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Rice Hall

Members of the GWU Progressive Student Union gather outside Rice Hall to deliver a petition to President Steven Knapp demanding affordable and sustainable dining options for students. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Members of the GWU Progressive Student Union gather outside Rice Hall to deliver a petition to President Steven Knapp demanding affordable and sustainable dining options for students. Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Laura Whaling.

Sixteen members of the Progressive Student Union marched to Rice Hall Thursday afternoon to deliver a petition demanding changes to GW’s current campus dining plan.

The petition, which had 600 signatures, included demands for an increase in student involvement in the decision-making process behind campus dining choices, more sustainable food and maintaining current employee contracts. Both students and J Street employees signed the petition.

GW’s contract with Sodexo, who provides dining services like J Street to the University, will expire at the end of the year.

Ross Berry, the president of PSU, said the group was going to ask the desk receptionist in Rice Hall – where most administrator offices are housed – to speak to Senior Associate Vice President of Operations Alicia Knight, but said it was unlikely they would meet with her.

Two weeks ago, PSU started the petition asking the University for more input on campus dining options, a daily swipe-system and more sustainable food options. The petition also asked GW to keep all current workers and increase workers’ rights after Sodexo said it would fire two workers in the winter.

Before entering the building, the group posed for a photo, and on Berry’s order of “fists to the sky,” they raised their arms.

Berry said that after being told that the students would not be able to meet with Knight or University President Steven Knapp, Berry handed the petition to the receptionist and said the PSU will give officials one week to respond to their demands.

Berry addressed the students after dropping off the petition, telling them their involvement was helpful in the “year-long process” of changing campus dining.

“We can’t emphasize enough that students and workers be heard in this process,” Berry said.

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Updated: April 13, 2015 at 10:26 p.m.

About 30 students, including members of Students Against Sexual Assault, marched across campus Monday, demanding that administrators implement mandatory sexual assault education at Colonial Inauguration.

The protest followed the announcement that officials would have sexual assault education in an online-only format.

The protest began in Kogan Plaza, and students walked through campus to Rice Hall, where University President Steven Knapp’s and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski’s offices are located.

Students carried mattresses and chanted phrases like “This is what democracy looks like” and “”GW stop stalling, rape culture is appalling.” Some students also fastened red tape over their mouths.

Last month, 92 percent of students voted in favor of having a mandatory sexual violence education session at CI.

SASA Co-Presidents Ariella Neckritz and Kirsten Dimovitz and Vice President Laura Zillman met with Knapp’s chief of staff in the building while other students stood outside.

“Thank you for coming out today in solidarity and support for survivors and saying this is an issue you care about,” Neckritz said to the crowd of students.

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The masked man who attempted to sexually assault a woman in a Rice Hall bathroom 10 days ago also robbed her, according to police documents.

The female staffer reported that the suspect punched her in the eye and mouth before he stole her earrings, ripped open her clothes and fled, according to Metropolitan Police documents. Security has heightened in the building, which houses top administrators, since the Dec. 4 incident.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said a guard would remain in Rice Hall’s lobby weekdays from 5 to 9 p.m.

Employees and students must present their GWorld cards and visitors must provide their names and the name of the office they are visiting. Staffers received an email the day after the attack to implement a buddy system.

The victim reported that she was inside the bathroom when the lights suddenly turned off. When she went to turn them back on, the suspect came up from behind and attacked her, covering her mouth, according to the documents.

“Wait 10 minutes before leaving the bathroom,” he told her, according to the documents.

The victim did not file a police report for sexual assault. She could not describe the 5’7″ man, cloaked in a mask or scarf, in more detail due to the darkness.

Sherrard said MPD is leading the investigation.

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A man attacked and attempted to sexually assault a female staffer in Rice Hall, according to a Safety and Security Alert Tuesday.

The female said she was attacked just after the room’s lights went out, and said that she fought back and caused the suspect to flee.

The victim could not describe the attacker because of the darkness in the bathroom, but said the man was about 5’7″ wearing a mask or scarf, according to the alert.

The alert did not specify what day the assault occurred, and University Police Chief Kevin Hay did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Rice Hall houses GW’s top administrators, including the president and provost. The incident occurred on the third floor, which shares space with the Academic Scheduling Office and the Office of Student Financial Assistance.

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Protesters will shift their demonstration from outside administrative buildings on campus to the National Mall on Sunday to picket the University's decision to award billionaire Carlos Slim with an honorary degree. Hatchet File Photo

At least 500 protesters will take a stand Sunday on the National Mall as the University hands an honorary degree to the world’s richest man, one of the protest’s organizers said Thursday.

Demonstrators will descend on Commencement to call out Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim for vulturous and monopolistic business practices, said Andres Ramirez, a leader of the Two Countries One Voice human rights organization that has picketed outside Rice Hall since May 11.

The organization of Latino leaders, students and community activists sent a letter May 8 to University President Steven Knapp, demanding Slim be uninvited to Commencement. But Ramirez said Vice President of External Relations Lorraine Voles said May 16 that Slim’s invitation would not be rescinded.

“I am not frustrated by the discussions [with the University]. This issue caught GWU off guard, and these things generally take time to resolve,” Ramirez said in an email.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard did not immediately return a request for comment on how GW would respond to the organization’s plan to picket at graduation.

Ramirez has claimed that Slim donated to the University, alleging that monetary ties were the deciding factor in the GW’s decision to award him the President’s Medal in 2009 and the honorary degree this year. Ramirez claimed the billionaire donated to GW in 2010 as part of an initiative combatting tropical diseases through the Sabin Vaccine Institute – which was partnered with the University at the time.

Slim did not donate directly to GW as part of the initiative, University spokeswoman Candace Smith said.

Sabin Vaccine Institute communications officer Johanna Harvey declined to release the amount of Slim’s contribution.

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Rice Hall

Jordan Emont | Assistant Photo Editor

The University discovered asbestos in Rice Hall during renovations and conducted an abatement in early August, a health and safety official said.

The seventh floor of Rice Hall – the building that houses GW’s highest ranking officials – is undergoing upgrades and the asbestos abatement was a precursor to the renovations, William Flint, director of the office of health and safety, said.

Individuals exposed to asbestos, a fiber that has been commonly used in building materials, can contract severe health problems if they inhale the substance when it is in the air. The Environmental Protection Agency outlines construction rules for structures that might have asbestos-containing materials.

“GW has an asbestos policy that guides the maintenance of asbestos-containing materials in University buildings,” Flint said. “Prior to renovation or demolition of any University building, a hazardous materials survey is conducted using District of Columbia and EPA regulations to determine the risk to students, staff, faculty and construction workers. If hazardous materials are discovered, proper abatement is conducted to remove the materials prior to construction or demolition.”

“Asbestos is a common problem in demolition sites of older buildings, but proper testing and mitigation prior to demolition protects all members of the University community from exposure to hazardous materials,” Flint said.

Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said the University community will not see any adverse health affects due to asbestos, but declined to comment on where specifically asbestos was found in Rice Hall – for example, in the walls, around pipes or in the floors or tiles.

The week-long asbestos abatement in Rice Hall began Aug. 5, shutting down elevator service to the seventh floor of the building as a safety precaution. The area was also enclosed with protective materials while air samples were taken to test their quality.

Keith Bailey, a compliance safety and health officer with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said OSHA would not get involved with the asbestos situation so long as no complaints are filed to the agency about overexposure to the asbestos beyond permissible levels.

Officials checked the University Parking Garage, currently being torn down to make way for the Science and Engineering Complex, for asbestos prior to beginning any demolition.

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This post was written by Hatchet Staff Writer Shaeera Tariq.

A multiple use service center for faculty and staff is set to open on the first floor of Rice Hall this July, a University spokeswoman said earlier this week.

The new center will streamline several faculty and staff human resource officers, including the benefits administration office, the parking and transportation services office, the office of payroll services, and the tax and workers compensation office into one, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

“On opening-day, the FSSC will provide a service-oriented, single-source location for GW’s faculty and staff to conduct transactions currently managed by the FSSC’s collaborating offices,” Sherrard said in an e-mail.

Sherrard said the FSSC will serve as a “walk-in center,” allowing faculty and staff a single office to address multiple issues handled by multiple existing offices on campus.

“This walk-in center will be geared to serve employees who need to conduct their business in person,” Sherarrd said. “The services provided will be consistent with those provided by collaborating departments and business partners by phone or via the web.”

Over time, the center will expand to include other related functions as well such as GWorld services, Sherrard said.

The new location will share the space on the first floor with Human Resources which will transition its staff to the Rice Hall office, Sherrard said.

“In addition to providing a single-source face-to-face service presence, the collaborating departments are also working to expand self-service and online offerings wherever feasible,” Sherrard said.

Sherrard was unable to give an exact estimate of the construction costs and the hiring of new staff members for the center.

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