The Forum


“Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” – Unknown

And may we look up to them as role models. The best way to motivate young women is to lead by example. Essentially, when young women see other women in charge, it makes them more ambitious and gives them hope that they can run the world – or in my case, succeed in a political career.

Massachusetts economist Esther Duflo discovered the so-called “Role Model Effect” when she and a team of economists traveled to 495 villages in the east Indian state of West Bengal. They found that in villages where there were female tribal leaders, the gender gap in education practically disappeared because girls set higher goals for themselves. On the other hand, in villages with no women in power, parents were 45 percent less likely to expect their daughters to go to school, and the girls were 32 percent less likely to have aspirations to go to school.

Even though GW is not a small village in east India, female students interested in politics still have women to inspire them – alumnae. Who better to inspire young women on campus than women who can actually say they’ve been there and done that? Whenever my career path feels stuck in a rut, I look for encouragement through the stories of three alumnae: Jacqueline Kennedy, who graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in French literature; Kellyanne Conway, who graduated in 1992 from the law school with honors; and Huma Abedin, who began studying journalism as an undergraduate here in 1994. These women have plenty of lessons to teach from their experiences, and my peers and I have plenty of lessons to learn.

When an internship doesn’t go the way I planned, I remember that things didn’t go exactly the way Abedin thought they would either. Abedin took a chance on an internship she almost turned down, but that internship put her political career on the fast track to success. Fresh from GW, she applied for a White House internship in hopes of landing a spot in the press office where she hoped she would emulate her personal hero, Christiane Amanpour. In a turn of events, she was assigned to the Office of First Lady Hillary Clinton. Abedin has since climbed the ladder from intern to “body woman” to deputy chief of staff and, most recently, to vice-chairwoman of Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. She’s been aptly described as Clinton’s shadow. Because of Abedin, I’ll now think twice before I pass up any opportunity that has the potential to springboard my career, even if it’s in a direction I’ve never considered.

When I don’t get the recognition I think I deserve, I remember that Conway’s success has gone largely unnoticed, too. Whether or not anyone was watching on Nov. 8, a glass ceiling was broken. Conway became the first woman to run a winning Republican presidential campaign. And it’s likely her success won’t end there. According to Politico, Conway can probably pick whatever White House job she wants – she just might have to wait a few months to reap the rewards of all of her hard work during the campaign. But if Conway can wait for her pat on the back, then I can too.

When I need to be brave, I remember that despite the violent tragedy that ended her husband’s life, First Lady Kennedy faced the nation with strength and grace. After U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Kennedy’s pink Chanel suit was caked in her husband’s blood. While flying back to D.C., her aides suggested that she “freshen up” and the Second Lady of the United States Lady Bird Johnson offered her a change of clothes. Kennedy refused and instead said, “Let them see what they’ve done.” Kennedy kept the garment on even through then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson’s hasty swearing-in ceremony. Through times of grief and great difficulty, I ask “What would Jackie do?” I’m reminded of Kennedy’s composure in front of a nation of mourners, and that gives me the courage to soldier on.

I can’t help but feel a great sense of sisterhood with Abedin, Conway and Kennedy as fellow women in politics and as fellow Colonials. I’m lucky that GW has plenty of female role models for me look up to because, in the words of the first American female astronaut Sally Ride, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Sydney Erhardt, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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Sarah Blugis is an alumna and The Hatchet’s former opinions editor.

While I was at GW, I didn’t participate in protests. Usually, it was because I had to be at my federal work study job, had an extracurricular activity or didn’t want to miss class. I often felt like my time was too limited to use on anything apart from school and work.

But if I were still a current student, I would have been out there protesting Tuesday. No matter what, I would have joined the walkout and ensuing march to protest everything that President-elect Donald Trump stands for.

As hundreds of students filled the streets a few days ago, I followed along on Twitter and on The Hatchet’s Snapchat story. In that moment, I was truly proud to be a GW alumna, and I was moved by the outpouring of emotion on campus. I was smiling throughout my entire bus ride home from work – a welcome change from the way I’ve felt the last few days.

Since the election, I’ve felt the way I imagine many other Democrats and Hillary Clinton supporters are feeling. I’ve had a tightness in my chest, an anxiety – a strong to pull to do something, anything, to make things right. It feels incredibly debilitating to want so badly to take action, and yet have no concrete action to take.

That’s why I was so happy to see GW students turning that feeling into something tangible. Now, students from my alma mater are on the record as unafraid to stand up to racism, misogyny and bigotry – and that’s important to alumni who feel the same way.

Of course, not everyone on campus agreed with the student protest. Most notably, the Young America’s Foundation put out a statement condemning the walkout. The statement also condemned the list of demands that student protesters had for the University, calling the demand for minority safe spaces “Jim Crow-esque.”

That type of willfully ignorant language is embarrassing and irresponsible, and does not reflect a positive image of the student body. Thankfully, GW students proved this week that groups like YAF are just a vocal minority. Of course, it’s absolutely necessary to listen to and try to understand viewpoints that aren’t your own, and I’m confident that in time, students will do just that. But this protest was a more important first step in showing the world where they stand.

As for me, I’ll be an enthusiastic attendee of the Women’s March the day after Inauguration Day, and I’m sure plenty of current and former GW students will be there, too. I’m looking forward to watching students continue to act as leaders in the world of millennial politics and to make alumni like me proud.

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

Many of us have come to class on time only to spend the first 15 minutes or so talking about current events. Professors sometimes lead short discussions before returning to lesson plans as usual, when something big comes up in the news.

But at Bennington College, students have the opportunity to take “pop-up courses,” which are one to two credit courses that last a few weeks and revolve around current world events. Students in those classes get to study these events as they unfold and develop. Just this semester, Bennington College President Mariko Silver co-taught a pop-up course called “Election 2016 and What Comes After.” The course began the week of the last U.S. presidential debate and met for the final time on election night.

GW should experiment with pop-up courses, since it is an institution that likes to emphasize a hands-on, real-world approach to education by using D.C. as a classroom. Bringing pop-up courses to GW would allow students to directly apply what they learn to what is happening in the world as events develop.

The addition of pop-up courses would also bring other classes’ meeting sessions back to material instead of eating up time with discussions about current events that do not apply to class material.

GW already offers something similar to Columbian College of Arts and Sciences students. Freshmen can take dean’s seminars in specialized topics, like the First Amendment, racism in U.S. history and the role of social media in American society. And as students advance into upper level courses, class topics become more specific, as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they will cover current events and issues.

Pop-up courses uniquely acknowledge how rapidly our world changes and allow students and professors to reflect on events as they are happening in a classroom environment, instead of waiting until the following semester to offer a full-length course on a topic. Some current topics may also not work as well if they have to take up a full semester, so the mini-courses give students just enough time to study the topics.

Offering opportunities to take pop-up courses in specialized topics provides students with a platform to understand and engage with the material, as they can still share the same rigor of regular courses by including more in a short amount of time. Besides for class discussions, students in pop-up courses may read academic material and news articles, compare situations to other historical and foreign events and write final papers to demonstrate what they’ve learned. However, pop-up courses must be much more focused due to the limited time frame and leave little room for filler or tangents, making each reading and assignment more integral.

The possibilities for pop-up courses are endless and wouldn’t just benefit students who are studying social sciences. James Madison University’s X-labs have offered pop-ups in 3-D printing and virtual reality. On Halloween, they even offered a one-time class on how to sketch pumpkins with lasers. Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University has also been offering pop-up courses since 2013 in various design topics, though they are not offered for credit and focus more on experimenting with new teaching methods than current events.

Pop-up courses would also give professors low-risk opportunities to try new things, since the classes are short-term. If they realize their experiment did not work well, the class will be over in a few weeks, and they won’t try the same thing again. If they reach positive results though, short-term classes could become full classes in the future.

Of course, implementing pop-up courses at GW would require some trial and error to get them off the ground, like with any new venture. But the nature of pop-up courses lends itself well to such experimentation. In the long run, these short-term courses could change the way we learn so that perhaps in the future, going to class doesn’t always just revolve around listening to lectures on things that happened in the past.

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

Like many students at GW, I spent Tuesday night shocked. I was gathered in my residence hall room with a few friends, excited to watch the presidential election results roll in. Like many of us on campus and across the country, I thought I would spend the night of Nov. 8 celebrating the election of the first woman president.

But I was wrong.

At around 1 a.m. when it became clear that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s chances at winning were slim, if not impossible, my friends and I walked to the White House. We couldn’t just watch TV and wait – we needed to do something.

I had waited almost three years at GW to race to the White House on election night. It was a moment I had planned for. I thought I’d jump around with excitement and take pictures with my friends to remember the moment. But when I finally got there on election night, I was scared. I was scared because I heard men threaten to sexually assault women around me. I was scared because I saw people breaking down in tears with fear of what a Donald Trump presidency would bring. And I was scared because when Pennsylvania was called in Trump’s favor, a friend texted me and urged me to leave the area surrounding the White House because she was afraid violence would ensue, given the almost instant emotional reaction of Clinton’s loss coupled with the negative rhetoric of Trump’s campaign.

I, like many of my fellow students, spent most of Tuesday night and Wednesday crying. My roommates and I hugged, and one of my professors decided to have us watch the Clinton’s concession speech rather than continue with class as planned. I didn’t cry because I thought Clinton would be the best president we would ever have. I cried because I thought I knew the country I lived in, and I was proven wrong.

Since the wee hours of Wednesday morning, students on campus have mourned. We’ve cried, and we’ve protested – the things we have the freedom to do if we don’t like how an election turned out. But now, unfortunately, we must move forward. After watching both Secretary Clinton and President Barack Obama’s speeches Wednesday, it was clear that accepting the election’s results and providing a peaceful transition of power is what makes our country unique and what makes it great.

I have about a year and a half left at GW, and in that time I want to learn how so many of us were blindsided by this election’s results. We must come together and learn about the people who elected Trump. It’s OK if we don’t agree or respect their votes, but we must accept them and learn about them. We have to start asking difficult questions. We need to learn why so many people in this country feel left out, why there is so much anger and why people believe Trump is the one who can fix these problems. I intend to learn about the people in this country who elected Trump because we must understand one another.

It’s time to educate. It’s time that people of every race, ethnicity, political ideology and socioeconomic status have tough conversations about racism in our society, about sexism, about fear and about blame. Unfriending people on Facebook because we don’t agree with their perspective isn’t the answer.

Especially as college students, we should break out of our bubbles and realize that people across the U.S. have different political perspectives. Both Clinton’s and Trump’s supporters should reach out and ask, “Why?” Why did you vote for him or her, why didn’t you think about the consequences of this or that? These conversations can educate us. And that education can bring us together.

You have a place in this country if you identify as a person of color, if you’re an immigrant, if you’re Muslim, if you’re Jewish and if you’re a part of the LGBT community. While many of us have fears based on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, we must also remember that we are the ones to choose our leaders. We decided that Trump would be president, and now we have the power to hold him accountable – especially if our safety seems in jeopardy.

No one knows what the next few months and years will look like. As a young woman who openly supported Clinton, I hope that Trump is a successful president. I also hope that my peers and I are more motivated than ever to engage in the political process and to learn about the perspectives of Americans who don’t appear in our friend groups or on GW’s campus at all.

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Nate Muramatsu, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

The D.C. Council must vote by the end of the year on a bill that would allow anyone living or working in D.C. 12 weeks of paid leave. If passed, this would be one of the most progressive paid leave measures in the country.

Unfortunately, GW is lobbying against the Universal Paid Leave Act. The University is part of a group of businesses and institutions resistant to universal paid leave efforts. Instead, they’re proposing their own paid leave plan. But the Roosevelt Institute, a student-led think tank at GW and other universities across the country, collected 753 student signatures and 20 staff signatures in support of the bill, which demonstrates that students are genuinely concerned that GW could keep the bill from passing.

This level of support from the community should compel officials to seriously consider the Council’s bill. If one of GW’s top priorities is improving affordability for students, officials should also help employees afford living and working in D.C.

Officials should abandon their alternative plan and endorse the Council’s bill because businesses in the District of all sizes are supporting progressive paid leave, and changing the University’s stance on the bill would send a clear message to workers around the city that one of the District’s largest institutions cares about its employees.

Renee McPhatter, the assistant vice president for government and community relations, says that GW does support paid leave for employees – just not the Council’s version.

“GW believes strongly in the concept of paid leave for employees,” McPhatter wrote in an email. “For years, the University has provided a paid leave program that includes vacation and personal days, safe and sick leave and sabbaticals. However, the University has concerns with the proposed government-run, 1 percent payroll tax-funded leave program.”

The plan that GW supports, called an “employer mandate” proposal, would require District employers to provide up to eight weeks of paid time off. This alternative measure, while well-intentioned, doesn’t go far enough to give District employees the amount of leave they deserve to take care of loved ones or recover from illnesses.

For one thing, the employer mandate model is privately funded – it expects that businesses come up with their own funds to pay for paid leave programs. This plan favors large employers, like GW, that have the money and resources to shell out paid leave from their own pockets. For smaller businesses in D.C., this isn’t feasible without incurring huge costs. In contrast, the D.C. Council bill would implement a 1 percent tax increase on businesses in D.C. to pay for a paid leave fund.

The University’s preferred plan might fully compensate workers for a shorter period of time, but the Universal Paid Leave Act would pay workers 90 percent of their wages over a longer period of time. It’s important to realize that the latter plan would provide better balance for workers and businesses. Employees could have more leave, but businesses wouldn’t be responsible for footing the entire bill.

GW should want to remain an attractive employer, and the Council’s bill would help it be one. The University doesn’t have a set paid leave policy in place for employees who aren’t full-time faculty. Full-time faculty make up only a portion of the workers at GW, and the University needs to recognize that the same benefits should apply to every level of employee. The employer mandate model that GW favors doesn’t address the differences between full-time employees and part-time employees – it merely extends the paid leave that full-time faculty get to spend away from work from six weeks to eight weeks. The D.C. Council bill gives the same amount of leave to all employees, regardless of their employment structure.

Overall, the D.C. Council’s bill would be more beneficial to every level of employee within the University. GW is an enormous institution that can influence other businesses in the District. Universal paid leave is a progressive step that officials should seriously consider to support accessibility and affordability.

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Peter Konwerski is the vice provost and dean of student affairs.

Despite the name-calling and the doom and gloom saturating the airwaves, there is a reason to be optimistic about our future as a society this election season.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with the tone of one recent debate, but it wasn’t by the major party candidates. The one I found incredibly reasoned and respectful was a recent debate hosted by the GW’s campus radio station WRGW, with student leaders representing GW’s College Democrats and Republicans. As an administrator and professor, it was inspiring to hear our students adeptly put their knowledge into action, posing policy solutions and well researched scenarios into thoughtful debate positions. Unlike the candidates atop the current slate for President, our students aren’t focused on attack ads. Rather they’re offering a lesson in civility both candidates can learn from.

In the debate, students articulated their action plans, discussed advocacy campaigns and highlighted their online organizing efforts. Now as the most politically active campus in America, experiencing a high-quality debate didn’t actually surprise me. What impressed me most was the tone and tenor of how our students continue to conduct themselves throughout this election. While they’ve seen some bad political discourse over the past 18 months, and the worst I’ve seen in decades as a D.C. political junkie, I’ve been continually impressed by the mature perspective our students have brought to this campaign season, including their assessment of the key issues affecting us at home and abroad. And while both parties haven’t been the best at focusing on the facts and regularly impinge their adversaries, our students continue to keep the conversation substantive and focused on the stuff that really matters – real solutions for actual people, built on sound social policy.

While commentators routinely criticize millennials, I’m in awe at their engagement and aptitude, as well as their willingness to work across partisan lines. Maybe that’s a result of their realization that problems don’t get solved in silos, despite the way we often organize and elect our leaders in our two-party system. Our students see possibility and potential, often long before we do, to cross partisan lines and work to achieve common consensus. Not that there isn’t disagreement but they are not unwilling to engage in difficult discourse on our campuses, and that’s a spirit we need to ensure we maintain in academia.

Although the current civic debates have been anything but civil, our students have risen above the rancor, and time and time again, consider the implications that elections have. That’s why they’ve worked hard for their candidates of choice, up and down the ballot, but they also are not giving in to the pettiness, anger and outright hostility that we’ve seen from the two top candidates of late.

And knowing that elections have consequences, our students haven’t shied away from being willing to engage around tough issues and ask difficult questions. We see that whenever global dignitaries, Congressional VIPs or administration experts attend events on campus. Our students come together not only to engage, but also to learn. I hope that the civility our students display can extend beyond our community. That people can hold those same high ideals as we head into the final days of this election cycle.

While getting out the vote and watching the final tallies is the next step in the process, coming together to govern and working toward sound, common senses solutions will ultimately be the real task at hand for either side that ends up on top. The question: Will our country come together like our students have learned to do, and can we overcome the anger and enmity that comes with an election as contested as the race we’re all on the verge of witnessing?

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Sydney Erhardt, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Updated: Oct. 27, 2016 at 12:23 p.m.

In a 2005 hot-mic recording, Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump talked about women in vulgar terms to Billy Bush, the host of “Access Hollywood.” In the three-minute video, which was obtained by The Washington Post and released Oct. 7, Trump bragged that he can “grab [women] by the pussy.” And added that “when you’re a star…you can do anything.”

Trump’s lewd comments prompted a tweet from Peter Konwerski, the dean of student affairs, reaching out to sexual assault survivors who may have been triggered by the video.

“GWU sexual assault survivors retraumatized by #Trump comments can connect with @GWHealthCenter 24×7 or @GWHaven,” Konwerski tweeted.

Of Konwerski’s 49,000 tweets, it is highly unusual to see one not related to GW, much less one that is about politics or a national election. Given the gravity of the situation, though, it’s a positive step for Konwerski to acknowledge the importance of this national scandal’s effect on students. So far, GW has not released an official University statement on the video. But Trump’s remarks are a campus-wide issue because the video could have easily re-traumatized sexual assault survivors and women, in general, at GW. Konwerski was right to remind students about services for sexual assault survivors.

In his tweet, Konwerski directed students to Haven, which offers students resources to respond to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking and dating or domestic violence. Staff members are equipped to guide survivors to medical care, help with University and legal counsel and reporting options. With this tweet, students were reminded of a particularly helpful resource available to them.

And if students were traumatized by Trump’s video, they weren’t alone: The Rape Crisis Center hotline typically receives between 75 and 100 calls a week but had a 20 percent increase in calls after the tape was released. Also, a national response center, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, noticed a steep spike in demand for its live chat helpline, with calls jumping 35 percent the weekend following the tape’s release. Konwerski’s tweet was recognition that students were not immune from an increase in trauma.

At the end of the day, Billy Bush has been fired from NBC, but Trump is still running for president. With less than two weeks until election day, we can only hope that Konwerski doesn’t have to tweet about another Trump-induced traumatization. But if yet another remark is made, it’s a small comfort to know that administrators will help students find the resources they need.

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Matilda Kreider, a freshman double-majoring in political communication and environmental studies, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

I wrote a Facebook status supporting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last week before the first presidential debate. Soon after, a freshman GW student and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump supporter named Tom Crean left comments on the post. Rather than avoid or ignore his beliefs, I decided I should hear him out and consider his point of view.

I’ve always believed there’s an unspoken rule in politically charged spaces: Conflicting ideas should be dissected, debated and even fought over, but the conflict shouldn’t devolve into personal attacks. It’s easy to think that maintaining this respect is easy, but it becomes harder when we feel threatened by others’ views. I thought back to that rule and decided I needed to follow it when dealing with classmates and acquaintances, like Crean, who support Trump.

I reached out to Crean after I attended the presidential debate watch party last week co-hosted by the School of Media and Public Affairs, the College Democrats and the College Republicans. According to my online friend, while in line to be enter the watch party, a group of female students criticized him for wearing a hat bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Crean told me he acknowledges some people may have legitimate issues with the Republican presidential nominee. However, he said people don’t always present those disagreements in a constructive way.

“Screaming profanities at me isn’t advancing any meaningful political dialogue,” Crean said.

If I had been the one to see Crean’s hat, I may have acted the same way that the women at the watch party did. In the moment, I wouldn’t have considered myself a barrier to civil discourse – I would have justified my actions with my belief that Trump isn’t worthy of political debate.

On the most politically active campus in the nation during one of the most polarized elections in recent history, it’s reasonable – even expected – that students would have opposing views. Still, we need to be able to talk to people respectfully, but that doesn’t always mean finding consensus: It means listening, questioning and debating, even if you don’t think you can find common ground.

While newspapers and other institutions often take a stance during elections, they don’t usually treat a candidate’s ideas as lesser or ignorant. That is exactly what has happened during this election. Even if we find Trump’s ideas completely at odds with our own, we should still debate and discuss them. His supporters aren’t going to go away because we’ve ignored and invalidated them.

GW College Republicans decided to stay neutral in this election, but I experienced firsthand the tension between the students in that organization and the mostly left-leaning students who attended the debate viewing last week. During a panel discussion, SMPA Director Frank Sesno goaded the College Republican’s public relations chair Allison Coukos to make a decision about Trump. Coukos, who was appearing on the panel as a representative of the College Republicans, said she didn’t want to give an answer. She said she felt that “whether or not [she] personally felt more inclined to vote for Trump was not really relevant.”

Because I was in the majority as a Clinton supporter at the debate event, I didn’t think about how laughing at Trump’s comments might have made Trump supporters in the room feel. It didn’t occur to me that, for some members of the College Republicans, going to the watch party didn’t feel like an option because they knew other students would mock the candidate they support.

And Coukos confirmed that some members of College Republicans did not want to attend the event.

“They did not feel comfortable going to the debate watch party because of how they anticipated they would be treated,” Coukos wrote in an email.

At a university like GW – and probably at most universities across the country – left-leaning students just write off Trump and his supporters altogether. But the tension at the debate watch party hints at a deeper problem: Even moderate Republicans don’t always feel comfortable among their peers in a political environment. While I struggle to find common ground with Trump supporters, I realize that the distance between us will only grow if I, and other Democrats, continue to treat some opinions as more valid than others.

I know that the rest of my experience at GW, and maybe even my life after GW, will be shaped by the outcome of this presidential election. And closing the divide on our campus torn open a divisive campaign won’t be easy. Even in the event that Trump loses the election, he has ignited a movement of dissatisfied voters who are tired of the “political status quo” in the U.S. Though these voters may be a minority at GW, they are a significant part of our country, and we need to learn to incorporate their perspectives into American politics in the future.

Political debate often becomes a war zone. Argument can be synonymous with anger in our society, and we debate on impulse. But though we may disagree greatly on some things, we still need to work on developing an atmosphere of respect.

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David J. Silverman is a professor of history.

More than 200 indigenous communities have lent their support to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s opposition to the extension of the Dakota Access pipeline, which would carry an estimated 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day through historic burial grounds, other sacred spaces and sources of drinking water just outside the tribe’s reservation. The visuals of this movement are a striking testimony to the modernity and diversity of Native America. Flags from dozens of tribes line the encampment demonstrators have erected alongside the pipeline construction site. There are people from every walk of life, of all kinds of dress, complexions and hairstyles, just like the Indian country itself. Cars and trucks arrive to deliver supporters from hundreds, even thousands of miles away, while Lakota men circle the camp on horses and Tlingits and Haidas from the Alaskan panhandle canoe in the adjacent Cannonball River. This is a mobilization of modern indigenous people unlike any we’ve seen since at least the Red Power protests of the early 1970s. It might very well be unprecedented.

There is an opportune moment here for GW students and the greater public to confront one of the most stubborn, sinister and widely held prejudices in American life: the insistence that North American Indians are relics of the past. This perspective insists that the only “authentic” Natives are those stuck in some mythical, static Stone Age existence. A double bind results in which indigenous people are destined to disappear either out of refusal to adjust to their circumstances or by losing their Native identity as they change with their times. How then should we understand modern indigenous people defending their particular rights as Indians, not as a means of clinging to the past, but in pursuit of a better future?

For all their diversity, two common causes bind together the indigenous demonstrators. For one, they are committed to tribal sovereignty and the sanctity of their nation to nation relationships with the United States and Canada. Native peoples and their governments have rights recognized by treaty. Though indigenous people living in reservation communities vote in state and national elections, pay federal and some state taxes, are subject to federal law and, it must be emphasized, serve in the American military at a greater rate than any other segment of the population, the tribe is the primary government on the reservation. As the National Congress of American Indians explains, “The essence of tribal sovereignty is the ability to govern and to protect and enhance the health, safety and welfare of tribal citizens within tribal territory.” That is precisely what the leaders of the Standing Rock reservation are doing in opposing the pipeline. Their support from so much of the rest of Native America extends from that principle.

Combatting environmental racism also binds the people together. Ever since the beginning of the reservation period, Indian people have seen white Americans strip their reservations of their most valuable, often sacred, resources, only to be replaced with toxic waste from off-reservation places that has poisoned the land, the water and the people. One can see a similar pattern in American cities too, where oil refineries and superfund sites cluster in communities of poor people of color. This dark legacy is all the more painful because many indigenous people claim a special, sanctified role to care for mother earth and teach the rest of the world to do the same. The people supporting Standing Rock call themselves protectors, not protestors, because they are fighting for their basic rights to clean drinking water, a world free of the pollution of fossil fuels and indigenous self-determination.

Indigenous people have united behind Standing Rock because they recognize that their collective future, as modern Native Americans, depends on their strident defense of tribal sovereignty, natural resources and cultural heritage. In taking a stand for basic human dignity and environmental justice against the forces of corporate greed and racism, they fight for us all.

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Bonnie Morris is a senior fellow at the Global Women’s Institute.

Five years ago, in a special ceremony commemorating the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, University President Steven Knapp invited me to share notes from my Sept. 11, 2001 experience on campus, and I read aloud from my journal to the crowd. What can’t be shared too often is the sense of obligation to my community that I felt during the crisis.

After 22 wonderful years teaching women’s history here at GW, I had my position abruptly terminated last year as part of steep cuts to the humanities. But that hasn’t changed what I remember from that day and how much I appreciate that the GW community came together then.

Huddled in our wee women’s studies townhouse – that my program had just moved into that week — my faculty colleagues, my graduate teaching assistants, our custodian, our administrative assistant and her partner formed a tight circle that reflected GW’s diversity in age, race, class, position, sexuality, nationality and temperament. Soon I emerged to tack a large sign on our front door: “COME IN IF YOU NEED A HUG.”

I had occasion to give many hugs in the panicked days that followed when classes, having barely begun, were interrupted with vigils, evacuation drills and National Guard tanks on campus. In due time when my big history survey course resumed, I offered whatever counsel I could muster to my first-year students, many of whom hailed from New York or were living away from home for the first time. I candidly admitted my own fear, just as I had on another sorrowful occasion just four years earlier — after the murder of Matthew Shepard in a gay hate crime.

It’s easy to state the obvious: At GW, as in other distracted or fragmented institutions, we all become a family when threatened. Yet that family feeling of human care should be a given and year-round in normal practice. That sense of community is what must be knit back together as we begin a new year frayed by brutal job cuts, the ejection of longtime staff and faculty, and allegations of homophobia in the athletic program.

Not so long ago, that physical attack on the World Trade Center and locally on the Pentagon reverberated for all at GW — it incited better levels of caring and outreach. Now, 15 years later, I hope we’ve learned that affirming every individual’s humanity should be a daily value, not just a response to crisis. As GW moves forward through its challenges of budget cuts and homophobia, remember it costs zero to be kind and to offer up that hug to those in our large campus family.

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