The Forum


Thursday, June 23, 2016 8:03 p.m.

Melissa Holzberg: This week’s best and worst

Melissa Holzberg, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

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Warm up your singing pipes, because another karaoke bar is coming to the District.

SingSing Karaoke Palace opened Wednesday in the Atlas District neighborhood on H Street NE. The operators of Sticky Rice, the Asian-fusion restaurant next door, opened SingSing. And although there’s already a well-known karaoke bar on the other side of the H Street corridor in Chinatown at Wok and Roll, SingSing will be the only private karaoke room bar in Northeast D.C.

Before you say it’s easier to just head to Wok and Roll, it only takes an extra 10 minutes to Metro or Uber to SingSing from campus. Plus, SingSing is open later: On Friday and Saturday nights, you can karaoke until 3 a.m., while Wok and Roll closes at 2 a.m. The two karaoke bars offer different sized rooms with comparable pricing – a room for 10 to 12 people costs $45 per hour at both bars – so if one karaoke place doesn’t offer the right songs for you, head down H Street to the other.

Sticky Rice will offer its full food and drink menu to SingSing-ers, and the karaoke palace is open to all ages. If you want to sing your way through summer in the District, or if you’re looking for a new go-to spot on the weekends when you get back to school in the fall, reserve a room at SingSing online.

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Commuters at the Cleveland Park Metro station were in for a slippery surprise Tuesday night. Following some severe thunderstorms in the District, commuters were forced to slog through knee-high water at the Cleveland Park station and up flooded escalators. Red line trains had to bypass the station for two hours.

Even though the flooding wasn’t WMATA’s fault, the red line experienced longer delays at the end of Tuesday night due to the out-of-control water levels. Given that commuters have already had longer delays and more difficult routes because of Metro’s SafeTrack plan, even more disturbances aren’t happily endured.

The Cleveland Park station is susceptible to flooding, because it’s located at the bottom of a hill, according to WMATA officials. But WMATA officials also said that flooding like this has never happened before, and they had to close the station because the water brought sediment into the station.

The obvious lesson from this is simple: Wherever your internship and D.C. explorations take you, remember to pack a pair of rain boots for your Metro commute.

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Editor’s note: Laura Castro Lindarte is spending her summer in Bogota, Colombia. She will be blogging throughout the summer about her experiences. Lindarte is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and political science and is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Many students go abroad while they are students at GW, and some may even travel to Colombia. But my experience is a bit different. I’m originally from the beautiful city of Bogota, Colombia, but I have lived in northern Virginia since I was seven. During my abroad experience, I want to explore what life in Bogota would be like as an adult.

Coming back to Colombia for the summer may not sound like the typical “GW thing” to do, since I don’t have an internship or paying job here. But I am here for a reason. I plan to move back after I graduate, so I need to start to build a life here: make friends, learn how to get around and experience what everyday life is like.

Moving back to Colombia isn’t the most traditional decision, especially when I might have more opportunities in D.C. But I feel that Colombia is an extension of myself. It is the only place where I feel invincible – despite living in the U.S. for more than 10 years now.

To some, it might sound off putting for someone to feel such a connection to a country other than the U.S., but for me, it’s natural. I’ve always viewed the U.S. as a temporary residence. I hope this blog let’s me share this part of the world and point of view with fellow GW students.

I’ve enjoyed being a student in D.C. and attending amazing classes taught by knowledgeable professors. But as much as I try, I’ve never felt complete in the U.S. This feeling of incompleteness has even translated to my social life. I have little motivation to make friends or engage with the University through student organizations as much as I could.

I know that in Colombia I won’t have those problems: I’m a true believer that everyone has a place where they belong and that place makes everything better, even in the worst of times. Those of us who are lucky enough to know where that place is, should do whatever it takes to spend time there. That’s what I’m doing.

My first step to experiencing life in Colombia again was to sign up for a couple of courses at a local university, but unfortunately that wasn’t smooth sailing. One of my classes was cancelled and I had to spend hours finding a new one to take. Between class cancellations and challenges traveling to Bogota, I realized it would have been “easier” to stay in the states this summer.  

But thankfully, the beginning of my trip coincided with the Copa America – a soccer tournament between several South American countries plus the U.S. and Mexico — which rekindled my spirit. Almost every single person I saw on the streets the day that Colombia played had a jersey on. Giant screens were set up in the many malls all around Bogota, so people came together and watch the game. This is the kind of spirit that draws me back to Colombia.

While my summer here has just begun, I already know that I am home, and I look forward to my experiences over the next two months.

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Friday, June 17, 2016 9:58 a.m.

Irene Ly: This week’s best and worst

Irene Ly, a junior majoring in psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:

If the commute to your summer internship has got you down, Metro just got a little more money to make sure the system’s SafeTrack plan runs smoothly.

The Federal Transit Administration announced it would grant Metro $20 million to support four projects that are part of SafeTrack, according to the Washington City Paper. The $20 million funds for Metro safety projects were withheld by the FTA earlier this year, even after Metro made plans to use the funds for rail station renovations and updates to fare collection.

According to Metro officials, SafeTrack is expected to cost about $60 million to complete, which the $20 million from the FTA will go toward. That’s $20 million Metro does not need to pay through short-term borrowing, which was how officials originally planned to offset additional costs.

The extra funds from the FTA will make sure SafeTrack goes as planned, but will lessen the expected negative revenue impact on Metro’s operating budget.

We will have to wait and see whether the huge Metro overhaul will actually improve the system, but the FTA’s $20 million should make SafeTrack’s schedule possible. Until then, keep hanging in there on those crowded trains.  

Thumbs down:

Some D.C. voters were not able to vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday.

An unknown number of people got to the polls to discover that their party affiliations had been changed without their authorization. Although there is no estimate yet, D.C. Council member David Grosso tweeted he was “getting lots of reports.”

Some voters also had their registrations changed to “N-P,” meaning no party. Since the District has closed primaries, voters must be registered as members of the Democratic, Republican or D.C. Statehood Green parties to vote in their respective primaries.

The problem seems to be rooted in a technical glitch in the board’s new mobile app, according to Terri Stroud, the acting executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections. The app allows people to update their voter registration information.

Although some voters were able to find out about the unauthorized party affiliation change and switch it back before Tuesday, others did not find out until they arrived at their polling locations.

Voters who believe they have been affected can still cast a special ballot, which will be counted Friday. While it is not known how many people have been affected by the glitch, the board will have a better idea of the scale of this incident when special ballots are counted.

These problems could mark the second year in a row that a technical issue affected a citywide election.

It may turn out that not many people were impacted by the glitch. However, such news may further frustrate D.C. residents, who already felt like their votes were meaningless, as presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had already secured enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination a week before the D.C. primary.

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Updated: June 14, 2016 at 8:05 p.m.

Talia Balakirsky, a junior double majoring in journalism and political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer. 

It still feels like summer is just getting started, but we’ll be moving back to D.C. for the fall semester before we know it. And while many of us are away from campus right now, GW is getting ready for our return, with Colonial Inauguration underway and early move-in applications coming out in the next few weeks.

Although coming back to school is exciting, moving back into residence halls before school starts can be a less-than-ideal experience. The official move-in date for the fall semester is Aug. 27, leaving only one full day for students to acclimate to campus before classes begin on Aug. 29. That isn’t enough time to unpack our bags, readjust to campus life and get ready for classes.

Officials should consider pushing back the fall move-in dates so that upperclassmen and freshmen who are not interested in any of the freshman-specific early move-in programs are still able to prepare for the year without the stress of starting classes soon after.

My freshman year, I joined Community Building Community, an early move-in program for freshmen that gives participants an opportunity to get to know campus, make friends and volunteer around D.C. before taking on their first semester at college. My sophomore year, however, there wasn’t a similar option. Instead, I became a move-in volunteer, which allowed me to move into my residence hall early.

Upperclassmen – like freshmen – need time to adjust back to campus life before starting classes. Even though upperclassmen do not necessarily need early-move in programs like the ones freshmen participate in, they still deserve an opportunity to move in without having to pay a rate of $175 per night or work as a volunteer. Although freshmen who participate in the early move-in programs have to pay to participate in the programs, their meals, Metro rides and adventures around D.C. are included in the cost with the benefit of living in their residence halls for a few extra days. GW is covering the cost of move-in volunteers living in their residence halls early, but upperclassmen should be able to move in without volunteering their time. 

Other universities have implemented early move-in days for both freshmen and upperclassmen. New York University, one of GW’s peer institutions, has its move-in day on Aug. 28, but doesn’t start classes until Sept. 6, giving students ample time to get settled. And officials at the University of Virginia allow students to move in on Aug. 19 or Aug. 20 to begin classes on Aug. 23.

The beginning of any semester can be stressful. But the fall semester is most daunting for both new and returning students. If officials shifted the University-wide move-in date one or two days earlier, students would be more prepared to start a new academic year on the right foot.

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Melissa Holzberg, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

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The District’s newest vegan restaurant, HipCityVeg, opened this week in Chinatown. And the restaurant isn’t just trying to impress vegans. Owner Nicole Marquis told the Washington City Paper that the restaurant appeals to everyone, not just vegans.

GW students should get excited about HipCityVeg. With limited options on campus for vegans and vegetarians, HipCityVeg offers a great alternative just a few Metro stops away. Even campus favorite, Beefsteak, isn’t a completely vegetarian or vegan option.

HipCityVeg isn’t the first restaurant to try bringing faux meat to D.C. Native Foods Cafe, a vegan restaurant group based in California, closed its D.C. locations in December after one year in the District.

Others are trying to add eateries to D.C. for people with restricted diets: Last month, a student-founded crowdfunding effort brought a kosher food truck to campus after Jewish students remarked how few kosher options they had.

You know what they say: Let them eat egg-free and butter-free cake.

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Another round of staff cuts at GW is pouring salt into some open morale wounds.

The latest round of cuts eliminated 40 positions, and experts are saying that staff members that weren’t cut will probably feel less connected to the GW community as a symptom of “survivor guilt.”  And while budget cuts are a very real part of GW’s present and future, John Kammeyer-Mueller, a professor of work and organizations at the University of Minnesota thinks that because staff positions tend to be the first positions to be cut, officials might create an unhealthy work environment for staff members who survive the cuts.

As the number of positions at GW lower, workloads for remaining staff members are going to increase. And given the administrative turnover of top officials, it doesn’t bode well that the state of constant flux extends down to all staff members.

It’d be great to think that this will be the last round of cuts for a while, but this is about the same amount of cuts in staff positions as last year. Officials have said that no other cuts are expected this summer, they will continue in the future. I guess the only certainty in life is change, and it seems pretty certain staffing with continue to change at GW.

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Melissa Holzberg, a junior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

On Tuesday, University President Steven Knapp announced he wouldn’t seek to renew his contract at the end of July 2017. And while there have been plenty of incidents during Knapp’s tenure that could suggest he wouldn’t want to renew his contract, this is the wrong time for Knapp to announce that he is leaving GW.

Any administration, whether it be for a political office or a university, works best when it’s stable. After so many top-level administrators resigned this year, GW needs stability now.

The University still lacks a provost, a head of admissions and a director of Mental Health Services. With flux in high-level positions, it was a mistake for Knapp to announce he would leave at the end of the next academic year.

Knapp should not have announced now that he would not seek to renew his contract. Rather, officials should have finished their searches for high level officials this summer. He should have waited until closer to the start of the academic year to announce it was his last.

His impending exit demonstrates that GW’s administrative climate is unstable. The number of officials who have either announced that they would not return to their posts or who have resigned mid-contract is unprecedented. If a university cannot keep its top officials, it seems like there are larger fundamental issues.

While we can probably expect that officials will select a new president before Knapp officially leaves next summer, it’s unlikely that with so many open high-level positions that it will be easy to attract a new provost. Any official who comes to GW in the upcoming academic year will know that they’re starting a job in what seems like an unstable administrative environment.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said the Board of Trustees will make announcements about the search for a new provost and president throughout the summer, and other searches will continue.

“Managers for various departments will continue to make hiring decisions,” Smith said in an email.

Bringing in a new president changes a school beyond who is quoted in press releases. A president sets the tone for the university. He or she can decide what the university’s fundraising focuses will be, and can set goals for what he or she wants the school to be known for. For instance, Knapp focused on making GW a more research-based university. Former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is largely credited with making GW less of a commuter school.

The next president will have to manage the University’s debt, finish the University’s fundraising plans and choose the next steps for the University after the strategic plan ends. If those tasks weren’t enough, the next president will have to get along with a new provost and either oversee hiring top level officials or be able to get along with officials he or she did not select. Frankly, that is too much to ask of a new president.

As officials now begin their search for yet another official – and this time the very top administrator – hopefully they look for someone who can work with a new group of administrators at GW, and who can communicate well between officials and students.

Until we have a new University president,  students can hope that officials make some hiring moves this summer, so the next academic year doesn’t suffer from administrative turnover again.

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Rachel Furlow, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Some universities across the country are facing controversy over an important part of their sexual assault and harassment policies: mandatory reporting.

Mandatory reporting, in its most conservative interpretation, requires all staff and faculty members that university administrators deem “responsible employees” to report any allegations of sexual assault from students or fellow employees to law enforcement officials. GW currently does not require all employees to report allegations, just staff and faculty who also hold administrative positions. However, with GW facing at least two accusations of Title IX negligence in the past five years, officials could possibly consider a change to make the University less liable for negligence in responding to sexual assault.

Because sexual assault is currently one of the most underreported crimes, especially on campuses, it is admirable that university officials across the country are attempting to increase reporting rates to deal with the problem. But mandatory reporting does not address the larger problem of sexual assault on campuses. Instituting mandatory reporting policies could discourage survivors from sharing their experiences with faculty or staff members whom they trust.

Survivors of college sexual assault may not choose to report their assaults to law enforcement officials for a variety of reasons: Forty-two percent of survivors said they simply did not want anyone to know, and 39 percent said they specifically they did not want family members to know about the incident, according to the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013. And 20 percent of survivors said they chose not to report for fear of reprisal.

Aside from statistics, what has most impacted me is hearing my friends tell stories about their own experiences with sexual violence. They knew there were benefits to reporting, like access to legal counsel and an official course of action to seek justice. And some of my friends did choose to voluntarily report. But I have also sat with friends mired in impossible personal situations who realized that the costs of reporting assault outweighed the benefits.

University policies should protect those students by allowing them the freedom to confide in someone they trust, whoever that may be, without fear of their confidant reporting the assault to someone else within the university.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt wrote in an email that faculty who are mandatory reporters include “provosts, associate provosts, deans, associate deans, department chairs and other faculty members who have responsibilities within a school’s dean office or GW’s central administrative offices.”

But even requiring that group of faculty to report sexual assault to the police is not in some survivors’ best interests. Mandatory reporting policies make the dangerous assumption that law enforcement is the best option for survivors, when it may not be their preference. If a survivor cannot speak to a faculty member or a resident adviser without the worry that it will cause the situation to leave their control, they will be less likely to have that conversation at all.

In 2011, a “Dear Colleagues” letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights warned institutions to improve their policies on sexual assault, lest they lose their federal funding, leaving universities to broaden their definitions of a “responsible employee.” But the policies resulting from this mandate have been criticized.

Survivor advocacy groups called for government officials to halt the new policy, saying the policy could make survivors less likely to report sexual assaults to faculty and staff members they trust at their universities and even make it difficult for universities to comply with existing federal laws that allow survivors the option to not notify law enforcement.

It seems like the main goal of mandatory reporting is to protect institutional liability rather than to do what is in the best interest of survivors. If almost every staff member at a university is required to report allegations of sexual assault, then a university would be less likely to face allegations of negligence. In a recent Huffington Post report, former federal prosecutor Shanlon Wu said mandatory reporting policies shift the burden to designated faculty members who are required to report.

“The school could point to its policy if no action were taken because a required reporter had failed to inform the designated office about an allegation of sexual assault,” Wu said.

So, by implementing mandatory reporting, universities are implementing a system through which to pass the blame, rather than to actually help survivors.

If university officials really wanted to help survivors of sexual assault and increase reporting rates, they would address the root of the problem and would focus their resources on working to properly prosecute cases that students have voluntarily reported. For survivors, sexual assault is a theft of control, and the last vestige of control they retain is if, when and to whom they tell their stories. I urge GW to not let mandatory reporting take this power away.

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Margot Besnard, a senior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist. 

“Did you keep in touch with Ben?” my mom asked. I had just returned from a semester abroad, and my mom and I were driving home from the airport. Ben is one of my good friends at GW, but for some reason, I didn’t know how to answer my mom’s question. Since I left D.C. at the end of the fall semester, Ben and I liked each other’s Instagram photos, and I commented on a Facebook status of his, but I wasn’t sure if that counted as “keeping in touch.”

Whether a friend just graduated and left D.C., or a roommate is going abroad next year, there is probably a person with whom you hope to maintain a relationship. It’s important to consider what “keeping in touch” really means, especially when you’re interacting with friends mostly on social media. Keeping in touch in the digital age can seem as simple as a “like” on Facebook, but maintaining relationships takes more active, direct communication.

When I first arrived in Vietnam for my semester abroad, I spent many jet-lagged mornings scrolling through Facebook and Instagram to “like” photos of friends who were enjoying days at GW or having their own study abroad adventures. It was a fun way to see glimpses of home and places around the world in a few minutes on my phone. As the semester went on, I kept up my regular scrolling habit and contributed my own photos of new sights and friends in Vietnam to my friends’ social media feeds.

This kind of passive communication – broadcasting information through photos or updates without sending it directly to any one person – is what makes social media an efficient way to stay connected with hundreds of people over long distances. One thing I’m realizing, though, is how easy it is to let passive communication create the illusion of a connection or relationship without actually keeping in touch close friends.

A modern definition of “keeping in touch,” should emphasize an active and direct exchange of information. By that standard, I only kept in touch with about four people while abroad, two of whom were my parents. There’s no question that active communication, such as video chatting or even texting, takes more time and effort than passively communicating. It was easier to post photos than it would have been to schedule a conversation with every person I care about, but looking back on my time away, I could have spent less time scrolling through Facebook and more time exchanging thoughts and experiences directly with my friends.

I’m not advocating that we give up our “liking” habits altogether, but I do think it’s helpful to distinguish between different kinds communication to remember that a balance of active and passive communication is necessary.

If you’ve said goodbye to someone with whom you hope to “keep in touch,” you shouldn’t forget to reach out once in awhile. Chances are that a friend would love to hear from you, but he or she might think from your Instagram photos that you are too busy having fun to chat.

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Laura Porter is a 2016 alumna. 

After six long, difficult and amazing years at GW, I am proud to call myself an alumna. During my time at GW, I took three semesters off for treatment. I was living with an eating disorder, substance dependence, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. As a person in long-term recovery and an advocate for those still suffering, I was able to take my seat in the Smith Center, excited and overwhelmed with gratitude that I was finally able to experience the moment. It was incredible to be there and to see everyone cheering each other on, celebrating our times at GW.

As the ceremony went on, we heard from various members of the community, including the student speaker, Chris Evans. When Evans got up to address the graduates, his speech was, at first, lighthearted. Then, the theme of the speech shifted.

Throughout the rest of the speech after his initial jokes, Evans talked about what the University needs to do better to help students living with mental illness, mentioning the three students who died by suicide at GW on the Mount Vernon Campus in 2014.

As soon as he said “committed suicide,” I felt my face get hot. Slowly, tears started to form in my eyes and soon, I couldn’t seem to stop them from pouring down my face. These were tears of shock, pain and hurt. I sat there, shaking and repeating “Why? Why now?” I felt paralyzed, like I couldn’t escape.

Evans called on the community to support students with mental illness, and I understand why. I know that we need to address mental health on campus, we need to end stigma and we need to ensure that everyone can know what it feels like to sit in those seats in the Smith Center, join their classmates on the National Mall and call themselves GW alumni. And I also know the pain and despair that engulfed my mind when I attempted to end my life. I know the helpless and terrifying feeling of losing friends to addiction, eating disorders and suicide. I know what it’s like to want to do something so desperately to save someone and to want them to know that it gets better.

At GW, I’ve been so grateful to hear the conversation about mental illness emerge throughout my time here. It’s something we definitely need to talk about and I’m glad that we are. But I am tired of those of us living with mental illness being spoken to, not spoken with. I am not helpless. I am not a problem that can be solved through free counseling sessions. I am not a person without a voice.

To me, recovery from my struggles and support for those still struggling is not an accomplishment you can put on your resume. Support is realizing that I don’t know what someone else’s experience is like and asking what I can do to support a peer. Recovery is about speaking up when I see injustice and sharing my experience so that others can find hope. My recovery and advocacy are not about challenging the GW administration, as Evans’ speech suggested – it’s about challenging stereotypes and stigma.

Support is my friend who comforted me during that ceremony, offering her hand and saying “I know.” She understood me, she didn’t tell me what I needed. She sat with me, sharing in my experience and acknowledging, not “fixing” my pain. Support is the incredible compassion from the psychology professor who walked off the stage to ask if I was OK and even left the auditorium to find me tissues.

Recovery is finding my three-year sobriety chip in my purse and holding onto it through the entire commencement celebration and holding it tightly as I walked across the stage in honor of my friends who never had the chance to know what it’s like to graduate.

Ignoring the real, lived experiences of students like myself is to perpetuate the very stigma we want to eradicate. We are a community. Let’s listen to each other and let’s have a real, inclusive conversation about supporting students living with mental illness.

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Maya Weinstein graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and human services in January.

Since being raped my freshman year, I’ve been outspoken about my experience with the University as a survivor. Now, with Commencement looming, there is one last thing I have to say: I’ve been afraid to be completely honest about my experience.

I’ve been careful and calculated in what I have revealed about the way my sexual assault was handled by the University. I initially reported the rape to the Title IX office in order to gain a no-contact order. But a month later, I still felt unsafe on campus and chose to move forward and file a formal complaint in order to achieve justice. At this stage, the case was handed over to The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (SRR) for the investigation. SRR is the disciplinary body of the University and houses sexual assault investigations and proceedings. Case managers interview the parties involved to obtain statements, as well as interview relevant witnesses and collect evidence (text messages, police reports, photographs, etc.). Once the administrative review is complete, SRR staff determine whether the case should move forward to a hearing for further review. If there is a hearing, it is adjudicated by members of the judicial board (typically students, staff and faculty) and supervised by members of SRR. In cases involving students, SRR determines corrective actions and sanctions, and the outcome sometimes must be signed off by the Dean of Student Affairs and Senior Associate Provost.

My sophomore year, I shared my experience and proposed policy changes. But I chose to remain anonymous and hide details of my case because I was afraid. I have consistently feared that the University would retaliate against me. I have struggled to love my college experience because I have been helpless at the hands of my institution. But this struggle goes beyond just me.

I spoke with a survivor who went through the hearing process at GW last semester – two years after I did. When she told me her story, I felt like I was listening to my own. We had all the same problems – meetings with the administration, empty promises. Even though the survivor received a favorable outcome, the entire process consisted of fighting against an inadequate system. I realize I cannot walk away from GW without sharing truth, raising awareness and demanding change.

The SRR  investigation, hearing process and enforcement of sanctions were riddled with inconsistencies that jeopardized my opportunity to a safe education. While I feel that GW’s policies stretch and bend Title IX rules and guidelines to begin with, SRR outright ignored its own rules at times and failed to provide an equitable complaint process:

  1. Information was not provided to me in a timely manner. I was told the delay was because I reported my assault in the summer – as if somehow rape matters less if it’s reported during the summer. The U.S. Department of Education recommends 60 days for the full process to run from complaint to final resolution, including appeals. My case took 99 long, painstaking days.

  2. The student who raped me didn’t attend the hearing in person. Instead, he called in. I was verbally scrutinized in person, forced to defend myself while he could have been in a room surrounded by lawyers.

  3. The perpetrator and I were required to submit all evidence and statements two full days before the hearing, which I complied with. Yet, the perpetrator was allowed to present two witness statements in the middle of the hearing. I was not prepared for the slanderous statements his friends had written for him.

  4. The final decision wasn’t made by SRR until after students started moving back in for the fall semester. I had no idea whether I should anticipate seeing the rapist on campus.

  5. After the perpetrator violated sanctions and was called in for a disciplinary review, I tried to learn the outcome. The administration refused to disclose information, citing FERPA, even though any disciplinary action would directly impact the result of my hearing. I had to fight for a response.

  6. SRR granted the perpetrator an exception to his sanctions to attend a fraternity party and did not inform me.

The University failed me on many levels, and they violated my Title IX rights. While the administration absolutely needs to begin working on changes its policies, it must change its culture immediately. I have witnessed and experienced a pervasive culture of inaction and indifference. Through my time at GW I continuously tried to seek answers about why SRR provided the perpetrator a free pass to violate his sanctions. At one point, the director of SRR told me that I needed to understand “how difficult this has been” on the man who raped me.

One year ago, student groups co-sponsored a screening of The Hunting Ground, a documentary discussing how universities mishandle sexual assault cases. The screening was on a Friday night, and every seat in that auditorium was filled by a diverse collection of students who chose to spend their weekend watching a film about the mishandling of sexual assaults by universities. Only one GW administrator showed up. It was incredible to see how much the student body cared, and it proved that the administration doesn’t care as much. In fact – even though I doubt anyone would confirm it – a former University employee told me they were instructed not to attend.

While many people within the administration are well-intentioned, as a whole the administration is terrified by anything that may tarnish the institution’s reputation. Nothing will change unless we demand an open conversation, based on facts and motivated by seeking the truth. This is a problem at many universities, but that’s no excuse for my experience or that of the dozens of survivors. GW has an opportunity to be the model university. I want my alma mater to be that university.

After proposing policy changes to a group of administrators in Fall 2013, it wasn’t until Fall 2014 that I was invited to sit on the inaugural Provost’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response – a committee that the Provost himself never attended” In order to actually participate, I was required to sign a confidentiality form for that was so strict it forbade me from discussing the content of meetings with entities ranging from the FBI to my own parents. It was an opportunity to work alongside, instead of against, the school. Instead of leading a transparent discussion about how to solve a real problem in the GW community, the administration hid behind confidentiality agreements.

That’s not to say there hasn’t been any progress. After over a year without one, a new Title IX coordinator was brought to campus at the end of 2014, and the Assistant Director for sexual assault prevention and response came to campus last year. Last summer, Colonial Inauguration and Welcome Week included education and programming surrounding sexual assault.  And in 2014, a GW climate survey was sent out with results that matched national campus sexual assault statistics.

But while officials are checking off some of the boxes of federal requirements and recommendations, glaring issues still exist in practice. There is no longer a sexual assault support group at the counseling center, and no plans in the foreseeable future exist to start one. The administration can try to say things have changed, but survivors disclose their assaults to me daily, and I hear the same thing over and over: “The University is not supporting me.” Survivors and allies are fed up and frustrated.

The last thing I want is to deter survivors from coming forward out of fear of the retraumatization I had to go through. If you want to report, you should. It’s not in the best interest of every survivor to come forward or speak out at all, and that’s OK. As students begin to work to change a negative culture, there will be a focus on administrators to take action. And that spotlight will force them to openly amend policies and receive student input. A university is nothing without its students.

I chose not to file a Title IX complaint against the University for many reasons. I had been advised to leave the University, and I had chosen not to. I didn’t want to do anything that could get in the way of me getting my diploma. But I am exhausted from fighting, feeling frustrated, getting stonewalled, rationalizing their inaction, and mostly, I am tired of being afraid. I do not want to walk away having squandered an opportunity to share the truth. I hope that this inspires people to speak up, even if they’re afraid, and to fight harder than I did – because this is not the end of the road.

I have my diploma, and I get to walk across that stage at graduation. With every step I take, I’ll be thinking of survivors who were not able to stay at their universities to graduate – those who were forced out, faced retaliation and those who took their lives because their institutions didn’t believe them. On May 14, I walk in solidarity.

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