The Forum


Lara Cartwright-Smith is an associate research professor of health policy & management in the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Since 2013, the Board of Trustees has been considering revisions to GW’s Faculty Code. These revisions would permit “specialized faculty,” including research professors, to participate more fully in university governance, such as being able vote on key issues or serve in the Faculty Senate.

Some members of the Faculty Senate have opposed these reforms. They have asserted that research faculty are not fully engaged in teaching, service and research, are only employed in positions of a “short-term and highly-contingent nature” and are unlikely “to engage in robust dialogue.”

I believe that many do not understand research faculty’s commitment to the academic mission of the University. In an effort to clarify the issue, I want to explain to the GW community what I do as a research faculty member, and encourage support for the Board of Trustees in this reform.

I am an associate research professor and have been on the faculty since 2008, hardly short-term. Though I am research faculty, I am also highly engaged in teaching and service. I teach core courses for our graduate students, co-direct the practicum program that assures students get “real world” experience and have advised dozens of students over the years.

Contrary to the assumption that research faculty do not engage in service to GW, I serve on departmental committees, including the curriculum committee and the recruitment/admissions committee. We make significant decisions regarding the academic programs of the department.I spent many uncompensated hours this past spring as a fully engaged (though non-voting) member of the search committee for a new chair of the Department of Health Policy & Management. In recognition of my extensive experience in teaching, advising and service, I was recently appointed program director for the Master of Public Health program, an important position in our department.

At the same time, I maintain a substantial research portfolio, supported by grants from foundations and the federal government. My research and public health practice inform my teaching. My projects also keep me connected to what’s going on in the world of health policy – which, as you can imagine, is pretty dynamic these days – which supports my academic advising.

Moreover, my research portfolio funds hourly positions for students to join in research, giving them valuable applied research and writing experience alongside their classroom education. The ability to interact with faculty members engaged in research and policy is a key reason that many of our students chose GW.

I am highly committed to GW – in fact, I am also an alumna. Shouldn’t I count? Why should I be denied voting and governance rights because of a “research” label? Why should I not have a vote if the faculty are deciding on the selection of a new member? If the faculty of my school wanted to elect me to serve as their representative to the Faculty Senate, shouldn’t they be trusted to elect the representative they think will best serve them?

I am not unusual among research faculty and know many others with substantial achievements in teaching, service and research who are fully committed to GW’s academic mission. I thank the Board of Trustees for addressing this issue and urge the GW community to support their efforts to recognize research faculty as equal members of the faculty.

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Bronté Dinges is a senior in the English honors program’s combined BA/MA program, and is writing her master’s thesis about trigger warnings.

I am writing in response to the editorial, “GW should not mandate trigger warnings” by The Hatchet’s editorial board (p.4, September 28).

The main component lacking in The Hatchet’s editorial is input from those it most affects. Discussions of trigger warnings are therefore problematic, because those who need them the most may not be capable of publicly advocating for them. My experiences have taught me that language itself holds the vital capacity to divide or connect survivors with non-survivors of trauma. Its capacity to bridge communal gaps just needs to be actualized.

I am a survivor of rape, and I am ready to change the trigger warning dialogue about survivors to a dialogue with survivors. For starters, there is an enormous difference between “being offended” and having an emotional and/or physical reaction to something as a result of past trauma.

In many ways, I’m still coping and healing from the ways my experience of rape has fundamentally changed the neurobiological operation of my brain. Through years of trial by fire in academic settings, I’ve found that being cognizant of – and therefore able to prepare myself for – content involving rape can be a crucial way to reduce abnormal emotional and/or physical reactions to such content.

I am a survivor, and for my own well being, I make every attempt to stay informed about any potentially triggering content I will be required to read and discuss in class.

During class registration, I attempt to make informed decisions about the classes I take. I check class descriptions, I check online syllabi, I crosscheck readings for potentially triggering content. The problem? Professors aren’t required to post syllabi online prior to registration.

During syllabus week, I attempt to make informed decisions about the classes I remain in, or at least as informed as possible. I re-check class descriptions, I re-check syllabi, I crosscheck readings for potentially triggering content. The problem? Syllabi – when given – are not always comprehensive, and do not always list all potentially triggering content.

During the semester, I attempt to create a dialogue with my professors about potentially triggering content. I reach out, I go to office hours, I proactively discuss alternative assignments far in advance. Nine out of 10 times, professors are completely receptive and understanding. The problem? I cannot create a dialogue about something of which I am unaware. It just isn’t possible.

Despite these efforts, just last week I found myself put on the spot in a creative writing course, and was explicitly asked why Patricia Lockwood’s poem “The Rape Joke” was difficult for me to read, after I acknowledged in class that it had been. I felt trapped, both by my intense emotional reaction the poem triggered, and by a professor unknowingly questioning me about an incredibly painful and intimate part of my life. This class happens to be a required course for my major. This poem was not listed on the class syllabus.

When I am triggered in such situations, I experience flashbacks to my rape, intense fear, an inability to concentrate, shortness of breath – the list goes on. It’s like being hit by a truck of involuntary and intense psychological reactions, and consequently a very real and debilitating emotional and/or physical response.

I am a survivor, yet the rhetoric about trigger warnings indirectly calls me oversensitive, coddled, or supportive of censure.

My support for trigger warnings goes beyond an aversion to being made “uncomfortable,” or wanting professors to censor their course – which I, like many advocates of trigger warnings, do not support. In fact, I would argue that no one wants to be able to read texts such as “Rape Joke” more than me. I would give anything to not be a survivor, to not have such a personal stake in this seemingly trendy issue.

I am a survivor, and my support of trigger warnings is merely a request for syllabus disclosure that allows the classroom to be a safe place for me to learn.

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Jonah Lewis, a senior double-majoring in sociology and political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

Many Internet users abide by one commandment: Don’t read the comments. They’re often bigoted and ignorant, and the image of the average Internet commentator has coalesced into an aggressive and bad-mouthed troll.

But I almost always break that rule, and I love reading the comments.

I recognize that they’re often disgusting and discouraging, but I usually skim the comments of almost every article I read. Surprisingly, there’s immense value in reading what everyone else assumes is useless content because it forces you to consume viewpoints you might not hear otherwise.

The Internet has changed what we consume, with news from hundreds of websites available at our fingers at any moment. This often leaves us trapped in a sort of echo chamber of think pieces. As a progressive person, almost everything I read is some echo or elaboration of views I already hold or at least seriously consider. But reading the comments has been my way of getting out of that bubble.

Of course, everyone knows there are points of view they would ignore no matter what. For example, as a gay man, I don’t feel the need to consume or see articles opposing same sex marriage or anti-discrimination laws because I’ll never be persuaded to vote against my own humanity.

But it’s important to remember that there are more extreme points of view out there in the world, beyond our Facebook timelines. In our daily lives, that can be easy to forget – especially at a politically and socially active school like GW.

That’s where reading wild Internet comments come in: to serve as a reminder. They range from the horrifyingly racist remarks on any article even tangentially about race to the befuddling conspiracy theories that persist about vaccines and autism. I’ve also seen more rants about Scripture and same-sex marriage than I can count.

Believe it or not, these things are written by real live people. While we don’t know much about them as individuals, we know many of them may vote in elections and generally care about social issues.

That’s scary. It reminds us of the harsh reality that there are many ignorant and uninformed people out there. If you’re stuck in your bubble of think pieces from The Atlantic and The New Republic, it can be easy to forget that there are people who will still blithely use the N-word and don’t care who reads it.

Since many commentators are anonymous, they’re more willing to share their real viewpoints of the world – meaning you get to see their most toxic opinions. Of course, these extreme commentators are not representative, and we have no idea how small of a minority they may be. But it’s important to acknowledge and appreciate the depth and types of ignorance that are out there. Yes, most comments are largely surface-level and are often no more than ad hominem attacks. But they also reflect the reality of American political life.

People often avoid the comments because they don’t want to give them the benefit of their attention or validate their outright foulness in any way. But to read, digest and appreciate is much different than to bring attention to.

Though I’ve come across plenty of gems, I haven’t highlighted any specific comments here because I believe something very important: While these comments represent people’s true ideals and cannot be ignored, they still represent harmful ideologies that we should never spread.

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Sarah Blugis, a senior majoring in political communication, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

I’ve just started watching The West Wing for the first time – and I’m a senior in the School of Media and Public Affairs. I know what you may be thinking: How could I have waited this long? Haven’t I missed a ton of references over the years? Most importantly: What season am I on?

Well, somehow I’ve managed to fly through the entire first season in a little over a week, though I’m not sure where I found the time. For a while, I avoided starting the show, largely because 154 episodes is a daunting commitment. But I’ve also become more and more pessimistic about the political process over the last three years, so I wasn’t sure The West Wing was the show for me.

A couple weeks ago, though, one of my SMPA professors referenced a very specific episode as an example during class, and I decided it was time to catch up with everyone else. I was tired of not knowing who C.J. Cregg is, why Charlie Young is so great or what happens after the season one cliffhanger finale. So I started, unwisely, while taking a break from writing a paper. Needless to say, I didn’t get much done after that.

Now I’m hooked, and I see the appeal of the show. If by some miracle I’m not the only senior studying politics who hasn’t watched The West Wing, those of you out there like me should give it a try. We’ve been missing out.

It can be easy to feel disillusioned about politics after studying the process, the people and the strategy for a few years. Most of us come to GW optimistic that we can change the world and improve the political process all in one fell swoop. Some of us will leave that way, too – but not everyone.

The West Wing has made me feel a bit better about that. Watching creator Aaron Sorkin’s fictional characters Josh Lyman and Leo McGarry win hard-fought political battles makes me wonder if maybe a political career could be worth it, after all.

At the very least, The West Wing’s lovable characters have made me appreciate the strong drive that so many of my classmates have to succeed in the political arena. Plenty of students at GW have ambitious political aspirations, something to which I’ve always had a hard time relating.

But now, I understand. I understand why someone would be inspired by President Bartlet’s character, or why students aspire to be intelligent and respected speechwriters like Sam Seaborn. I understand the appeal of the hustle and bustle of The White House — even though what Sorkin shows us on screen isn’t real. The show makes it look fun, easy and fulfilling – which isn’t how politics appear in the real world.

It took me long enough, but I’m finally here. So bring on The West Wing references — but let me cram in a few more seasons, first.

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Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 12:02 a.m.

This semester, try using a paper planner

Varun Joshi, a senior double-majoring in economics and math, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I never used to be particularly organized, or had my entire life put together. Though my desk and closet are still less than perfect, the many pencil and highlighter markings in my planner reveal a different story.

But why have I ‒ in an age when our smartphones and desktops are more than efficient at outlining our daily routines ‒ opted for a paper planner over an iPhone calendar? Contrary to the popular belief that physical planners are outdated and passé, I’ve discovered their many benefits. If you haven’t tried using a planner yet, you should: You might be surprised at how much you like it.

My first three years in college were an odyssey of unsuccessful experimentation with different Android apps and digital calendars. Fresh out of high school, the mere notion of walking around campus with a pen and calendar seemed old-fashioned and ludicrous. Physical planners were, after all, unnecessary extra baggage when I already had a smartphone and a laptop.

However, as some recent studies demonstrate, the physical act of writing actually has a strong correlation to memory and learning. Our mind’s filter for what we end up remembering is activated when we simply put our pen to paper.

In contrast, typing requires far less brain energy and engages fewer regions of the brain. That makes us far more likely to forget words that are typed than handwritten – something you may have heard a few of your professors preach on the first day of class.

I have also found digital planners to paradoxically make the very act of planning less efficient. Any appointment or meeting could be written down on a calendar quickly. Conversely, adding an event on almost any app involves filling out entry fields as expansive as a DMV form – including checkboxes for times, options to tag people and tedious location input.

But worst of all is the flurry of messages, beeps and notifications that accompany almost any digitized schedule. As tied as I was to technology, I now know the benefits of possessing a schedule bereft of notification bars and a finite battery life. And while you’re studying in Gelman Library, rest assured your paper planner will never distract you.

Having come to depend on my physical planner now, and seeing how my work ethic has improved, I know that there’s no going back for me. As we head into the second month of our fall semester, keep in mind that the pen is indeed mightier than the keyboard.

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Jeremy Gosbee is the president of the Alumni Association.
Dear students:

You might notice this weekend that there are a few more folks than usual exploring campus and attending events. Many of them will be wearing GW shirts and nametags, and you might spot a certain nostalgic look in their eyes.

That’s because this is Alumni Weekend. Thousands of graduates will come back to Foggy Bottom to reminisce and reconnect with one another and with their alma mater.

I encourage you to reach out and get to know some of our alumni this weekend. There are currently more than 275,000 people living all around the world that share a common bond with you: They walked in your footsteps, sat in your classrooms (some of them, anyway) and even learned from some of the same professors as you.

So if you see someone marveling at the new Science and Engineering Hall, or trying to figure out where they can buy a GW T-shirt these days, or taking selfies with George Washington on the bench in Kogan Plaza, take a moment to say hello. Ask them to tell you their GW story ‒ how they came here, what they studied and what campus was like in their day.

You’d be surprised at how excited many of our alumni are to talk with current students. You might see an alumnus staring wistfully at the construction site for what once was Crawford Hall and hear a story about GW’s first “Superdorm” (hint: it wasn’t District House!). You might even get a knock on your door in Thurston Hall because the “Back to Thurston” tour is always one of the most popular events during Alumni Weekend.

You may also notice many alumni this weekend with a ribbon on their nametag that says “annual donor.” When you do, please be sure to thank them for their support of GW. Their donations and other forms of support go a long way to help enable your GW experience, and I know they would appreciate your gratitude.

The GW Alumni Association works hard to promote our philosophy of “Colonials Helping Colonials.” We all share a common bond that unites us as students and creates a responsibility to help one another succeed. So take advantage of the opportunity to connect with a fellow Colonial. You never know: Your next mentor might be that alumnus you meet this weekend.

And finally, I hope you’ll keep in mind the fact that soon, you too will be an alumnus or alumna of GW – and that you’ll always be welcome here in Foggy Bottom, for Alumni Weekend or on any other day of the year.

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Tim Ashwell, a senior lecturer in the department of kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire at Durham, attended GW from 1966 to 1970.

I’m writing in response to the column, “When exploring D.C., look past the headlines” by David Meni (Sept. 10, online).

I hope every GW student and members of their family, especially nervous parents of new students, take a few minutes to read David’s insightful piece on exploring the city. If you take the kind of reasonable precautions he suggests and exercise a bit of common sense, getting to know D.C. is one of the greatest benefits of a GW education.

We heard the same warnings from our parents and loved ones to be safe and cautious in the District when I was a GW undergraduate. At that time, D.C. was considerably more unstable, and real estate developers hadn’t renamed the nondescript area between Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle the West End.

As a freshman in the fall of 1966, I attended GW football home games. I’d routinely get up bright and early to walk the nearly five miles from my residence hall on 19th Street — now known as Mitchell Hall — to what was then called D.C. Stadium, now RFK Memorial Stadium, near the Capitol and Lincoln Park. Back then, we had to navigate the city without the help of the Metro, which hadn’t yet been built.

Those walks helped me understand there was a city beyond Foggy Bottom, the Mall and the Hill. When I passed the Capitol and headed east on East Capitol Street, institutional and monumental Washington turned into a different kind of city. Families lived here. Small shops and businesses I’d never heard of were tucked around corners.

I met some nice folks, many of whom were no doubt curious why a white college boy was strolling down the street. Some even helpfully volunteered directions, convinced I must be lost. When I told them I was headed to a GW game — and reminded them that tickets were much cheaper and more available than they were for the Redskins games — a few even said maybe they’d take in a game sometime.

As I walked, I was sidetracked by the occasional touch football game in the street from time to time. I never ran into any of the “trouble” we’d been told surely awaited us in certain questionable neighborhoods.

Like most GW students, I spent a lot of my time in Foggy Bottom with occasional forays into Georgetown. I visited the museums on the Mall (definitely should have spent more time there) but I also saw James Brown and the Temptations perform at the Howard Theater. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive when I was a freshman and sophomore, so the fires of 1968 were still in the future. But we didn’t see anything wrong with journeying to T Street for the sake of music. I’m glad we did.

I don’t know whether we were more courageous back then or just more trusting. I teach these days at the University of New Hampshire, a tranquil campus in a small town an hour north of Boston. I sense that many of my students would never dream of hiking off alone through a major city. In fact, many rarely go to Boston at all, and, when they do, they never venture far from Fenway Park, TD Garden, or the museum or theater they’ve been assigned to visit.

I’m not advising students to loiter on street corners late at night. Take care of yourself and be aware of your surroundings, but don’t let unfamiliar people and places stop you from exploring Washington. It’s a great city, and probably one of the reasons you wanted to come to GW in the first place.

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Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015 12:01 a.m.

Appreciate the value of GW’s Division I sports

Teddy Clamp, a sophomore double-majoring in international affairs and history, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Here at GW, we aren’t well-known for our love of sports. Unfortunately, I’ve only seen the Smith Center reach its 5,000-person capacity a few times during men’s basketball games.

If men’s basketball — one of the most popular sports at GW — doesn’t have the entire campus cheering, it’s discouraging to think about what attendance must be like for other sports. The talented athletes of GW’s other 23 men’s and women’s Division I varsity sports teams deserve the limelight, too.

I love going to these matches and meets, where I can get a closer view of so many top-level sports. In fact, my personal goal is to attend at least one match for each Division I sport at GW. This fall, I’ve already attended several gymnastics meets, and have observed that the volleyball team is incredibly talented (and really tall). This year, I hope more students take advantage of the opportunity we have to cheer on our athletes.

Some of these students will go on to become professional athletes, and some might even go on to compete internationally. Many already do: For example, the squash team has international competitors not only for the United States, but also for Colombia and Ireland. And Patricio Garino of the men’s basketball team just returned from helping Argentina qualify for the 2016 Olympics at the FIBA Americas championship.

These events might not be the Olympics, but they still are professional-caliber sports right on your doorstep — and for free. Plus, you get to cheer on these athletes before the rest of the world learns their names, and you might not realize how hard it is to compete at the top level until you’ve watched them up close.

I can promise that watching any team win a game is an amazing feeling. And the roar that goes through the crowd when your team spikes the volleyball and crashes it into the floor, scores the winning basket or strikes out the last batter is unmatched.

Life in Foggy Bottom can get hectic and stressful, so it’s definitely worth it to take some time to relax and enjoy watching these incredible sports. Not only is it exciting, but it also makes you feel like you’re part of something more — a nice break from the day-to-day stressors of life.

I’ve found my place watching sports with the Colonial Army, a group that has doubled in size over the past two years. Members show up at many sporting events, not just men’s basketball games. And there’s something special about clapping and screaming with your fellow students that you can’t find anywhere else on campus.

So drop in at a gymnastics meet for half an hour, and see some impressive back-flips and daring vaults. Head out to the Vern to catch a soccer game. It may be the only time in your life you can watch such amazing athletes play their hearts out for free — so don’t miss out.

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Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015 12:10 a.m.

Freshmen, consider learning to cook

Andrew Costello, a senior double-majoring in political science and economics, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Most students don’t come to college to learn how to cook.

I came here to study political science and economics. But surprisingly, one of the most useful things I learned as a freshman had nothing to do with either of those subjects. Instead, I learned about the importance of self-reliance, especially when it comes to food and nutrition.

I learned to cook during my first year on campus — a skill that has continued to benefit me throughout my college career. If you’re a freshman this year, consider that learning to cook will continue to benefit you throughout your time at school — even if it takes a bit of extra effort.

As a freshman at GW, I wasn’t presented with many options for healthy, affordable meals. Three years ago, J Street’s fast-casual offerings included an Indian restaurant, Chinese cuisine, a sandwich shop and a Sodexo-operated diner of questionable quality. And those offerings haven’t changed much since then.

The healthiest options available came from the buffet, but the pay-by-weight system always seemed a little too expensive to me. An average meal at J Street usually cost me about $10, and I quickly found it to be an entirely unsustainable method of keeping myself fed.

So I began to cook on my own. Of course, I had to figure out the logistics of making my own food as a first-year student with no cooking utensils, proprietary kitchen, or much storage space. Needless to say, I definitely had to make some compromises when I set out on this particular adventure — but it can be done.

And yes, freshmen are required to spend a certain amount of money in GW’s dining halls, which limits how much of your own food you can make. But if you spend your Colonial Cash smartly, you’re free to spend as much of your campus dining dollars on coffee and candy bars as you want — without worrying about wasting it.

When I started, I did have to shell out some cash for a skillet, a saucepan and a large stirring spoon at CVS. Later on, I would grab a mixing bowl, a cutting board and a few utensils. At the bare minimum, this was about everything I needed in order to cook vegetables, meat and pasta. Picking up some basic supplies isn’t too difficult or costly, and can also help to set you up for the next few years.

Next, I had to figure out where to cook. Thankfully, most freshman dorms — though unfortunately not all — have a communal kitchen for their residents to use, so that was a no-brainer. Of course, they normally aren’t kept very clean, but a few disinfectant wipes can solve that problem.

After that, it’s helpful to have a few recipes up your sleeve that are quick, easy and cheap to make. Most of the meals I cook draw heavily from my Italian heritage, and usually involve pasta, oil, garlic and whatever else I feel like eating. But finding staple nutritious foods — ones that you can use for different meals — is invaluable.

So consider cooking a few nights a week instead of going out. It’s a vital skill to learn while you have the time and energy to give it a try.

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Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015 7:09 a.m.

This year, remember to thank your professors

Shwetha Srinivasan, a sophomore double-majoring in international affairs and economics, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I have always appreciated how much work educators do — whether they’re teaching kindergarten, high school or college students.

But this past summer, I taught students in seventh and eighth grade, which helped me to see things from a different perspective. It was an eye-opening experience, and interacting with other teachers helped me appreciate their efforts and empathize with them.

During my last day as a teacher, I received multiple gifts from students, ranging from flowers and chocolates to handmade cards. It really meant a lot to me that they put in the time and effort to thank me.

While it’s unreasonable to ask college students to shower all of their professors with gifts, I still think college students could do a little more to show their appreciation. Professors challenge students, inspire them, support them and help further their career goals. The least students can do is thank professors properly.

There are already opportunities at GW to recognize faculty’s hard work. The University hosts receptions, dinners and award functions where professors are recognized and appreciated. However, GW organizes these programs, not the student body. Instead, students should try taking some initiative.

One way to appreciate professors would be through events put together by student organizations and groups throughout the year. For example, Greek chapters could hold a “professor mixer” and invite faculty from across departments to mingle with students in Greek life. The College Republicans and GW Democrats could try a debate between professors, followed by a complimentary dinner.

Apart from celebrating teachers through events on campus, students should take initiative and show their appreciation in small ways. Stopping by office hours at the end of each semester just to drop off a thank you card could help you build a long-lasting relationship with that professor.

So, as the year begins, we should all think about what small things we could do to show our appreciation for our professors. They work hard, too.

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