The Forum


Aria Vyas, a freshman double-majoring in biology and psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

When you think of an introductory biology course, you may picture a lab complete with students bent over microscopes and examining cells encased in slides. While that picture isn’t altogether wrong, it shouldn’t always be the case.

For those who may be interested in the pre-medicine track or a science major, the lab is essential. It teaches students to conduct experiments and gives them skills needed for the field. The hands-on learning can also help students learn more about the topics covered in class lectures. But for those who take the course out of sheer curiosity for the subject or to fill a requirement, the lab can be a little overwhelming. Instead, students should be able to decide for themselves, and should only take the lab if it’s something that really interests them.

I’m currently enrolled in “Introductory Biology: Cells and Molecules,” and the lecture is challenging on its own. Much like other classes, it involves three exams and depending on the professors, quizzes, homework and papers. I took AP biology in high school and still struggle to keep up with the material just because of the rapid pace of the class. When you add a lab on top of this, it can make for a heavy workload.

Lab entails meeting once a week for about three hours. There are weekly reading assignments, quizzes at the start of each class, questions that are due each week, a midterm and a final. There is also a small lecture involved in each lab.

For those who aren’t pursuing a career in science, medicine or engineering, it’s understandable that this lab component can be unnecessarily demanding. I’ve found that the lecture with the lab ends up consuming more time than any of my other classes.

It’s tiring, yes, but it’s not all bad: I’ve found benefits to the lab component that don’t come with the standard lecture. I realize that after I’ve studied a specific lab, the material becomes easier to comprehend during the lecture. I also don’t mind going to the lab because I’m able to work with others, and it’s more engaging than a normal lecture. We also cover information in lab that typical lectures don’t always explore.

For example, in one our most recent labs, we looked at bioinformatics – a combination of computer science, statistics and biological data – a topic not normally covered in the standard lecture section of the course. We didn’t just learn about what it meant, but we competed in groups and researched information online about how it can be applied in the real world. Studying how a standard lab procedure can be used on a larger scale in public health or medical science intrigues me much more than just reading information from a textbook.

If students were given the choice, I think that many would opt out of taking lab with the lecture – at least until they know if biology is a topic that they want to keep pursuing. Some students don’t need the lab nor do they enjoy it. They may prefer flashcards and textbooks to microscopes and spectrophotometers.

I personally am on a pre-medical track, so not only do I need the lab, but I’ve also found that I actually like it. But my opinions are not universal, nor should they be. Students deserve choice when it comes to their education.

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Shawn McHale is an associate professor of history and international affairs.

In the spring of 1977, I was taking a Histoire-Géo class at the Lycée Émile Zola in Rennes, France, with a fabulous teacher, Monsieur Nébout. I immediately took a liking to one of my fellow students in the class, Émile who, like me, was a foreigner.

Émile was a Maronite Christian from Lebanon. A recent immigrant to France, he seemed much older and more worldly than anyone else. Having visited Lebanon and having lived in the Middle East, it was perhaps natural that I would talk to him before class.

A few years earlier, Émile had dropped out of school in Lebanon to join a Phalangist militia fighting the Palestinian Liberation Organization during the civil war. He avoided talking about these experiences with anyone, including Monsieur Nébout.

But one day, Monsieur Nébout, not one to beat around the bush, asked Émile, “So, if you were at a checkpoint, and you had a gun, and a Palestinian walked up to the checkpoint, what would you do?”

Emile’s response was immediate, unrehearsed and visceral. “I’d kill him.”

That exchange has stayed with me all my life. Émile, an ordinary and likeable guy, was willing to kill unarmed civilians. I thought about his example in the aftermath of the recent Paris terrorist attacks that are at least tangentially linked to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Wars can harden individuals and confirm their hatred toward others.

Civil wars are particularly pernicious – ripping apart the social fabric, turning neighbors and mild antagonists into bitter enemies. They can also create ideologues who, while not combatants themselves, champion barbarism and in so doing, bring new recruits into the fold. Once set in motion, there is no simple way to halt this dynamic of civil war socialization.

Scale is important. Those who construct “macro” arguments on terrorism – blaming “radical Islam,” for example, or xenophobic nationalism – miss the point. All killing is local, so one needs to look at socialization, the microdynamics of violence and variations in patterns of violence, then connect these to “macro” concerns. When we do this, we get a more fine-grained understanding of why people kill.

I have wondered a lot about Émile and his ilk these past few years as we have seen constant reminders of how civil wars can turn normal individuals into extraordinary killers. In the popular imagination, terrorists are ideological fanatics. They are inhuman, willing to blow up innocent civilians with no remorse. And they are interchangeable: They are all alike.

The reality is more complex, as the example of Émile shows. I have been studying civil war violence for more than ten years now, and the research provides sobering lessons. Members of all major world religions have occasionally embraced the use of terror.

Blowing innocent people up, attacking theaters and massacring civilians – none of this is new. Suicide bombers? Explosive belts? They’ve been used many times. Young men involved in violence? Yes, it’s like an iron law.

But some of the most intriguing findings go against popular preconceptions about “terrorists.” People can kill others for the most quotidian reasons: revenge, jealousy, recognition or a desire to be something more than a petty crook.

The idea that ancient hatreds are at the root of civil war violence? Grossly exaggerated. Yes, societies can be riven by differences. But it is the dynamic of violence that hardens these cleavages, then makes cold-blooded killing possible.

Civil wars can be hard to brake to a halt. In some cases, it is possible to act preemptively and make sure that ethnic, religious or political differences don’t harden. But not always.

Outside interventions often fail. The idea that major powers can intervene in faraway places, kill hundreds of thousands and displace millions across national borders – all at no risk to themselves or their allies – is a dangerous illusion shared by large swathes of the global foreign policy elite as well as domestic politicians.

What may make good domestic politics sometimes makes horrible foreign policy choices, ones that we have to live with for decades to come.

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Raya Hudhud, a freshman majoring anthropology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

You may be excited about fall, which brings chunky sweaters, hot lattes and beautiful trees to Instagram. But here in D.C., not everyone is excited about the shift to cold weather.

There’s more to the District than monuments, museums and politicians. Among the city’s residents, there are people experiencing homelessness – a visible part of the community many people ignore. We’re all guilty of seeing a homeless person and quickly averting our eyes or trying to justify why we can’t give up a few dollars.

GW’s lack of a conventional college campus connects us with the larger Foggy Bottom and D.C. communities. Yes, we are students, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work to improve our city.

This year as the weather gets colder, GW students should take some time to reflect on the ways we are more privileged than those who do not have homes. But that’s not enough. We should get involved in our community through service to show homelessness is a problem that matters to us.

Marina Streznewski, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association, recently organized a Homelessness Task Force to improve the community for both residents and the homeless. Streznewski told me that “people who are homeless are people first” – not the other way around.

Especially at this time of year, Streznewski stressed the importance of GW students, and everyone in Foggy Bottom, being aware of homeless members of our community. That means being more active in nonprofit and charitable events, drives and campaigns.

The Foggy Bottom Association is working on small projects that range from smaller tasks like making sure there are enough trash cans in neighborhoods and creating hygiene kits to distribute, as well as larger goals like starting a neighborhood watch system so neighbors can take care of each other.

Students can also get involved on campus. Hunger and Homeless Awareness week, held the week before Thanksgiving, is approaching. Since GW partners with the Human Services Program to participate every year, students have plenty of chances to help out. Events like poetry slams, hunger banquets and food drives are easy ways to get involved.

Of course, we’re only students. We are crunched for time on a daily basis, we eat Ramen noodles because we have no time to cook real meals and many of us are chronic procrastinators. But often, we can make time for what matters most to us. The wellbeing of our community should matter enough.

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Eun-Hee Kim is an assistant professor of strategic management and public policy.

It’s been seven years since TransCanada, a builder and operator of the energy infrastructure based in Calgary, Alberta, filed its Keystone pipeline permit application to the U.S. State Department. The proposed pipeline would have delivered oil produced from oil sands in Alberta cross-border to Nebraska.

After a series of delays, last week President Obama announced that he had rejected the pipeline permit application.

This is great news for all those who support strong measures to combat climate change (including Pope Francis, who was just here.) With the exception of the Clean Power Plan that President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency announced in August, the Obama administration has been somewhat lackluster on the environmental policy front in the past several years. This move will certainly bolster President Obama’s image and help build his legacy in this regard.

Should we have anticipated the rejection? Not necessarily. This outcome came amid the unfolding developments in the field in addition to continuous opposition by environmental and community advocates. Most of all, as EPA pointed out, oil prices have fallen sharply recently, lessening the need to build additional pipelines (there already exist substitutes for pipelines such as railroads) and weakening business interest in oil sands.

Reviews by the U.S. State Department also suggested that building the Keystone pipeline would not influence the unemployment rate significantly. Besides, Canada’s new prime minister, unlike his predecessor, doesn’t seem to feel strongly that the Keystone pipeline permit is the most important issue in the U.S.‒Canada relationship.

Does the rejection mean no forever to cross-border transportation of oil produced from oil sands in Alberta? It means no now, but we may see this issue come up again in the future – especially in a new Republican era.

Recently, TransCanada asked for suspension of its application in anticipation of a possible rejection by President Obama and a possible regime change in upcoming presidential election in 2016.

With changes in the political and economic environments that make extracting oil from oil sands favorable, the Keystone pipeline debate could certainly surface again.

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Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 4:49 p.m.

Op-ed: Lessons learned from Rocky Horror

Nicole Martin is a senior majoring in public health.

If you told me a month ago I was going to dance in my lingerie in front of the my peers at GW, I never would’ve believed you. But two weeks ago I did, and it was the best decision of my life.

Over the summer, I constantly talked how badly I wanted to audition for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I fantasized about looking incredibly thin and gorgeous on stage. I wanted to prove to my former self that I was no longer the awkward, fat, friendless kid in the corner that everyone bullied. Rocky Horror was the perfect motivation for my weight loss. I was cast in the ensemble and I would no longer be “tubby, nerdy Nicole.”

Before the show, I dieted intensely and based my life around an exercise regime. Having a perfect body for the production meant everything. But two weeks before our opening night reality came crashing through: I wasn’t thin enough.

I nearly cried during our first lap dance practice and hyperventilated at the thought of stripping off my clothing. Being in my skin felt nauseating and I thought I had to quit. But rather than just giving up on me, my castmates took the time to understand my discomfort. With each baby step I took, my fears started to fade away.

The night before we opened was when everything came together. I stood on stage singing “The Time Warp” after our final run-through, and everything from weight loss to embarrassment escaped my mind. The Marvin Center Grand Ballroom brimmed with love. I became a part of a 21-year-old tradition at GW to build self-acceptance for anyone and everyone. My appearance no longer mattered.

I felt good in my skin. I felt love in my skin. My skin was the right skin.

Of course, not all of my insecurities have disappeared after participating in Rocky Horror, but the production definitely shifted my perspective. Our campus constantly participates in a dialogue about beauty standards and self-love. However, we all spend countless hours editing our Instagram photos for the perfect filter. Our world is completely distorted and accomplishment-orientated. I’ve learned that the best way to challenge it is action.

Forty years ago, Richard O’Brien shocked America with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Rocky builds a safe haven for vulnerability. Rocky nurtures your vulnerability into strength. Rocky challenges your insecurities until you face them. Rocky moves at your pace. Rocky teaches that you are capable of demolishing the uncomfortable. Rocky reminds you that you matter – not filtered you, just you.

So no, your body isn’t the wrong shape or size to audition for Rocky Horror. You won’t look bad in a corset. It won’t be embarrassing. By the time it’s over, you’ll forget you ever cared about those minor details. Rocky gives you a place to nurture the everlasting light inside of you that just wants to be free.

Take the challenge, audition for Rocky Horror next year and experience a truly “only at GW” moment like no other.

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Joe Biden is the Vice President of the United States.

Twenty-one years ago, I wrote the Violence Against Women Act to end the scourge of violence against women and hold perpetrators accountable. It’s been a great success, but even one attack is one too many.

So I held a number of calls with hundreds of students, administrators, advocates, and survivors and asked what we can do to make colleges safer. The overwhelming answer: get men involved.

So President Obama and I started “It’s on Us” to wake up our colleges and universities – and the country – to the epidemic of sexual violence on their campuses.

Over the past year, we’ve gotten celebrities, major companies, sports leagues and leading broadcasters to participate in public service announcements and display logos and information, showing how everyone can help prevent these heinous crimes from ever happening.

One thing students can do is take the “It’s on Us” pledge. Over 250,000 students have already pledged:

  1. To intervene instead of being a bystander.

  2. To recognize that any time consent is not – or cannot – be given, it is sexual assault and it is a crime.

  3. To do everything you can to create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable, and all survivors are supported.

The response has been overwhelming. More than 300 campuses have hosted more than 1,000 It’s on Us events, and nearly 300 colleges and universities have created their own It’s on Us public service announcements, reaching millions of people online and at football and basketball games.

But this year, we want to do even more. That’s why between Nov. 8 to Nov. 14, I’m traveling across the country calling for a Week of Action to get more students involved.

This week, the University of Wisconsin is hosting an “It’s on Us” flag football game with student athletes, members of Greek organizations and other student groups. At Stonehill College in Massachusetts, students, faculty and staff are wearing nametags that say how they have been affected by sexual assault: “I am a survivor,” and “I will not be a passive bystander.” Middle Tennessee State University is hosting discussions in the student center and online about consent and stopping sexual violence.

In addition to taking the pledge, consider other steps:

  • Organize drives to get more students to take the “It’s on Us” Pledge.

  • Ask businesses, libraries, hospitals to display an “It’s on Us” logo.

  • Encourage sports teams, fraternities, sororities, bands and other student organizations to get involved.

  • Hold press conferences and roundtables with school administrators and community leaders about campus sexual assault.

  • Use social media to spread the word using #ItsonUs.

You have to demand that your Universities be held accountable. President Obama and I have made it crystal clear that schools that fail in this responsibility are in violation of Title IX and risk federal investigation and financial penalties. And each of you can make it clear that you expect nothing less.

I also encourage your colleges to partner with local rape crisis centers, local law enforcement, and women’s health centers to coordinate a robust community response and ensure that victims are supported in every way possible.

We have more to do to change the culture that asks the wrong questions, like why were you there? What were you wearing? Were you drinking?

We have to ask the right questions: What made him think that he could do what he did without my consent? Why on Earth did no one stop him instead of standing by? What can we do to make sure everyone has the courage to speak up, intervene, prevent and end sexual assault once and for all?

You know that survivors are not statistics. They’re our sisters, they’re our classmates, they’re our friends. They’re at every university, every college, in every community – large and small. For all of them, everywhere, we can and we must end sexual and dating violence on campus.

But we can’t do it without you. Visit to find out what you can do during this Week of Action and throughout the school year.

It’s on me. It’s on you. It’s on us – and it’s within our power to end sexual violence on campus once and for all.

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Ted Barnhill, a professor of finance, is a member of the Faculty Senate.

On Nov. 10, the Faculty Assembly should reject the Board of Trustees’ resolution to include non-tenured faculty as voting members of the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Assembly should also reject the Faculty Senate’s proposed amendment which narrows the types of non-tenured faculty who can serve as senators.

Putting non-tenured faculty into a position where they may fear retaliation if they speak or vote against questionable proposals is unfair to them, as well as the entire University community. Instead, we need to improve shared governance through the articulation and consideration of all University stakeholders’ views in a less politically charged environment.

The University would be better served by focusing on the recruitment of more non-tenured faculty, students, staff and alumni to be voting members of Faculty Senate committees, which develop proposals that University officials and the Faculty Senate consider for adoption.

University officials have demonstrated the capacity to spend large amounts of money on the central administration, and to push through very questionable, expensive and risky initiatives that strain University finances. Controversial, and perhaps unilateral, changes to the Faculty Code are also under discussion.

All University stakeholders have a vested interest in effective shared governance which requires open, thoughtful, frank and sometimes critical debate and votes. Adoption of the Board’s resolution to include non-tenured faculty as voting members of the Faculty Senate would significantly weaken shared governance.

The Board of Trustees has stated that the reason for this resolution is the need for inclusiveness in Faculty Senate membership. A potential additional reason could be to reduce the chances that non-tenure track faculty might be allowed to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

If non-tenure track faculties are classified as managerial employees, who help direct University activities through voting membership in the Faculty Senate, then the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in NLRB v. Yeshiva University might block them from collective bargaining. Contract faculty of all types should consider very carefully whether it is in their best interest to support the Board’s resolution.

A problem in need of resolution is membership on the Faculty Senate from schools that have few tenured faculty members. An accommodation in which some number of non-tenured faculties from such schools can serve as voting members of the Faculty Senate could be more appropriate, provided that the non-tenured faculty fully understand the implications of serving and choose to do so.

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Aria Vyas, a freshman double-majoring in biology and psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Our clocks aren’t the only things changing as we ease into November. The Halloween hype is dying down, and stores have begun to remove the bulk bags of candy from the shelves. They’re now being replaced with turkey decorations, miniature cornucopias and recipe books: The countdown to Thanksgiving has officially begun.

College students wait patiently to spend five days at home with family, friends and loved ones. And students in long-distance relationships might be anticipating the break a little bit more. Unfortunately, thanks to a phenomenon popularly referred to as the “turkey drop,” the college couple’s November reunion could be their last.

The turkey drop refers to college students who decide to end their long distance relationships during Thanksgiving break. It is also commonly known as the “turkey dump” or “breaksgiving.”

But for just as many relationships that don’t make it, there are many that power through this infamous relationship recession. Though many argue that our generation doesn’t understand how to love or how to have a committed relationship, it’s not too hard to find students on campus that can tell you otherwise. There are plenty of students whose long-distance relationships will survive the upcoming break.  So don’t let the stigma of “breaksgiving” make you conform to the collegiate pressures to be single and open to “Netflix and chill,” unless that’s what you want.

Although I personally haven’t experienced the hardships of a long-distance relationship, I know a few friends that have. I’ve noticed that the couples who break up in the first months of school do it for a few reasons: how much time they can invest, the amount of trust involved and the realistic prospect (or lack thereof) of eventually being together.

This break-up trend is most common among college freshmen who entered the year saying, “We’re going to be the ones who make it,” and had ambitious goals of daily Skype sessions and surprise visits. But any freshman can tell you that the transition into college is a tough one, and the idea of “making it” can get clouded in the fog of college life.

You already have to make sure your parents know that you’re alive and well every day, stay in touch with high school friends and, on top of that, work on your relationship if you’re in one – and it isn’t easy. And with the large number of new people you meet in your first semester, it can be hard to focus on where you left your relationship.

And if it comes down to it, it just might be OK to reconsider the relationship. Thanksgiving break is deep enough into college life for both people to understand what it takes to keep a relationship going. Is the distance too far? Are Skype sessions enough? Is it worth going months without each other just to see each other for a few days?

The fact that many couples answer ‘no’ to these questions is how holiday break acquired its “turkey drop” reputation. But there are couples whose answers to those questions will be yes. And that’s perfectly OK, too.

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Nate Muramatsu is a freshman majoring in international affairs.

Colonials Invasion, no doubt a highlight of fall at GW, is an event where students and parents can have fun. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet fellow students, bond with friends, show support for our talented athletes and kick off the basketball season.

There’s just one problem: the name.

Language matters. So does historical context. A colonial is someone who colonizes, and someone who colonizes always does so against the will of the colonized – sometimes causing mass casualties, exploitation and centuries of violent oppression.

The name “Colonials Invasion” makes light of centuries of traumatic social exclusion and racism. Even though the name may not be meant that way, it feels wrong to make a play on words that harkens back to the idea that groups of people and their land can or should be invaded.

We need to recognize the small ways in which we perpetuate racism through language, and it’s odd that students haven’t been more vocal about this. As a person of Hispanic, Japanese and African-American descent, I find it appalling that anyone would find “Colonial Invasion” to be an acceptable name. Although the event has already passed, it’s time we start thinking about changing it next year to something that’s less historically and ethnically charged.

Last Monday was Columbus Day, and on my Facebook timeline, chaos ensued. My feed overflowing with vehement posts, links to Everyday Feminism articles and reminders that the Seattle City Council and the City of Minneapolis have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples day. My friends, classmates and peers were determined not to celebrate or even acknowledge the holiday.

I was taken aback. Those same people kept excitedly asking me if I was going to Colonials Invasion. But the problem with Columbus Day is very similar to the problematic name of the kickoff to GW’s basketball season.

Christopher Columbus represents a legacy of violent colonialism and unjust oppression. Indigenous people, some have argued, aren’t celebrated, acknowledged or given a voice like they should be. But Colonials Invasion perpetuates a very similar problem in that it doesn’t acknowledge the connotations of being invaded by colonials.

An invasion is always violent. It’s never a passive event. Invasions set up a dichotomy in which one group of people is dominant and the other group of people is denied agency. Its meaning never changes depending on context, so it doesn’t become cute, cheesy or funny when we suddenly make it the name of a fun college event.

GW can and should change the name of this event. It’s representative of a problem that we as a culture gloss over, with ramifications that we often leave unaddressed. Racist and culturally insensitive language has real impacts on individuals and groups of people. It can subtly exclude students who are made to feel that historically traumatic events in their heritage are met with indifference or attempts at humor.

It’s unfortunate that so few of my fellow students who are so passionate about boycotting Columbus Day didn’t protest a similar problem on our own campus. Especially because our student body is so politically conscious and socially aware, it’s an issue that we should have tackled by now.

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Stefan Sultan, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Soon, employees in the District may have the most generous paid family leave policy in the country, thanks to legislation that the D.C. Council is currently considering. This would include GW employees, who would receive 16 weeks of paid leave.

But as with any legislation, passage isn’t a guarantee. Fortunately for the staff at GW, they are already part of the 11 percent of U.S. workers who receive paid parental leave. While GW’s policy of giving full-time staff members paid family leave should be applauded, the six weeks they offer is too short, and, if the D.C. Council doesn’t mandate the extension, GW should expand the paid leave it offers to its staff and faculty.

The University should offer a period of leave more in sync with those offered by our peer schools, including Georgetown University, Tufts University and the University of Southern California, all of which offer their employees a prolonged period for paid leave: between eight and 12 weeks.

Allowing new parents spend time with their children after birth or adoption has been proven to have significant impacts on parents’ health. Studies have found that taking more than 12 weeks of paid leave is connected to an increase in energy for new mothers. Taking 15 weeks reduces the chances of depression, and for every month parental leave was shortened, it increased the prospect of of impaired motor or social skills for the child.

Paid parental leave has been shown to benefit parents economically, as well. Research has found that because of paid parental leave, more parents choose to take off to spend time with their new child, making them more likely return to work after their leave is over. That alone can increase the weekly hours and pay of new mothers by 10 percent.

If the University were to extend leave, faculty and staff would be able to spend more time with their new children, allowing them to form a stronger connection. And that means GW wouldn’t have to waste resources hiring new employees, as this elongated leave would increase the chance of employees returning to GW.

In light of the D.C. Council’s proposal, several student groups – such as the Roosevelt Institute, the Feminist Student Union and the Progressive Student Union – have backed this new policy. The support by these groups shows an appetite among students for the University to extend this beneficial and family friendly policy, and GW should listen.

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