The Forum


Dane Kennedy is the Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of history and international affairs.

On Thursday, the Scots may file for divorce from the United Kingdom.

Though this monumental event is occurring very far away and may not show up at the top of your Facebook newsfeed, it’s not often that such a fascinating political issue plays out on the world’s stage. For those of you studying political science or international affairs, we all have a rare look into what happens when a relationship between two nations disintegrates.

This polygamous union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland has lasted more than 300 years, but the glow is gone. The trial separation that began in 1998 – when the Scots acquired a political home of their own (namely, a separate parliament) – failed to reconcile the two parties, and they now stand on the brink of a permanent parting.

How did it come to this? Some Scots blame the former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who stirred up lasting resentment when she tried to impose a regressive poll tax on Scotland in 1989. A Tory can’t get elected dog catcher in Scotland these days, increasing the Scots’ sense of alienation from the Tory-led government in Westminster.

But other Scots insist that England has always been a troublesome partner, pointing to the Battle of Culloden, the Highland Clearances and the like. Many of these tartan-clad romantics pine away for long-lost loves like William Wallace (aka Mel Gibson as “Braveheart”) and Rob Roy (aka Liam Neeson in the eponymous movie role).

As in any unhappy marriage, there is plenty of blame to go around. The 300-year union of Scotland and England has reached this moment of crisis not because the Scots always wanted independence and never lost their resentment of England, but because the benefits of union disappeared in recent decades with the loss of empire and collapse of the industrial economy.

The Act of Union of 1707 was a real boon for most Scots: It provided them with new economic and political opportunities south of the border and across the seas. They became key partners in the expansion of the British Empire and the industrialization of Britain itself.

Because Scotland had a far stronger and more egalitarian system of higher education than England, it supplied a disproportionate share of the engineers, surveyors, doctors and other skilled professionals who were so important to Britain’s economic and political achievements. Scottish regiments won fearsome reputations in colonial wars.

By the 19th century, Glasgow was such an important shipbuilding and trading hub that it became known as “the second city of the British Empire.” Elsewhere across Scotland, collieries mined coal, which fueled the factories that produced a large portion of the manufactured goods Britain marketed around the globe. What was good for Britain was good for Scotland.

But it all came crashing down in the 20th century. The rise of powerful foreign competitors and the devastating effects of two world wars shattered Britain’s industrial and imperial supremacy. By the 1970s, the British Empire and British manufacturing were largely things of the past. Scotland was hit especially hard by these changes, and it was at this point that Scottish nationalism really took off.

To be British had lost its luster. To go it alone looked increasingly appealing.

And so we’ve come to the critical moment when that classic Scottish song, “Auld Lang Syne” – “times gone by” – may soon acquire a whole new meaning.

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Emily Jashinsky is the president of Young America’s Foundation at GW.

I’m writing in response to the blog post, “Young America’s Foundation’s 9/11 display provides a moment to reflect,” by Sarah Blugis (Sept. 11, online).

First and foremost, I want to sincerely thank Blugis, as well as The Hatchet, for publishing the piece last Thursday. As the president of GW’s chapter of Young America’s Foundation, I’m hyper-aware that my conservative peers and I are in the ideological minority on this campus, so it meant a lot to me that a classmate set aside her political beliefs for a moment and thanked us for displaying the flags in Kogan Plaza.

That being said, I was disappointed when I discovered a large portion of the piece is actually not very complimentary at all.

The first three paragraphs essentially serve to recap all of the things the author feels are wrong with YAF. In fact, the article repeatedly makes reference to nonpartisanship, but in the same breath, manages to insult our work on this campus. It kind of feels like a big back-handed compliment.

This excerpt is a good example of what I’m talking about: “YAF’s 9/11 Never Forget Project is non-partisan and non-political. Though I may scoff at the conservative organization’s displays for the rest of the year, what it does on this day is important.”

I get what the piece was trying to do. But at the same time, I just don’t believe comments like the one above about “scoffing” at us were warranted in an article about our 9/11 memorial.

Members of YAF and other right-leaning organizations on campus consciously made a decision to attend a school where we would be in the political minority. We’re smart enough to expect that most students don’t really support our mission. And, as you can imagine, we’re actually very used to being mocked by our classmates and professors.

Believe me – I understand that most GW students disagree with our programming decisions. Negative coverage of our events is mostly old hat, and usually we’re more amused than upset by our detractors. But this just didn’t feel like the right occasion to be insulted.

I would have understood a small reference to people’s disagreements with us. Unfortunately, however, the author’s negative views have almost a constant presence throughout the article, even where the piece is trying to be thankful.

I want to reiterate my appreciation for the kind words that were directed toward our efforts in displaying the flags last Thursday. But I have to admit that, to me, the column seems like one big missed opportunity for real nonpartisanship.

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

The Young America’s Foundation probably isn’t every student’s favorite student organization on campus.

GW’s leading conservative group has caused plenty of controversy in the past. In 2011, its affirmative action-themed bake sale prompted criticism from multicultural student groups. And last spring, YAF members demanded that administrators condemn GW’s “atmosphere of intolerance” after their anti-abortion display in Kogan Plaza was vandalized.

When the organization claimed that the redistribution of grades was similar to the redistribution of wealth last November, I argued – and still would argue – that theatrics undermine the group’s messages. Often, students don’t take the time to consider YAF’s point of view because the organization’s antics are easy to laugh off.

But once a year, the group puts on one display that isn’t meant to be inflammatory. On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, members of YAF wake up early in the morning to place miniature flags throughout Kogan Plaza and commemorate the lives of those lost thirteen years ago.

When I see the flags lining the grass, I’m moved by the group’s dedication. It’s heartening that YAF is committed to reminding everyone on campus to take a moment out of his or her day to remember, reflect and maybe even pray.

YAF’s 9/11 Never Forget Project is non-partisan and non-political. Though I may scoff at the conservative organization’s displays for the rest of the year, what it does on this day is important. The flags serve as a reminder that even in such sharply divided times, partisan lines can still be crossed.

On the anniversary of 9/11, and on the country’s most politically active campus, we should set aside our partisan differences to thank the YAF.

We have 364 days in the rest of the year to fight about political and social issues. But today, I encourage you to take a detour through Kogan and reflect, even if only for a few seconds. We can go back to arguing tomorrow.

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Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 7:14 p.m.

Catching up on last spring’s news

Back in May, The Hatchet wrote a staff editorial asking students to “stay tuned” to five issues that were primed for updates over the summer.

The editorial board wrote: “If we have major news to catch up on when summer break ends, the only way our complaining will be justified is if we’ve paid attention.” Now that students are back on campus, we can look back and see what has changed, started, ended or remains unknown.

GW has added permanent counseling services to the Mount Vernon Campus. Hatchet File Photo by Sam Klein | Senior Photo Editor

GW has added permanent counseling services to the Mount Vernon Campus. Hatchet File Photo by Sam Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Progress for student health
After three students committed suicide on the Mount Vernon Campus last semester, GW pledged to bring permanent counseling services there. That promise has become a reality, with the University Counseling Center offering walk-in hours on the Vern five days a week. The hours, 3 to 7 p.m., are convenient for students with morning-heavy class schedules, and the Academic Building is centralized and easily accessible. GW not only took quick action to provide counseling on the Vern, but also followed through to make those services long-lasting.

And after the University committed to bringing Student Health Service and UCC to the Foggy Bottom Campus, construction is underway to renovate the Marvin Center for that purpose. Slated to open at the start of 2015, the new wellness hub has booted merchandise out of the campus bookstore to a new location on Pennsylvania Avenue.


Corcoran merger moves along
D.C. court signed off on the Corcoran’s petition to change its founding charter in August, allowing it to merge with GW and the National Gallery of Art. The future for both the college and GW now looks clearer and brighter than ever before: We’re excited at the prospect of GW expanding its focus to more disciplines, and Corcoran students will now have the benefits of a larger, financially stable institution.

Unfortunately, though, about one third of the Corcoran’s employees face unemployment.

Not every question about how the Corcoran will become a part of GW has been answered, but the University gives us updates regularly. We found out in June that the Corcoran will be absorbed into the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and its students may have to complete the same general education requirement as other CCAS students.

More recently, the admissions office announced that prospective students who are interested in studying in the Corcoran school must submit artwork portfolios, though they do not need to provide standardized test scores. Those requirements are the same as the ones the Corcoran had when it was an independent school, so it’s good to see the University is not completely overhauling the Corcoran’s traditions.

Student leaders like Kirsten Dimovitz, co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, told The Hatchet that a lawyer is bridging the gap while GW looks to replace its former deputy Title IX coordinator. Hatchet File Photo by Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Student leaders like Kirsten Dimovitz, co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, told The Hatchet that a lawyer is bridging the gap while GW looks to replace its former deputy Title IX coordinator. Hatchet File Photo by Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Sexual assault in focus
We were critical of the University in May because it had not yet found a replacement for former deputy Title IX coordinator Tara Pereira. They have since hired an official to assist with Title IX compliance… but it’s not exactly what we had in mind.

Since then, headlines about sexual assault at GW have just kept coming.

Provost Steven Lerman takes notes at a Faculty Senate meeting. Hatchet File Photo by Samuel Johnson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Provost Steven Lerman takes notes at a Faculty Senate meeting. Hatchet File Photo by Samuel Johnson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Rival faculty groups
Last semester, discontent among faculty – an often stagnant group – started to boil over. Frustrated with rising health care costs and the increasing number of adjunct faculty, the Faculty Association formed in opposition to the Faculty Senate. This move could be an opportunity for professors to open up discussion to different viewpoints, hash out new solutions and bargain more efficiently with administrators, all in an effort to ensure professors have the best support. The Faculty Association hasn’t made too much noise yet this semester, but we’re looking forward to seeing how its presence and advocacy steers professors’ conversations.

Linda Livingstone, the former dean of Pepperdine University's business school, will take over GW's business school a year after Doug Guthrie was fired from the position. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations

Linda Livingstone, the former dean of Pepperdine University’s business school, is taking over GW’s business school a year after Doug Guthrie was fired from the position. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations

Dean hirings
It’s safe to say that some of the dust that was kicked up a year ago has finally started to settle. When the University fired then-dean Doug Guthrie in August 2013, it brought the total number of leaderless GW schools to three. Search committees were in high gear at the end of the spring semester, and the University announced new deans for both the business and law schools in June. After months of turbulence, we hope some calm can finally come to the schools, leaders can chart new directions for their students and fundraising can pick back up.

We’re still waiting for a replacement for the nursing school dean, Jean Johnson, who will retire at some point this year. She has agreed to stay at the school until GW chooses a successor, but the University must now pivot its attention to the nursing school so she can move on.

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Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president emeritus and a University Professor of Public Service.

I was a guest on the nationally syndicated public radio program “The Diane Rehm Show” on Tuesday. I was one of five in a conversation about how fraternities and sororities fit into the college experience today, their evolving roles and ongoing challenges.

In the course of a robust discussion, we covered the social value for students of Greek life, community service provided by Greek life members, the allegiance these students often feel toward their alma maters, the perceived elitism of the system and several other facets of campus involvement.

The dominant topics of the show, and rightly so, were (a) the concerns around the abuse of alcohol and drugs by men and women, and (b) sexual assaults against women and some men and how this is handled on campus.

I’m glad I have an opportunity to extend the issues discussed.

First, I am terribly sorry any observations of mine have been construed to mean anything other than full support for the victims of sexual assault or rape. As a man, I realize it is unlikely I fully understand what it is like to be a woman faced with such a threat or the victim of such actions. As a caring adult, however, I do understand the responsibility we all share for the actions of our friends and classmates.

Rape and sexual assault are terrible things and should not be tolerated anywhere, on or off campus. Those acts are criminal, illegal and reprehensible.

We need to continue the broader conversation in our country, including on college campuses, about the perceived power and entitlement too many men feel toward women. This includes, foremost, physical acts against women, but also includes the use of language and social actions. Respect is the entitlement we should all strive for.

Our community should not and does not tolerate physical and social abuses. Friends must watch out for friends, male and female, who have a tendency to over-indulge. In our world, equality of the sexes comes with rights and responsibilities: No man has the right to abuse a woman. No one should ever be a victim of illegal behavior by another.

Campus life comes with a social contract. We are each accountable for our own behavior, and also collectively share responsibility for acts by those people with whom we socialize or share a dorm room, fraternity or sorority house. A high campus priority is the elimination of a climate of silence that in the past has condoned assault.

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Laura Zillman is the vice president of Students Against Sexual Assault.

“No offense, but…”

“Not to be racist, but…”

Spoiler alert: Whatever comes next probably will be offensive or racist.

“Without making the victims responsible for what happens…”

So said former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, during a Tuesday interview on The Diane Rehm Show. What followed seemed to indicate that Trachtenberg sees sexual violence (or “misconduct,” as he lightly puts it) as the fault of survivors, not perpetrators.

Much of the segment is problematic, and not only on Trachtenberg’s part. One participant even suggests that colleges today have “a male problem” due to enrolling higher numbers of female students. But it is Trachtenberg’s comments that are the most upsetting.

“One of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave,” Trachtenberg said. “There are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children on that.”

When called out by his fellow panelists, Trachtenberg backtracked and said that he “didn’t anticipate being taken quite so literally.”

As the vice president of Students Against Sexual Assault – not to mention a member of the GW community – who sees rape culture and victim-blaming perpetuated with both words and actions on a regular basis, I am not exactly sympathetic to his shock.

The year is 2014, for those of you keeping track. I am disappointed and furious that people, especially in positions of power, continue to perpetuate the notion that sexual violence is in any way up to survivors to prevent.

Sobriety does not prevent sexual violence. Being able-bodied enough to fight an assailant, or even choosing to fight, does not prevent sexual violence. Suggesting otherwise implies that an “untrained” survivor of sexual violence is partially responsible for preventing it in the first place. Sexual violence is caused by perpetrators, never by survivors or their actions. Survivors should never need to “do their best” to prevent experiencing violence.

Trachtenberg later attempted further damage control, telling The Hatchet that a woman “should understand her limits because she will be less likely to be unable to fight off somebody who is attacking her.” The mental or physical state of a survivor is never an excuse to commit violence against him or her.

Statistically, about one in five college women will experience sexual violence during their undergraduate years. Being made to feel responsible for that violence, by people in power at the very university meant to protect them, is despicable. Trachtenberg led GW for nineteen years, but has shown himself to be anything but an advocate for students and survivors.

I call upon Trachtenberg to apologize for his words. I call upon the GW administration to publicly condemn Trachtenberg’s remarks, and make it clear that they are not supported. I join peers, professors and alumni in formally petitioning for these actions.

The ongoing administrative silence tells survivors and the GW community at large that any promise of survivor advocacy is empty at best – and an outright lie at worst.

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

Chances are, if you have a Facebook account, you’re more than familiar with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Everyone from your little cousin to your fraternity brother has videotaped themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads to raise money for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Even university bigwigs, including the presidents of the University of Connecticut and Eastern Kentucky University, have accepted the challenge. Maybe you’ve participated yourself.

But there’s one higher education leader who has so far avoided what some consider an act of public embarrassment: University President Steven Knapp.

Knapp has earned a reputation for ambitious leadership over his seven-year tenure. He has overseen massive construction projects, looked to strengthen GW’s academic and research stature and steered a $1 billion fundraising campaign.

But unlike his predecessor, a larger-than-life, charismatic leader always eager to give advice and trade views, some have criticized Knapp for largely keeping students at arm’s length. He hasn’t done much to open up to students beyond holding limited office hours. If you’re lucky, you might see him walking his dog around campus and get a quick nod from him.

Of course, you’ll remember when Knapp appeared in a slightly awkward video to announce the name of GW’s new residence hall. But if he genuinely wants to connect with students, there’s another step he could take.

President Knapp, now is your chance: Participate in the ice bucket challenge. Doing so will give you the opportunity to raise awareness for an important cause while making yourself seem more accessible to students at the same time. I haven’t heard of anyone officially challenging Knapp yet, but surely his turn is coming soon, and when it does, I implore him to accept it.

Granted, the ALS challenge has come with a fair amount of criticism, with some arguing we shouldn’t consider publicity stunts that go viral online the moral equivalent to actual charity efforts like donating large sums of money and spending time volunteering for underserved causes. But it turns out this social media sensation has prompted more than $31 million in donations toward ALS treatment research and patient care, justifying its somewhat superficial Facebook popularity.

It’s the perfect opportunity for Knapp to become a friendlier face to incoming students as a new semester begins.

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Michael Wenger is an adjunct professor of sociology and a senior fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a research institution that concentrates on race issues.

Michael Brown, the young black man shot and killed Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., is yet another on the long list of unarmed black men – including two others in the past month and a half – who have suffered similar fates at the hands of law enforcement.

Since mid-July, we’ve seen the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island by a police officer’s chokehold and the fatal shooting of Ezell Ford by two Los Angeles Police Department officers. This country has a long history of such events, going back to slavery and the thousands of lynchings during the Jim Crow era.

Yet, amid the outrage over the Brown killing, we must not lose focus of the bigger picture. Since the founding of our nation, society has displayed a deeply entrenched belief in a racial hierarchy. This hierarchy assumes the superiority of white Americans and devalues the lives of non-white Americans.

Despite popular opinion, those racial beliefs have not been erased by the emancipation of enslaved people, by the Civil Rights Movement or by the election of a president with African ancestry. Until the hierarchy has been dismantled, we will continue to witness such killings.

This racial hierarchy manifests itself in both conscious and unconscious ways. Consciously, it caused the brutal system of slavery and the era of Jim Crow racism that followed emancipation, as well as the purposeful exclusion of African Americans from Social Security and the GI Bill. Additionally, the enactment of government policies, both written and unwritten, has institutionalized residential segregation and resulted in the mass incarceration of young men of color.

The mitigation of some of these conscious manifestations has not ended the embedded and often subconscious belief in a racial hierarchy. For example, research and experience clearly show that school discipline is significantly harsher for students of color, hiring practices still substantially favor white men and “shooter bias” severely endangers black people.

Scholars have written extensively in recent years about implicit racial bias and the significant role it plays in these outcomes. Further, the Implicit Association Test, available online, demonstrates that even anti-racist activists can carry subconscious racial biases that affect their behaviors.

These biases are exacerbated by a range of institutional policies and practices: The disproportionate picturing on television newscasts of black people arrested for crimes compared to white people arrested for similar crimes, the continued disregard in American history and literature curricula for the contributions of non-whites to the building of this country and racial profiling that leads to the disproportionate engagement of black people with the criminal justice system.

Despite these setbacks, we have clearly made progress over the past 50 years – though the loved ones of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Farrell, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Sean Bell and countless other victims might disagree.

Until we become fully aware of and deeply committed to undoing the embedded belief in a racial hierarchy that infects us all, there inevitably will be more Michael Browns.

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Peter Konwerski is the Dean of Student Affairs.

Peter Konwerski is a triple alumnus, a professorial lecturer and the Dean of Student Affairs.

Peter Konwerski is a triple alumnus, a professorial lecturer in the Human Services and Social Justice program and the Dean of Student Affairs.

As I reflect on some of the national and global issues that arose this summer – whether in Ferguson, Mo. or in Ukraine, the Middle East or Africa – I’m struck by the need to have capable citizen leaders at the ready to engage with, respond to and react to the complex problems we face in our world today.

Fortunately, at GW, that’s our business: producing effective, well-informed and educated citizen leaders. As we head back to school this new academic year, our campuses are brimming with excitement for learning. Classroom learning is best when combined with real-world insights culled from experience beyond the classroom: knowledge in action.

We have rich diversity in our classrooms. Students span the entire political spectrum, and our vast international community includes students who may have experienced first-hand the complex conflicts that appear in the news. As a result, not only is it imperative for us to embrace an educational environment that is open to constructive dialogue, but we must also demonstrate care and compassion. On any given day, incidents across the globe have the potential to directly affect at least one of the members of our University community, whether it’s a student, parent, alumnus, alumna, faculty member or staff member.

While the GW educational experience provides our students with tools to be effective citizen leaders, much of their learning also comes from outside the confines of our campuses – again, knowledge in action. Given the broad reach of our students living, working, serving, researching and interning around the world, we truly are a global community that sets no limits to the creation and acquisition of knowledge.

While we aim to cultivate a community of informed scholars, our responsibility to nurture a safe space for knowledge creation and acquisition is derived from our namesake’s simple credo: “Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness.” That spirit of an educated, engaged citizenry is something we take to heart in our University’s strategic plan.

As a nation founded on principles of open debate and civil discourse, it is also our responsibility as the community that bears George Washington’s name – and the institution bequeathed with his legacy of tolerance – to continue to fight for the free flow of ideas and easy and open exchange of information across all platforms.

I am proud to work in, and be a graduate of, such a community of scholars, and hope that through our work with and service to others, we are continuing to honor Washington’s legacy. Openness and tolerance are so critical to success in our society today. Both the voice of the oppressed and the speech of the political leader need to have a place at our University. Both make this a special place to practice knowledge in action and to live and learn.

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Kinjo Kiema, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.

When I visited GW for the first time, the busy and competitive atmosphere was one of the reasons I chose to enroll. I wanted a pre-professional environment that would prepare me for the cutthroat media industry, and I knew this was the school for me.

Many choose GW for this environment in the hopes that, combined with our often-touted location, they’ll emerge in four years well-prepared for a similarly stimulating career.

But others lament the atmosphere at upper-tier universities like GW. William Deresiewicz, a former Yale professor, argues in a New Republic piece, “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation’s top schools are turning our kids into zombies,” that a university should not just serve as a training ground for a lucrative career. He writes that “the first thing college is for is to teach you how to think.”

Of course, development of critical thinking skills should be a key part of higher education. This process does not, however, diminish the importance of career preparation.

The romanticized notion of college as four years of “learning how to think” is idealistic, almost naive. Deresiewicz says that in his ideal education system, college is financially feasible for all who wish to attend, while the quality of education is as good at public universities as in the Ivy League and at other private universities.

But we aren’t anywhere near this academic utopia yet. Amid soaring costs at both private and public institutions, it’s difficult to see college outside of the world of career preparation.

More than half of GW’s class of 2012 graduated with some form of debt, and individual students left campus owing an average of $33,398 each. When you consider these realities, “learning to think” is secondary to landing a job that will allow you to pay back those loans.

The author pessimistically describes college applications as the process in which you selected “the most prestigious place that let you in; up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth – ‘success.’”

What he doesn’t address is why applicants think this way in the first place. A college degree is still a worthwhile investment because graduates are proven to earn much more over their lifetimes compared to those who only graduate from high school. In a shaky job market, students select the school they think will give them the best chance at securing a good salary.

It’s reassuring that a school like GW emphasizes career services as well as academics – with plans to put money from its fundraising campaign toward both.

Unfortunately, “learning to think” cannot be students’ only priority.

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