The Forum

Commentary

Thursday, July 2, 2015 2:31 p.m.

This week’s best and worst

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

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs Up:

GW’s Office of Marketing and Creative Services took home two Emmy awards last Saturday night at the Emmy Awards gala in Bethesda, Md.

The marketing office, which is housed in GW’s external relations office, won an animation award for a video about how to finance a GW education. Its #OnlyAtGW videos, where students describe experiences they only could have had in D.C. or at GW, won an Emmy in the commercial campaign category.

Led by Vice President of External Relations Lorraine Voles for the last seven years, GW’s external relations team has revamped its marketing efforts.

In 2013, the marketing team revamped the University’s messaging in preparation for the launch of the $1 billion campaign. Slogans like “making history” and “knowledge in action” became common as fundraisers began seeking donations. And a year before that, the University reimagined its logo.

Students may see the #OnlyatGW slogan used as a satirical hashtag rather than a way to promote the school. But take out your phones and start sending tweets and posting photos on Instagram. For all we know, it could land GW another award or two.

Thumbs down:

D.C’s police body camera program hit a major road bump this Tuesday when the D.C. Council voted to add an amendment to the District’s budget. The amendment  would stop the rollout of the body cameras unless Mayor Muriel Bowser can fundraise $1.5 million to cover the cost of Freedom of Information Act requests, which give access to public records, to view the cameras’ possible footage.

Possible ways to fund the requests would be to charge for footage, or to repurpse other funds, said Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, a member of the Council’s judiciary committe.

After a year of national conversations about oversight in law enforcement and the use of force, the body camera pilot program was announced this past September by the Metropolitan Police Department as an effort to increase transparency.

If MPD body cameras do move forward, perhaps the University Police Department could consider a similar approach.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Friday, June 26, 2015 6:50 p.m.

This week’s best and worst

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

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:
GW is introducing a new program about extremism to its Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, led by experts in counterterrorism.

Over the last few years, national conversations about extremism and terrorism have been much different from those that followed 9/11. Since 2001, the United States has seen waves of mass shootings, a bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon and violent, high-profile hate crimes like the attack in Charleston last week.

Given these incidents, government officials as well as everyday citizens have been forced to confront questions about how we should define terrorism and extremism. In fact, an analysis released by The New America Foundation this week found that since 9/11, more Americans have been killed by white supremacists and anti-government extremists than by Jihadists since 9/11.

GW is known for its strength in politics and international affairs, so it’s only fitting that the University is working to boost its the center. It’s clear that the United States is on the cusp of some important discussions about homegrown terrorism, and hopefully our students will have the chance to learn from those – or maybe even go out into the world and make some changes, themselves.

Thumbs down:
For the past few years, the relationship between faculty and University officials hasn’t exactly been cordial. Between disagreements over faculty benefits and revisions to the faculty code, it feels like the two parties haven’t seen eye-to-eye in a long time.

Now, in the most recent development, the University appears to have ignored most of the recommendations made by the benefits task force – a group that University President Steven Knapp himself created. Faculty and staff on the task force made recommendations for health care, retirement and tuition benefits, but the University will only address health care.

This leaves many staff and faculty in the dark on retirement and tuition benefits, which doesn’t quite seem fair. And although this was announced several weeks ago, we can expect to see the repercussions throughout the next academic year.

By creating a task force and asking for recommendations, officials appeared to be taking faculty and staff priorities into account. But since most of that advice was disregarded, a substantial part of the process might have been a waste of time.

Of course, the University can’t be expected to listen to every single request made by faculty and staff. But if GW wants to improves its relationship with its employees, it should start taking their opinions seriously.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Saturday, June 20, 2015 12:54 p.m.

Try meditation to stop summer and school stress

Georgia Lawson, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Even though summer vacation can sound like beaches and relaxation, you may still be stressed.

When stress becomes a part of your daily routine, it is a barrier to real productivity. It is crucial that we find ways to relieve stress. I find my relief, no matter what time of year, in meditation.

Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar recently conducted a study that presents compelling evidence for the power of meditation. The study found reduced stress levels as well as actual thickening of brain regions essential to learning, memory, mind wandering and regulation. All of these factors show how meditation could help you deal with a stressful situation and experience minimal stress.

As students begin their summer endeavors, I’d urge them to give meditation a try. Meditation got me through finals, and I continue meditating to bring me peace and efficiency during my summer job and online class. Whether you’re taking a heavy course load, working long hours, or simply want to learn to better control your focus for the upcoming semester, meditation can work for you too.

There are many ways to meditate, so find what works for you. For independent, traditional meditation there are even apps that provide music and guidance to get you started (I recommend Headspace).

For those of you who have never practiced meditation, it can seem a little obscure. We may all have that idea of a cross-legged person chanting “ommm,” but meditation is largely internal and often does not look like this.

Meditation is very personal and can be different for everyone. Some people prefer to close their eyes and envision themselves somewhere calming, while others focus on breath. For me, meditation is simply a time to reset my thoughts and intentions. I often do this by sitting in a quiet area like my room and listening to meditation music or an ocean soundtrack for whatever amount of time I feel I need. By focusing on my senses and state of being, I release myself from the constraining feeling of daily responsibilities and train my brain not to wander from the task at hand.

It’s easy to feel like you have no time to take a break, but trading in stress for focus is far more valuable than cramming information you can’t retain. And even if your summer is stress-free, practicing now can give you a helpful tool to utilize during the school year.

Give it a sincere try. Your mind will thank you.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Friday, June 19, 2015 3:36 p.m.

This week’s best and worst

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

In case you missed it, here’s our take on the best and worst news from around campus and the city this week.

Thumbs Up:
Cat lovers delight, because D.C’s first cat cafe opens this week.

Crumbs & Whiskers is located on O Street in Georgetown, a convenient walk from campus. The cafe currently features 17 cats and hope to add three more cats before the end of the month. A trip to the cat cafe will cost you $10 an hour on a weekday for admission, and $12 on the weekends.

The cafe, which won’t be serving any of its own food or drinks, will allow delivery from restaurants in the Georgetown area. The shop itself is composed of three floors: the basement being for cats and staff only, the street level composing a lounge-type atmosphere and the top floor looks bright and cheery.

Crumbs & Whiskers, owned by Kanchan Singh, has partnered with the Washington Humane Society. WHS provides the cats to the cafe as a tool to aid in their adoption. Those interested in visiting the cafe can either make a reservation on its website, or walk in for a visit beginning next week.

Thumbs Down:
The Federal Transit Administration released a safety report on Wednesday that found serious concerns in the safety programs conducted by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The report follows January’s accident when a metro car filled with smoke at the L’Enfant Plaza station. One woman died from the incident, and more than 30 others were hospitalized.

The report found that WMATA does not effectively balance safety critical operations with maintenance activities and the demand for passenger service.

Metro received $50 million less in federal funds this year compared to last year. The report also analyzed the limited availability of training, inconsistent operational testing and lack of information management technology.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Irene Ly, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Before going off to college, most of us were probably anticipating the “traditional” college life: dorms, parties and all-nighters at the library during finals.

Once students commit to GW and head off to Colonial Inauguration, they might anticipate something else – the GW experience, complete with exploring the monuments late at night, listening to prominent figures speak on campus and studying at landmark locations.

These might be the experiences students expect, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones worth having. If you’re a freshman at CI, be open to a variety of experiences. And if – like me – you’re having or will have a non-traditional college experience, you should embrace it.

Students come to GW from all over the country and all over the world. But I’m part of a small population: I commute from Falls Church, Va. to campus every day. Since Metro stops and buses are easily accessible, my commute is relatively hassle-free and takes just half an hour. Plus, avoiding University housing has saved me a lot of money.

My attitude toward commuting initially fluctuated. Some days I had absolutely no problem with it. But sometimes it was easy to blame my loneliness on living off campus instead of in a dorm. At times I resented that I wasn’t like every other college student.

You may identify with my experience, or you may be having a completely different one altogether. But no matter how your time at GW is structured, you should make the most of it. Whether or not you’re living the college life you expected, don’t feel like you have to fit into a neat little box.

Now finished with my first year, I’ve come to accept my situation and what it’s taught me about myself. I realized that living on-campus wouldn’t have made much of a difference, because I prefer coffee dates and hanging out with a few friends to fraternity parties and clubs.

My life is what I make of it. I live at home, but I have still made friends, have an on-campus job and I’m learning from this year’s mistakes by pushing myself to get more involved in student organizations in the fall.

Whether you live off campus like me, are a part-time student, have a job instead of joining student organizations, are an international student, or anything else that makes your GW experience a little different, remember that it’s OK. There are other students here just like you.

I know my college experience isn’t what most others envision, but it is what I’ve built for myself. Get started building yours, too.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Friday, June 12, 2015 10:26 p.m.

Confessions of a yuccie

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

I am a yuccie.

In case you haven’t heard, “yuccie” is short for “young urban creative” – a cross between a hipster and a yuppie. A writer on Mashable coined this term just this week and includes himself in the classification. Hipsters are different, he explains, because they reject the mainstream while yuccies embody parts of popular culture.

My roommates and I came across a Buzzfeed list: “99 Things All Yuccies Love.” A startling number – 72 – apply to me. Some of my personal favorites are that I constantly ask people if they’ve watched “The Wire,” I love succulents, I’ve developed an affinity for Drake and I say “I’m dead” at least once each day.

It might seem like a silly list of meaningless things, but as I went through it, I was excited. It’s not often that I read something and identify with it so completely. Honestly, I’m not ashamed of it because it’s harmless and pretty true. And if you’re a yuccie, I don’t think you should be ashamed either.

Critics have already torn this idea apart, calling it a “euphemism for straight-up privilege.” While it’s true that we don’t necessarily need another way to refer to middle class white kids, I think it’s fine to embrace the idea of yuccies if we acknowledge that it’s an inherently elite classification. It definitely doesn’t define everyone our age.

But nobody is talking why yuccies love some of the things and activities on these lists. Yuccies are college students or recent graduates – just like all of us at GW. And what’s one thing many of us have in common? We’re often strapped for cash.

On Buzzfeed’s list of classifications for yuccies, many were tied to money, like not paying for HBO Go, not owning a printer and shopping at affordable stores like Uniqlo.

We can’t afford to waste our money. We’re saving where we can, and use the rest to have fun and try to make our run-down apartments look OK. Our college loans are too massive and our jobs don’t pay us enough to do anything else.

Especially at a school as expensive as GW, being a yuccie is less about being trendy and more about trying to look like you have it together when you really don’t. It’s about trying to be cultured even though you don’t have the time or money to commit to it.

Aside from the inherent privilege of being called a yuccie, I don’t think other criticisms I’ve heard are valid. Trying to be both successful and creative shouldn’t be brushed aside as selfish. It’s ambitious, and it’s a sign that young people are doing the best they can.

Labels like these are important because they can provide us with a community within our generation. I never fit in with hipsters, the young professionals or “millennials,” which include people in their thirties. But now, I know there are others out there experiencing the same cultural moment as I am.

In the 1950’s, young men embraced being called greasers. In the 1960’s, people our age took ownership over “hippie” and turned it into a movement. The original yuppies appeared in the 1980’s. We aren’t the first generation to be labeled and then criticized for those labels.

I’m a young urban creative, and I think there are worse things I could be.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Thursday, June 11, 2015 12:13 p.m.

Take a chance on a dean’s seminar

Talia Balakirsky, a sophomore majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

There’s no reason your freshman schedule has to be boring. Sure, you could fill it up with liberal arts requirements, but there are also more interesting options.

As a freshman, one of the best academic decisions I made was to take a dean’s seminar – a small class exclusively for freshmen taught by high-level and sought-after professors on a wide variety of subjects. For example, this coming fall, the available dean’s seminars range from “Political Manipulation” to “Coming of Age in Fantasy.”

In just a few short weeks, incoming freshmen will register for their first classes as students at GW, and will compete with hundreds of others to get the classes they want.

If you’re an incoming freshman preparing for registration in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, you should strongly consider signing up for a dean’s seminar. Not only will it make for an exciting academic addition to your semester, but will help you build relationships, too.

Because these small classes are only open to freshmen, I was able to make new friends in my dean’s seminar and felt comfortable participating in class discussions. The professors teaching these classes are the best of the best, and it shows in their knowledge and accomplishments.

I built a valuable connection with my professor, and that relationship will continue to benefit me. The biggest thing I learned from my professor is that you can’t always expect to succeed if you don’t have the drive to put in the time. That lesson will stay with me.

Plus, these seminars often take students outside of the classroom and into the city, which is a fun way to change up the usual day-to-day schedule. My dean’s seminar, “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln,” really utilized everything D.C. has to offer. During the semester, my class visited Ford’s Theatre and the Lincoln Memorial as a way of bringing us closer to the history that we were learning in class.

Unfortunately, these classes are only available to CCAS students. And even students in CCAS are hesitant to take dean’s seminars because they want to pack their schedules with required courses. But if you’re interested in a seminar that doesn’t fill a requirement, and some of them do, take the course anyway. Since they are only open to freshmen, you won’t get many chances.

Taking a seminar opened my eyes to the amazing things GW students have access to in D.C. So take a chance on a dean’s seminar, and you will likely find that it makes your first year at GW even more rewarding and memorable.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Friday, June 5, 2015 1:17 p.m.

This week’s best and worst

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

In case you missed it, here’s our take on the best and worst news from around campus and the city this week.

Thumbs up:

GW students will no longer have to settle for mozzarella sticks from Gallery at 2 a.m.

Olivia’s Diner, a 24-hour establishment, will be opening this summer in DuPont Circle. While there not yet a set opening date, the diner’s slogan, “people come first”, is likely to go hand in hand with “students come running”.

Prior to this diner, GW students would often trek to Adams Morgan for 24-7 service at The Diner. But with Olivia’s diner just 10 minutes from campus, The Diner may have some new competition.

One thing’s for sure: a little taste of home is coming with us back to GW.

Thumbs down:

It seems that the recession is still present in D.C. as the job rate for the metro area is still below the national average.

While D.C. has bounced back from the deepest lull of the 2008 recession, job growth in the metro area has seen an 8.08 percent increase, the national average remains at steady a 11 percent increases, a Stateline analysis reported.

What lies at the crux of this statistic and issue is what it means for college students. For those of us looking at job growth rates and trying to plan out where we will end up after college, it’s becoming more likely that students will find a job in a different area of the country.

While bachelor’s degrees are still crucial, many companies in the technology field are now turning to community colleges to fill the gaps. Companies have also began starting their own training programs in order to being able to hire employees who don’t have college degrees.

It is still important to note that the metro areas across the country are growing and the economy is projected to make a 3 percent increase this coming year.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Friday, May 29, 2015 2:43 p.m.

This week’s best and worst

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

In case you missed it, here’s the best and worst news from around campus and the District this week.

Thumbs up:
Finally, there’s a chance that GW and Georgetown will face off in a men’s basketball matchup.

Yesterday, the D.C. Council was supposed to host a roundtable to discuss the possibility of creating a tournament featuring GW, Georgetown and other teams in the District like American, Maryland, George Mason and Howard. Unfortunately, the panel was postponed, but that doesn’t mean the proposed legislation is off the table.

We can’t be sure that coaches and athletic directors will agree to the tournament if the legislation gains support. And even if they do, we don’t know if GW-Georgetown would even be a matchup, since GW could play any of the teams included.

But we can still keep our fingers crossed, since our rivalry with Georgetown runs deep – even off the court. It’s not uncommon to see students from both schools taking jabs at one another online or on apps like Yik Yak. And a lot of GW students have likely rolled their eyes after being mistaken for a Georgetown student by a family member.

A matchup between the two men’s basketball teams would give students a tangible – and enjoyable – outlet for this competition. It might also introduce more students to the basketball program, since the game would likely be well-attended.

And it would be a great opportunity for alumni involvement, too. Given the University’s low rates of alumni donations, a GW-Georgetown matchup could be hugely beneficial for that effort if it ignites alumni enthusiasm. If GW beat Georgetown, alumni might jump at the chance to support their University again.

In any case, the tournament would bring some basketball pride to D.C., regardless of who GW plays. A fun, competitive game against Georgetown would certainly excite both students and alumni, but overall, the tournament is a great idea.

Thumbs down:
It looks like we won’t be getting as many opportunities as we thought to ride in the brand new Metro cars that rolled out last month. If the Federal Transit Administration doesn’t approve retiring around 200 old cars, officials in D.C. likely won’t be purchasing new ones.

It hasn’t been an easy year for the Metro. One woman died due to smoke inhalation when the L’Enfant Plaza station filled with smoke in January, and since then, the Metro has had a few more smoke incidents. Plus, the subway system is one of students’ and residents’ favorite things to complain about, given the near constant track work and delays.

To top it all off, the Metro has faced congressional funding cuts this month, leaving many questions about whether there are sufficient funds available to address safety concerns.

Though sleek new cars might not be as high of a priority as safety and repairs, it’s still disappointing that they might not become a reality. And it’s also frustrating that the Metro has faced so many setbacks while also losing federal funding.

For many students, the Metro is an important part of their experience at GW: Students use it to travel to internships and part-time jobs, and some use it to commute to campus from more affordable apartments outside of Northwest D.C.

It would be great if our primary form of public transportation had more support so it could be safer, cleaner and faster. But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Updated: May 29, 2015 at 11:02 a.m.

Samuel Meisenberg graduated in the Class of 2015.

Hidden in the torrent of this month’s graduation emails were two instances of subliminal sexism.

The first came from the director of undergraduate studies in the political science department when she invited students to apply for the National Political Science Honor Society. In encouraging us to apply, she explained PSC honor members would receive membership certificates. She then added, “(Moms love to frame these).”

The second came in an email to graduating seniors from GradImages.com, which sells graduation photos, featuring the subject line: “Hurry! Forward your photos to Mom!”

The appendage from the PSC chair contributes to an ancient, prevalent and damaging stereotype: Women’s occupation of the domestic sphere. “Moms love framing these,” implies moms will frame them to be hung in the house.

This makes it seem like moms, not dads, are the ones making decisions about home decorations since home decor falls in their jurisdiction. If men frame anything it’s a fastball or a picture of themselves on the golf course for their office.

Not only do both emails have sexist undertones, but they are insensitive to those students who may not have a mom, or to students who have two.

It is the duty of forward-thinking students to identify, publicly point out and confront sexism, however subliminal, wherever it may occur. I believe that only through identification is eradication possible.

Both emails represent an ancient and damaging stereotype that has been plaguing women since Eve and Pandora succumbed to emotional temptation: Women are somehow more given to emotion and more interested in sentimental things than men are.

So we should send our photos and certificates to mom, but why not dad? According to the logic of the two emails, it is because mom is more interested in such superficial symbols of accomplishment. Men, by contrast, have the stoic ability to understand that certificates are paper and the real work you can’t frame has been accomplished over four years.

After reading these emails we can almost see dad quietly appearing from his study, nodding, to seriously shake our hand while mom is enthusiastically hugging and kissing us before leaving to show her framed certificate to the neighborhood ladies. Both emails serve to reinforce gender roles. Unintentionally? Perhaps. Unseemly and harmfully? Definitely.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
This op-ed incorrectly reported that the chair of the political science department sent students an email about the National Political Science Honor Society. The email was sent by the director of undergraduate studies. We regret this error.

  • Permalink
  • Comments