The Forum

Commentary

Editor’s note: While this piece has been published in other states across the country this month, we’re excited that The Hatchet was the only newspaper in D.C. offered the opportunity to run this submission.

Barack Obama is the president of the United States.

In an economy increasingly built on innovation, the most important skill you can sell is your knowledge. That’s why higher education is, more than ever, the surest ticket to the middle class.

But just when it’s never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive. The average undergraduate student who borrows to pay for college ends up graduating with about $28,000 in student loan debt.

That’s why my administration has worked hard to make college more affordable. We expanded tax credits and Pell Grants, enacted the largest reforms to the student loan program in history, and fought to keep interest rates on student loans low.

We’ve acted to let millions of graduates cap loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes, so they don’t have to choose between paying the rent and paying back their debt. I’ve sent Congress my plan to bring the cost of community college down to zero because two years of higher education should be as free and universal as high school is today.

I recently unveiled another way that we can help more Americans afford college. It doesn’t involve any new spending or bureaucracy. It’s a simple declaration of values – a Student Aid Bill of Rights.

It says: Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education. Every student should be able to access the resources to pay for college. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information and fair treatment – even if they struggle to repay their loans.

That’s it. Just a few simple principles. But there’s a lot that colleges, lenders and the people you send to D.C. can and should do to live up to them.

Consider the other actions I took three weeks ago. We’re creating a way for borrowers to ask questions about their loans or file a complaint and get a fast response. We’re going to require businesses that service loans to provide clear information about how much students owe and their options for repaying it, and help them get back in good standing if they’re falling behind, with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline. We’re also going to take a hard look at whether we need new laws to strengthen protections for all borrowers, wherever their loans come from.

If you believe in a Student Aid Bill of Rights that will help more Americans pay for a quality education, I’m asking you to visit WhiteHouse.gov/CollegeOpportunity. Sign your name to this declaration. Tell your families, friends and fellow students. I’m going to ask members of Congress, and lenders, and as many business leaders as I can find. Because making sure that students aren’t saddled with debt before they even get started in life is in all our interests.

This issue is personal to me. My grandfather had a chance to go to college because this country decided that veterans returning from World War II should be able to afford it. My mother was able to raise two kids by herself in part because she got grants that helped pay for her education.

And Michelle and I are where we are today because of scholarships and student loans. We didn’t come from families of means, but we knew that if we worked hard, we’d have a shot at a great education. That’s what this country gave us.

In the United States, a higher education cannot be a privilege reserved only for the few. It has to be available to everyone who’s willing to work for it.

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Friday, March 27, 2015 12:41 p.m.

Relisha Rudd, one year later

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

One year ago today, I implored GW students to learn about Relisha Rudd, an 8-year-old homeless girl from Southeast D.C. who tragically went missing from the shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital, where she had been living with her family.

In the wake of Rudd’s case, many hoped to see an expansion of affordable and subsidized housing and the speedy closure of D.C. General. But these changes have not occurred. Instead, the D.C. government seems to have all but forgotten Rudd and the pain and suffering she endured because of both her parents’ and the government’s failings.

For GW students – particularly freshmen, who were not here to follow the case initially – and for D.C. residents in general, we should be outraged by the way the city has handled its homelessness crisis.

Rudd’s disappearance happened after her mother allowed her to go home with a shelter janitor named Khalil Tatum. Eighteen days after she was last seen alive, police began an earnest search for Rudd because social workers had become concerned about her.

A little over a week later, I published my column, calling on students to learn about the case. Tatum was found dead of suicide in Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Northeast D.C. on March 31. Rudd is still missing and presumed dead.

Rudd’s case prompted many questions about how a child – whose family had many interactions with social services – could have gone missing from a city-run homeless shelter at the hands of an employee for weeks before any red flags were raised.

But as the case fades away, and the hope of finding Rudd tragically falters, our greatest question must be: In the wake of Relisha Rudd, can our elected officials be held to the task of caring for the city’s homeless children?

Luckily, the case did bring some well-needed attention to the horrors of D.C. General, including pests, unsafe conditions, assaults, poor security and staff taking advantage of residents. Six months after Rudd’s disappearance, I criticized the lack of affordable housing that led to the city’s homelessness crisis and continual reliance on D.C. General as a solution.

But despite the attention, the once so-called temporary shelter at D.C. General remains open and overcrowded – even as city leaders have repeatedly promised, long before Rudd, that it would be closed.

A year before Rudd went missing, then-Mayor Vincent Gray promised to put $100 million toward ending the homelessness crisis and eventually closing D.C. General. After Rudd’s disappearance, the Gray administration worked overtime to create an ultimately unrealistic plan to add multiple shelters across the city.

Now, a year since Rudd went missing, Mayor Muriel Bowser has released a tentative plan to close D.C. General and create smaller shelters across the city as the D.C. government transitions to putting the homeless in longer-term apartment-living situations. But the plan doesn’t set a firm date for closing D.C. General, making it suspect already.

D.C. General has rapidly become a fixture in D.C., and even if it were to close, there is no guarantee it would not be recreated in some form in another part of the city. This echoes the case of D.C. Village, a similar “temporary shelter” that closed in 2007 only to have many residents move to the current D.C. General campus.

The fact that Rudd’s case has brought no major change to a facility that was already criticized and suspect long before her disappearance reveals the homelessness issue is larger than we may have expected. Rudd’s case was tragic long before she went missing – she was a little girl forced to live in a hellish caricature of a home.

It is clear that not even a tragedy will force the District to seriously address the homelessness issue. Instead, it is on us.

This issue will never be solved if no one cares about it – and not enough people do. It is our responsibility to keep this issue alive. It is a disrespect to Rudd to allow her torment and tragedy to lead to nothing more than vague platitudes from our elected representatives about how one day the homelessness crisis will get better.

Many of us might feel like we can do little more to solve homelessness than donate money or food every now and then, but we always have our voices. And it is our time – through our letters, our phone calls and our actions at the ballot box – to tell the government of our city that D.C. General must be closed and family homelessness must become a relic of our past.

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Friday, March 27, 2015 12:16 p.m.

Remembering the relevance of SA elections

Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor

Desiree Halpern | Contributing Photo Editor

Justin Peligri, a senior majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet senior columnist.

“There’s nothing to see in there,” I said to a student headed into the Marvin Center. I was on my way out after the Student Association election results were announced last night. “Everyone’s clearing out.”

“Oh, I know,” the student icily replied. “I missed it on purpose.”

That student isn’t alone in his sentiment: In my experience, the most dominant narrative about student elections at GW is that they don’t matter. Even the candidates themselves – as we saw at Tuesday night’s debate – talk about how “it’s just student government” in between attempts to trumpet tenets of their platforms.

Granted, our elections at GW are deeply flawed. They devolve into popularity contests, employ reductive hashtags and rely on a mobilized Greek vote as one of the few viable paths to victory. But it isn’t smart to let our myriad valid criticisms distract us from what’s important.

Like them or hate them, there’s tremendous value in student elections.

The point of college is to learn – it’s to practice, make mistakes, spend these four years doing everything we possibly can to prepare ourselves for the world outside Foggy Bottom’s insulated confines. Part of this learning happens in classrooms, of course. But the most substantial part of it occurs through our extracurriculars.

My biggest learning experiences at college came from joining The Hatchet. I learned how to write a halfway decent column, I think – but I also learned how to lead a staff of writers, solve conflicts and balance commitments. I hope these skills will help me become a more well-rounded job applicant and individual.

Student advocacy, like any other organized group on campus, is just one more way to learn. No, it’s not the real world, but it’s pretty damn good preparation for it. Student government as an institution isn’t perfect, and neither are most candidates – I think it’s safe to say, for example, that we all could use a dose of humility.

But by shooting down the entire process and insisting it doesn’t matter, we’re denying those students the opportunity to practice what it’s like to hold office.

(Full disclosure: As some readers may know, I’m dating a soon-to-be former student government leader.)

At its best, too, student government mobilizes a campus to action. It advocates for solutions to issues that affect every one of us – like sexual violence, mental health and housing.

We saw what happens when students care: Two ballot initiatives were passed Thursday, one calling for sexual violence awareness training at Colonial Inauguration, and one demanding that GW disclose its investments in fossil fuel corporations and sever those financial ties. Because of student advocacy, University President Steven Knapp will have two student-backed demands on his desk.

We’re all human – and not all student government leaders have left a substantial impact. But to be painfully honest, student government is our only hope. Administrators on this campus listen to SA leaders. Often, that’s the only voice they listen to, which is why we should get involved – as candidates or even just informed onlookers – instead of lazily pontificating on Facebook about the University’s flaws.

A record number of students voted in this year’s student elections. But 5,456 votes represents only slightly more than a fifth of total undergraduate and graduate students. That’s still a pitiful total.

If student government isn’t your thing, than don’t mount a campaign. But don’t cast aside an entire process before you take a moment to think about its true benefits.

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Alex Makuch is a senior majoring in English.

I’m writing in response to the article, “Music department faces drastic cutbacks as officials look to remedy budget woes,” by Mary Ellen McIntire (p. 1, March 23).

If you haven’t heard about these cutbacks, here’s the gist: The department is being hobbled. Ensembles and instructors are being cut, and the Friday jam session – the longest-running jazz jam session in D.C. – will end. The remaining faculty will have their hours, as well as their salaries, slashed.

Some of these professors have been at GW for more than 30 years, teaching and guiding music students through hours of private instruction, band rehearsal and open jamming. These men and women are being discarded like finished cigarettes – used and then forgotten.

In addition, students will have to pay higher fees for their lessons, and the department as a whole will shrink drastically.

I’m a senior. Since I’m leaving, this will not affect me. But there’s one other change that, had it been made sooner, would have: Lessons will now primarily be limited to students who are either music majors or minors.

I am not a music major, nor am I a music minor. Despite that, I have spent the last three semesters as a jazz guitar student, taking lessons one hour a week and playing in a jazz combo with four other students under the guidance of my guitar professor.

This involvement, though seemingly small compared to what others have done, has been the most stable part of my GW career. During my four years here, I have declared three different majors in three different schools, and none of them have felt satisfying. I have, in short, been a bit of a mess.

The music department gave me something to look forward to every week, even when I was behind on practice. Here’s the thing: Learning calculus or how to write policy reports can help you get a job, but competency with an instrument can give you peace. I don’t think the value of music – or any creative expression as a hobby – can be overstated.

Some people draw and some people dance and some people play the trumpet, but they don’t all aim to make a living with these things. This, to me, is the crux of the “well-rounded student” you hear so much about in academic circles: a person who has passions and skills in areas outside of his or her primary area of study.

Without the opportunity to take music lessons, I wouldn’t have been a part of the music department at all. I wouldn’t have had enough spare credits to complete even the minor.

The instruction I’ve received in the music department is the best I’ve ever received since I began playing my instrument. I would’ve counted it as an immense personal tragedy if I hadn’t been able to sign up for lessons and been welcomed with open arms by the department’s gracious faculty and students.

I sincerely wish that I had taken that step earlier. If these cuts bar access to music for others like me, I count myself as profoundly lucky to have started college when I did.

My perspective is a bit different than that of younger students in the department, who will directly feel the effects of the changes. My outrage and sorrow, however, are the same. An open music department improved my life at GW in ways beyond measure, and seeing that door close to others is heartbreaking.

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Mollie Bowman is the president of the Panhellenic Association.

My grandmother still speaks with horror about the day she was separated from her parents as they were marched in one direction – toward the gas chambers – and she and her sisters in another, to a death camp.

I can only imagine how painful it must be for her to talk about what happened. But for years, she has spoken publicly about her experience during the Holocaust because she has the responsibility to do it – because she owes it to the six million Jews who perished in her place.

It is with the same sense of responsibility that I write this. As a Jewish student, I have felt both deeply saddened and terrified at the appearance of swastikas on campuses across the country. And as president of the GW Panhellenic Association, I have been even more disheartened to hear that they’ve appeared at fraternity and sorority houses.

When I first heard about swastikas spray-painted on the Alpha Epsilon Pi house at Emory University in the fall, I stood in solidarity with my Jewish brothers and sisters who attended school there, and thanked God something like that could never happen here. Or so I thought.

When swastikas were found on the floor of a historically Jewish sorority in International House, I was appalled. I criticized the University for not adequately responding to the severity of the situation. I felt threatened as a Jewish Panhellenic woman, and would be gravely disappointed if the perpetrator were Greek.

I struggled with how to respond, and ultimately decided to keep quiet. That was, until two weeks later, when the president of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma was expelled because of his fraternity’s racist chant about lynching black students rather than extending fraternity membership to them.

Then, a few days after that, another swastika appeared in International House. And the following weekend, more swastikas were spray-painted on an AEPi house at Vanderbilt. There’s a trend here, and I’m uncomfortable with its trajectory – with what could happen next.

Hear me loud and clear: This behavior doesn’t belong here. Bigotry has no place on this campus, and it especially has no place in Greek life.

As members of organizations that tout strong values and close-knit communities, Greek students should most fiercely condemn racist rhetoric – not perpetuate it.

I am the first to boast that GW’s Greek life is a model community, far more progressive than other universities’ Greek systems. But with this honor comes a responsibility to lead the charge against discrimination.

I recognize that one of the swastikas may not have been maliciously intended. Originally, in fact, it was a symbol of peace. But it has come to be associated with hatred, genocide and terror, and that is what it means to any minority victim group that sees it displayed.

Every student should be upset about a swastika found on our campus. If you identify as LGBT, have a disability, or are of any religious or racial minority, you should be concerned and have a right to be disappointed. As a GW student, you should worry about the threat associated with the swastika.

You should embrace the differences of your peers and tolerate no form of bigotry that you see on this campus. And as a fraternity man or sorority woman, you should be ashamed of any brother or sister who vows to uphold the values of your organization while ultimately perpetuating the worst stereotype historically associated with Greek life: that Greeks are racist.

Let’s come together as a campus – Greeks and non-Greeks – to combat discrimination and make sure we’re on a path of inclusion, tolerance and acceptance. GW prides itself on diversity, so let’s work together to lead that charge.

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Stuart Portman is the president of the Public Health Student Association. Helen Clemens is the president of the Student Bar Association. Justine Clow is the president of the MBA Association. Andrew Ligon is the president of the Elliott School of International Affairs Graduate Student Forum. Erin Matthys and Ben Alencherry are the co-presidents of the Medical Center Student Council. Austin Barlow is the Master of Public Administration president of the Trachtenberg Student Organization.

As the leaders of graduate student umbrella organizations, we are working to ensure that students gain a better understanding of the traditions of the GW student body. There are over 24,000 students at the University working to learn about the pressing issues of the day, how the past informs the future and how a liberal arts education imbues a professional career with greater purpose.

Some are undergraduates, seeking a degree to launch a career and develop a focused interest in one of many academic fields. Others are graduate students specializing in a particular area to become thought leaders in disciplines ranging from law, medicine and public health to business, higher education and international affairs. All are Colonials, and like the American colonials who developed this great nation, we are strengthened by our similarities.

The graduate population at GW surpasses 14,000 students, who are enrolled in full-time or part-time programs. It is no secret that our graduates go on to become industry innovators and compassionate practitioners of the skills they learn. How they accomplish this, though, can continue to evolve.

Greater partnership between graduate and undergraduate programs stands to benefit both sub-populations of GW. Undergraduates can gain mentors and contemporaries willing to push how they apply critical thinking to their interests, and graduate students can better understand how academia is changing with new student populations.

This partnership is essential to a well-functioning university, and anecdotally, GW is thriving. But systematically, there is room for growth.

Both undergraduates and graduates have traditions in their own way, but how we bridge these essential elements to our student experience reflects our intentions. From this point onward, we are seeking collaboration. We are seeking partnership. To be a great institution that values excellence, we must foster a diversity of thought.

Our mutual love for this university is guiding us to be more involved in this year’s Student Association elections and future events that impact the entire GW community. We intend to work together to unify the graduate voice while concurrently preserving the individual interests of our programs.

This letter has one purpose: to demonstrate to the GW community that graduate students care. We came to the University in various stages of life, but we should all be promoting an academic experience, not just a degree.

With the help of dedicated undergraduate and graduate citizen-leaders who understand that school spirit must include everyone, we will reach new heights as the foremost academic institution in our nation’s capital.

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Kyla Lang, Frank Fritz and Nick Watkins are Fossil Free GW organizers.

We’re writing in response to the editorial, “Vote no on fossil fuel divestment referendum,” by The Hatchet’s editorial board (p. 4, March 23).

The Hatchet’s editorial board has decided to buck the current trend of students overwhelmingly supporting fossil fuel divestment, including all six candidates for the Student Association’s executive posts.

This manufactured controversy is a beast of The Hatchet’s editorial board’s own creation. The editorial shows that the writers both misunderstand the purpose of the referendum and have done minimal research themselves on the issue. They cite The Hatchet’s own past reporting, as opposed to that of the organizers who have been researching the topic for more than two years.

An editorial board’s job is to editorialize, but in this case, there is too much misleading information to take what they say seriously.

The board seeks to ennoble itself by claiming support for the climate justice movement while seeming like the enlightened voice of reason, urging students to wait until more information is available. The organizers of Fossil Free GW intend to negotiate a timetable for divestment, but if students do not clearly affirm their support for divestment itself, then what incentive does the University have to act?

We are speaking as representatives of our entire generation. We have seen our peers deal with climate-augmented catastrophe already and will continue to do so unless we can convince older generations that more urgent action is needed on a grander scale.

At no point did Fossil Free expect an immediate fire sale of endowment investments. Our organization has engaged with dozens of fellow activists, professors and policy experts, and we are committed to helping the Board of Trustees formulate a real plan for sustainable investments that align with our values as an institution, meaning that the financial health of our University does not have come at the cost of the health of the planet. Yet this cannot begin unless students vote yes to show their support for divestment.

Finally, what’s curiously absent from the editorial is any discussion of the dangers of global climate change. We are threatened with extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, economic disruption and violent conflict over diminishing resources. The effects of climate change are already ravaging indigenous and impoverished communities across the globe who do not have the adequate resources to combat these calamities.

To stay below the globally accepted limit of two degree Celsius warming, 82 percent of existing coal reserves, 49 percent of natural gas reserves, and 33 percent of oil reserves must stay in the ground. But before we shift to cleaner, renewable forms of energy, we must ensure that these fossil fuels are not extracted. In order to do so, the industry must change. Divestment seeks to bring about this change by taking away the fossil fuel industry’s social license to operate.

Fossil fuel divestment and disclosure are inseparable as issues. The Hatchet’s editorial board must realize that without a clear showing of student support for the former, the latter is impossible. We do not believe in secretive back-door negotiations to strive for more transparency. Rather, we believe that the student body must stand united and call for their University to put its money where its mouth is on sustainable investments.

The climate justice movement requires mass mobilization, for divestment is just one portion of the campus-wide debate on climate change that we are trying to spark. This ballot question will force voters to consider how GW’s every action can have hidden impacts on the environment.

We are disheartened, but we ultimately believe that The Hatchet’s editorial board’s erratic argumentation in this election will be disregarded by the GW student body. We will continue to work tirelessly to counter misleading information and in its place build a campus-wide coalition to speak for our generation on climate change.

We cannot wait at this historic crossroad. Instead, we must move forward, demanding from ourselves and those who came before us a better, more just and sustainable future for ourselves and those who come after.

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Henry R. Nau is a professor of political science and international affairs.

The letter from 47 Republican senators to the supreme leader of Iran about nuclear negotiations has unleashed a gusher of criticism and charges of unprecedented congressional behavior. The criticism is fair enough, but the charges of unprecedented behavior are overwrought.

Did Congress overstep its role in foreign policy? The president is commander in chief, but the House appropriates money for defense and the Senate ratifies treaties. On any important issues, the two branches must work together. The proposed agreement with Iran, even though it is not a treaty, is certainly an important issue – one to which students at GW should pay attention.

Congress is equal to the executive and judicial branches of government. When the Democrats controlled it for 50 of the 60 years between 1933 and 1995, the press called it “the People’s House.” Now, under Republican control, it is more often referred to by the press as obstructionist or worse.

This is true despite the fact that elections in the fall of last year convincingly placed Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Yet President Barack Obama has chosen to ignore “the People’s House” and acted arrogantly to circumvent Congress through executive actions, on both domestic and foreign policy issues. His determination to do so on a potential Iran agreement triggered the Republican letter.

The only criticism of the letter that sticks is that it should have been addressed to the White House, rather than to the supreme leader of Iran. Congressional politics involves a two-party system, and divided government is now the rule rather than the exception. In divided governments, presidents must lead.

Republican presidents lived with and led Congress when Democrats controlled one or both houses. President Ronald Reagan accomplished major policy changes with Democratic support. He met or talked with more than 450 members of Congress during his first six months in office to pass his economic and defense programs. President Harry Truman initiated the major Cold War policies of containment when Republicans controlled both houses from 1947 to 1949.

Obama has done nothing comparable to lead a Republican Congress. He has few close personal ties with lawmakers even in his own party.

I lived through the polarized debates that bedeviled Reagan’s term in office, and worked for his administration during that time. And polarization plagued the George W. Bush administration, more so than the current one.

Polarization is not new. And it is not insurmountable today anymore than 35 years ago. But it does require a president who can lead with – not without – Congress. Absent that, Congress will act – sometimes inappropriately.

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Gabriella Morrongiello is the director of public relations for GW Young America’s Foundation.

I’m writing in response to the op-ed, “YAF is wrong about sensitivity training – a conservative Christian’s perspective,” by Alex Pollock (online, March 17).

As an executive board member of GW Young America’s Foundation, I felt compelled to respond to this piece, which condemned our organization’s planned exemption request from proposed mandatory LGBT sensitivity training.

Pollock contends that absent such training, there will be “no credible way” to ensure that students have the tools to “provide a safe space for all.” The assumption is that the absence of offensive language or actions makes others feel safe.

If sensitivity training indeed made people feel safe, then absolutely – count me in. In fact, let’s expand the edict to sensitize our peers to a plethora of beliefs and actions just to be certain all GW students finally count among the utopian ideal of “inclusion.”

What might that look like? I’d begin by demanding that student leaders attend Second Amendment sensitivity training since one segment of the student body, myself included, would feel safe knowing that everyone understands the right to bear arms, has been properly trained in firearm use, and can identify the difference between an assault weapon and a semi-automatic shotgun.

According to Pollock, our request to seek an exemption is “illogical.” He claims that as private school students, our First Amendment rights become extraneous in matters related to GW. We may not be protected by the Constitution, but that does not mean our University and peers are impervious to constitutional scrutiny.

Taking his argument to its logical conclusion, how long until we face deterrents to protests on campus? Does the potential exist that people will be thrown off campus if they are found bowing their head in prayer at a dining hall?

Pollock also suggests that the Student Association has an obligation to ensure groups that receive University funding are “inclusive and not offensive.” I would feel safe not hearing labels like “bigot,” “sexist,” “homophobe,” “religious zealot” or my personal favorite, “hate group,” but do I think my peers should forcibly be taught not to call me a “greedy capitalist pig”? Of course not.

It would disturb me to witness the slow, subservient march of my conservative brethren into trainings where they would be taught to embrace the new dogma of not being allowed to hold divergent opinions or thoughts.

How can Pollock discuss the nebulous nature of the content of this training when such information doesn’t yet exist? Even so, it is not the content that YAF’s members object to, it is the methodology, the belief that one group can force, not share, their opinion with others.

Pollock cites Christianity’s golden rule in his attempt to discredit our position. As a Christian, I strive to operate by this rule and treat others as I wish to be treated every day. However, I see no use in granting societal subgroups the power to dictate what I, as an individual, may determine is offensive or acceptable treatment of others.

In Matthew 19:16, Jesus encounters a rich young man who’s reluctant to abandon his possessions. The man eventually departs, choosing not to follow Christ. The freedom God gives man to reject or follow him illustrates the basis of our opposition to mandatory sensitivity training: Behavior can be solicited, but it should never be coerced.

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Alex Pollock is the chairman of the GW College Republicans.

GW students come from different geographic, racial and religious backgrounds, and have differing sexual orientations and gender identities.

Sometimes, students say or do something insensitive without even realizing it because they are unaware of how their words and actions are perceived by others.

That is why GW needs LGBT sensitivity training for student organization leaders. Absent such training, the University has no credible way to demonstrate that the leaders of student groups have the tools to provide a safe space for all.

This is not an attempt to have the “Thought Police” manifest itself at GW. This is not an attempt to violate any student organization’s rights. This represents an act of respect for LGBT students who sometimes struggle to be accepted and treated with dignity.

As chairman of the GW College Republicans, I cannot speak for every member of our organization, or even the entire executive board, but on a personal level, as a conservative Christian, I feel compelled to voice my support for this training.

GW YAF is not a hate group. But the decision to seek an exemption from this training is illogical on many levels.

First, the idea that GW is violating YAF’s First Amendment rights is without merit. The First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging free speech – it is inapplicable to a private institution such as GW.

Moreover, since the Student Association funds student organizations, it has an obligation to make sure that the groups it funds are inclusive and not offensive. If a group chooses not to receive SA funding, then perhaps it should not have to partake in the training, but insofar as it does receive funding, then it should be required to attend the training.

YAF’s actions are also puzzling politically. Mandating one session of sensitivity training for student organization leaders does not constitute “gay indoctrination.” Students will not be taught to support gay marriage, for example. The training will merely be intended to promote the notion that you should treat LGBT people with understanding. I know our party is held back when we take unreasonable positions in this regard.

As a political organization rather than a religious one, YAF should not qualify for a religious exemption. In fact, no religious organization at GW has expressed opposition to this training. Even opponents of gay marriage should not have religious objections to this training, as its only purpose is to ensure that all students are aware of how LGBT people view themselves in the context of society and how to treat them with respect.

LGBT students are both more likely to be sexually assaulted and have suicidal thoughts, and should be welcomed with open arms. I have yet to see YAF members name a single specific belief that has been violated, even in an op-ed of their own. There is no biblical basis for their opposition to this training.

In fact, the biblical admonition, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is the golden rule of Christianity. Christians should embrace the proposed training in that manner.

If the tables were turned and conservatives were being ostracized on campus, we would want similar sensitivity training for intolerant students. In fact, last April, following the vandalism of a YAF pro-life display in Kogan Plaza, the organization publicly urged the University to require the students responsible to complete “free speech sensitivity training.”

The golden rule is not a one-way street: It is hypocritical to demand sensitivity training when your group is under attack, yet seek an exemption for similar training regarding a population that faces daily challenges on campus and in society.

Conservative Christians should embrace this training for what it is: an act of kindness.

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