent of its power from the site, the first step to eventually deriving half of its energy from solar power, according to a release.

On the tour, Knapp and Megan Chapple, the director of GW’s sustainability office, viewed part of the more than 240,000 solar panels that will contribute energy to the University.

“We were able to see the scale of the project first hand,” Ms. Chapple said.

GW signed the partnership with Duke Energy Renewables in June.

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