The Forum

Commentary

Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 12:06 p.m.

This week’s best and worst

Melissa Holzberg, a junior 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:
It may soon be legal for all of us to raise a little higher in D.C. At-large Councilmember David Grosso proposed legislation this week that would change marijuana’s status in D.C. from decriminalized to legalized.

In 2014, the D.C. Council decriminalized marijuana use by changing the consequences of being caught with certain amounts of the drug. Under the decriminalization change, the Metro Police Department cannot arrest a person for minor possession of marijuana. Rather, as of now, minor possession is handled with a fine and repossession of the drugs. But given that federal marijuana laws have not changed, federal agencies can still make arrests for possessing any amount of marijuana.

Grosso’s proposed legislation would make it legal for an adult to buy, use and sell marijuana – while introducing a tax structure for the drug in D.C. Grosso previously introduced this legislation last year, but it was blocked by Congress. It’s unclear how much further the bill will go in this time.

While the University’s policy on marijuana has not changed despite the drug’s decriminalization, if this legislation passes, it’s possible GW’s policy would be forced to shift. This bill is similar to state bills that have passed in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state.

With some “pot protests” planned for Inauguration Day next week, we’ll have to wait and see how legal marijuana becomes in the nation’s capital.

Thumbs down:
If you were hoping to travel to a few Super Bowl parties outside Foggy Bottom, you might want to check the bus schedule. WMATA released the dates of upcoming major Metro closings, and one of the biggest is planned for Super Bowl weekend.

According to WMATA’s release, six stations with service on the blue, orange and silver lines will be closed over the weekend of Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. And while students have dealt with Metro’s updates and construction projects for a year now with SafeTrack, it’s frustrating that officials picked such a busy weekend to complete maintenance on trains.

Of course, there’s no good time for Metro officials to do work that requires shutting down stations. And it’s better for this work to be done over the weekend rather than upend people’s schedules during the week. But after dealing with train derailments, smoke-filled stations and endless delays from construction projects, it’s no wonder that people are frustrated that the Metro system isn’t perfect.

While buses will be running between stations that are closed for construction, let’s all hope for an easy weather weekend that won’t further change travel plans for those of us trying to watch the big game from the comfort of our favorite D.C. spots.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017 11:49 a.m.

Irene Ly: This week’s best and worst

Irene Ly, a junior majoring in psychology, 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:

If you thought the push for D.C. statehood would come to a screeching halt after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election and Republicans again took the House of Representatives, think again.

Members of the D.C. Council were sworn in during a morning ceremony Monday, according to Washington’s Top News. One of the new members was familiar face: former D.C. Mayor Vince Gray.

The ballot referendum for D.C. statehood, which was passed with about 86 percent of the vote, was mentioned repeatedly throughout the meeting. The referendum proposed a state constitution that would let residents elect a governor instead of a mayor and a 21-seat state legislature instead of a city council.  

D.C. leaders, like Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., promise to continue to promote the case for statehood to a new president and Congress. 

“We cast the most pronounced statement for statehood for Washington, D.C.,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Although we are not actually any closer to securing statehood for D.C., it is encouraging to see that leaders are still passionate and determined to make statehood a reality.

Thumbs down:

School reading lists are attracting some controversy.

Virginia regulators are drafting a proposal that would require all Virginia schools to notify parents when children will read “sexually explicit” literature in classes, according to The Washington Post. The proposal would require all local school boards to create a way for parents to opt out of children reading objectionable materials, as well as require teachers to provide replacement texts for those who do not want their children to read the books that are deemed sexually explicit. 

Unsurprisingly, this regulation has attracted concern and opposition from educators and free speech groups, who worry they will stigmatize literature that has educational value. The regulations also use a broad definition of “sexually explicit.”

In just the past month in Virginia, classic works “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” were briefly pulled from schools in Accomack County after a parent complained about racial slurs in the texts, according to The Washington Post. In September, Chesterfield County also considered removing summer reading list titles such as “Eleanor and Park” and “Dope Sick,” after parents complained that the books were “pornographic” and “trash.”

The bill would make it easier for parents to control what students read in classrooms, and as a result keep them from reading valuable works that they can learn from.

The good news is that these regulations have not yet been approved. The Virginia American Civil Liberties Union has joined with six other groups to send a letter of opposition to the state board, and hopefully the vocal opposition will be heard.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Rachel Armany, a freshman majoring in journalism, is a Hatchet opinions writer. 

When I applied to GW last year, one of the essay prompts that appeared on the Common Application was: “Research shows that an ability to learn from experiences outside the classroom correlates with success in college. What was your greatest learning experience over the past four years that took place outside of the traditional classroom?”

After reading and considering the question, I assumed that learning through service and travel was highly important to the GW experience. But when I got to GW, venturing outside Foggy Bottom for class was not as popular of an activity as I thought it would be. Professors should find more ways to utilize D.C. as a classroom more by visiting museums or other locations around the city.

As most students already know, there are many educational museums around D.C. that are free and open to the public with long visiting hours, like the National Portrait Gallery, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian museums. Inside these museums are some of the most innovative and eye-catching exhibits that go beyond merely explaining history or culture as a textbook does by engaging viewers in interactive ways.

Although students are certainly aware that these museums exist, few regularly visit them. This past semester, I took a course on early American cultural history. One of the projects in the course required students to travel to any museum of our choice, select an artifact in the museum that somehow related to the time period we were studying and write a letter explaining how the course helped us analyze the object’s importance and context.

When I first read the assignment, I was taken aback by the fact that we were required to visit a museum, as I had seen professors suggest visiting certain exhibits for extra credit but never require it for a major assignment. After completing the project, I can now say that it was one of favorite parts of my first semester at GW. I went to the National Portrait Gallery for the first time and not only contextualized my learning from my history course, but saw other meaningful exhibits that I would not have otherwise traveled just to see.

I recognize that one major reason why many students do not visit D.C. museums is because it takes time to get to the National Mall and then to look around the museums. But just one trip per semester to a museum for a course is certainly manageable, especially if professors assign the trip far ahead. And if students are forced to go for a class once, they may be more likely to visit that museum or other museums in the future.

Admissions officials were right when they proposed that the “ability to learn from experiences outside the classroom correlates with success in college.” But for many students who make excuses to not visit museums and galleries around D.C. in their free time, requiring those visits for courses can ensure that students really do use the city as a classroom, as the University’s marketing materials promise.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016 7:39 p.m.

Irene Ly: This week’s best and worst

Irene Ly, a junior majoring in psychology, 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 history department made several changes to the major’s requirements last month in an effort to attract more students. The most significant change is that history majors are no longer required to take foreign language classes or classes on European, North American and U.S. history if they choose not to.

The decision to lift the U.S. history requirement has been met with mixed reactions, with some media outlets criticizing it and commenting on the irony of a university named after the nation’s first president eliminating the need to learn U.S. history.

It’s not a revolutionary move though: According to a report recently published by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, less than one third of nation’s leading universities require history majors to take a course about U.S. history.

Although history majors at GW no longer have to take U.S. history, the change is not as extreme as some people may think. Majors must still take a general introductory history course and an introductory seminar.

With these changes though, majors have much more flexibility to specialize in a specific topic or region that they are interested in. You can still take U.S. history courses if you choose to, but if that’s not your area of interest, you no longer have to take them in the same capacity as classes in other areas of history.

The department’s changes are a positive move that should be effective in attracting more history majors, keeping current majors happy and preventing current majors from switching to related majors, like political science or international affairs.

Thumbs down:

Police misconduct accusations cost cities all over the U.S. millions of dollars, and the District is no exception. Complaints regarding police misconduct have costed D.C. at least $31 million in court judgments or settlements since 2005, according to data obtained from the Washington attorney general’s office. There have been 173 cases alleging police misconduct.

About 95 percent of the money distributed from those lawsuits involved false arrest allegations. Other cases related to excessive use of force and civil rights violations. These lawsuits have cost city taxpayers at least $3.8 million in the first nine months 0f 2016.

And more than two-thirds of the complaints in the last two fiscal years have been filed by African Americans, despite a majority black police department and robust civilian oversight office.

Nearly half of all complaints from last year cited police harassment, which includes wrongful stops or searches, threats and property damage and has resulted in residents’ loss of trust in D.C. officers.

The seemingly endless number of complaints of police misconduct has not only costed its own taxpayers a large sum of money, but strongly shows the poor and tumultuous relationship between police and the community that must be improved.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

This academic year was the first with a fall break on the calendar. Even though officials carved out the time for students to relax, fall break may not be the best way for them to do that.

While fall break is officially on the calendar for next fall and students have continually argued for a fall break, citing mental health concerns, the break’s short duration makes it difficult for some students to go home. And the stress of travel for those who can make it home might mean the break isn’t very relaxing. Even though I live in upstate New York, I found that spending a significant portion of two days traveling was not relaxing.

Pennsylvania State University is one university that doesn’t have a fall break and instead gives students a week off for Thanksgiving. This alternative to a fall break is more effective, as students who live far away have the chance to go home to spend more time with family and they have more time to relax before finals.

GW should eliminate fall break and attach the two extra days to Thanksgiving break. More than 15 percent of current freshmen are international students and other students live in places far from D.C. Thanksgiving break only gives students three days at home,  so those who have to fly may opt to stay in D.C. because of travel time. Travel expenses, like plane tickets, are often more expensive around the holidays. Because students can’t leave for Thanksgiving break until the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving, travel costs are substantially higher than they would be the weekend before. And if students can’t afford to travel, they may have to stay on campus for the break’s duration.

Many students skip their Monday and Tuesday classes the week of Thanksgiving to go home the weekend before, making some classes pointless for those who do attend. This year, one of my professors did not take attendance that Tuesday and others canceled classes knowing that few students would attend or wanting to spend time with their own families.

Although students have argued for a fall break for many years now, the break is even shorter than Thanksgiving break, so many students still couldn’t go home. And students whose parents came for Colonials Weekend may have found it unnecessary to go home to see family again a week later. The poor spacing of the break and the weekend of events resulted in a situation in which parents either chose not to come for the weekend or students chose not to go home for the break.

A longer Thanksgiving break isn’t just better financially for students, but would also give students some more time to relax before finals. Students could catch up on readings, get a head start studying for especially difficult classes and begin the many final papers they will have due in the following weeks.

Some may argue that students need a mental break and should not have to wait for Thanksgiving. They don’t have to wait. GW gives its students Labor Day off in early September which gives students a three-day weekend and eases the transition from summer to classes.

A week-long Thanksgiving break would allow students to be with their family for the holiday and give them time to catch up on reading and assignments before finals. Eliminating fall break would allow the University to keep the same amount of instruction days, while giving students a more effectively placed break.

Kelly Skinner, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016 10:26 p.m.

Melissa Holzberg: This week’s best and worst

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

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

Thumbs up:

President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration isn’t the only news surrounding an inauguration in D.C. Colonial Inauguration is in for some big changes for the Class of 2021.

The University announced Monday that CI will no longer feature parent programming and that CI will be held more frequently throughout the summer. In the past, there have been three three-day CI sessions in June and one session in August for international students, transfer students and students who couldn’t attend the earlier summer sessions. Now domestic students will have the option to attend one of six two-day sessions in June.

The changes to CI are promising for students whose families can’t afford to come to D.C. for a long weekend and will hopefully provide more academic advising for undergraduate students. While CI won’t lose its famous cheers and cabinet leaders will surely don silly socks, changes to CI programming are long overdue and the changes are a step in the right direction.

An incoming freshman’s first trip to GW as a student should be exciting and fun, but it should also provide a student with all the information to feel prepared to start college by learning how to go grocery shopping and how to meet with an academic adviser. Hopefully some of the yet-to-be-announced changes to CI will make it more about what students will encounter on a daily basis at college and less about the glitz parents might be impressed by.

CI still has room for improvement – it would be great if we could join nine of our peer schools and hold orientation when freshmen students move in. But, thankfully, officials are moving to change some things and the Class of 2021 will reap the benefits.

Thumbs down:

As campus empties out for winter break, a few spots on campus are just as bare as they were in August: the basement of District House and what used to be J Street.

When GW announced last summer that the University’s only dining hall on the Foggy Bottom campus would close, student fears over a lack of dining options were assuaged by the promise of new eateries opening in the fall. But none of the vendors in District House have decisive opening dates, and students were forced to deal with an entire semester of limited dining options. While many were excited when the University announced the vendors that would one day occupy the barren District House basement, excitement only lasts so long when promises go unmet.

Unfortunately, students will have to hope over winter break that the vendors are able to open their doors once students return for next semester. But with no replacement for J Street, no opening date for a crepe shop in Duques Hall and another empty vendor spot left in the basement of Shenkman Hall, it will be hard for officials to get students energetic for dining changes.

Two of the University’s peer schools, Boston University and New York University, offer meal plans and have several dining halls on their respective campuses. It’s time for GW to create a dining environment that doesn’t leave its students scrambling to find places to eat and freshmen without a traditional dining hall setting to ease their college transition.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Austin Hansen is a senior and a resident adviser in District House.

Despite the enthusiasm inferred by a recent op-ed on resident adviser unionization, it should be noted that there is meaningful opposition within the RA community to unionize. My hope with this letter is to give voice to the concerns many RAs have with the unionization proposal as it stands.

I agree that unions can be effective organization structures in many scenarios. Unions add tremendous value when seeking to advance fair labor practices, advocate for job security and secure employment benefits, like pensions. However, these features do not readily apply to the temporary RA position.

After attending an information session on the union proposal, an impression is that the chief grievance of the RAs in the room is the notion that the yearly stipend of $2,500 per year was not enough to live on. This is absolutely true. In fact, it is customary for RAs, like me, to find another source of income through a part-time job or paid internship. The RA stipend has never been presented as a life-sustaining income. Many view it simply as a bonus to the primary form of compensation: free housing. When considering even the most conservative estimates of potential housing values an RA could receive – $10,530.00 per year – the compensation for the average 20 hour work week is not $3.12 per hour, as suggested, but typically more than $16.29 per hour. This is an incredibly competitive wage for a part-time student position.

I’d also like to draw attention to the specific labor union that is proposed to represent the RAs. Service Employees International Union 500 is the same labor union that represents adjunct faculty members at GW. Adjunct faculty members pay dues of around $28 per month, yet are in an arguably worse off position for it. Despite its unionization, GW adjuncts are paid notably less than the adjuncts at both Georgetown and American universities. Not only that, this union has limited GW’s ability to pay adjuncts different rates across disciplines or increase rates for performance or experience. Since GW is constrained in paying competitively for talent, the union has effectively limited the opportunity for adjuncts to receive competitive wages and perhaps decreased value of education received by GW students as a result. Why should RAs expect a better result?

While some RAs are under the impression that the union dues required to cover the expenses of their union representation would be less than $5 per paycheck, simple math suggests that this could be problematic. There are about 130 RAs, if dues are mandated as a condition of employment at $5 every two weeks, as suggested in the informational meeting, that amounts to about $13,000 for the entire 10-month academic year. It is highly improbable that union resources will be able to effectively renegotiate better terms in a contract with GW’s top lawyers for $13,000. One might expect that the union would seek to recover its expenses in some form from those it represents. Dues will likely be higher for relatively limited benefits in return.

Compensation aside, the most significant concern I have with this proposal is how it could fundamentally change the dynamic between RAs and their residents. By formally unionizing and recognizing RAs as statutory employees, the collective bargaining process will likely establish terms and conditions with respect to hours and practices that could place limitations on how RAs are allowed to support residents in a variety of situations. Anyone who has been or is friends with an RA knows how unpredictable the role is. Many RAs make sacrifices to maximize support for their residents at odd and inconsistent hours. Limiting the role to a defined punch-in, punch-out window would dramatically decrease the flexibility RAs would have to support their residents.

Although there are additional concerns that could be raised and discussed, the fact of the matter is it doesn’t make sense financially or objectively to unionize a temporary student position. It’s no secret the University is in tremendous debt: There are pay freezes and budget cuts across every department. Unionizing to increase RAs’ $16.29 per hour compensation will increase the total costs experienced by the University as a whole and in turn either increase the price of tuition or decrease the number of RA positions available in future years.

I have tremendous respect for my peers who have put forth the work to bring this proposal to the table. However, I hope we all take these points into consideration when making decisions that have implications well beyond the scope of our individual experiences. This is a significant decision and should not be taken lightly. Noting how it would be nearly impossible to reverse such a decision if adopted, it is my belief that every current RA has an obligation to participate in this process and become as informed as they possibly can prior to casting their ballots.

Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

This letter was written by a group of students in Students for Justice in Palestine.

On Nov. 15, students gathered for a walk-out and march in solidarity with communities targeted by President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. The protest was immensely successful in drawing in a large number of students who stood collectively against bigotry, hatred and discrimination in all forms. It represented the diversity of the GW student body and intended to create a space in which all students could have a voice.

Despite its purpose of solidarity, the walk-out catalyzed backlash in response to one student in particular who chose to represent her own heritage and marginalized identity by carrying a Palestinian flag. This prompted extreme criticism on a photograph posted by GW on their Facebook page which showed the flag and was captioned “No hate, no fear. Everyone is welcome here.” The flag also sparked a column by a Hatchet opinions writer titled, “Palestinian flag had no place at student walk-out.” We would like to clarify the facts regarding the Palestinian flag that was being carried at the protest.

The person carrying the flag was a Palestinian student representing her identity, which is threatened by President-elect Trump’s agenda. Not every Palestinian at GW is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, nor does every Palestinian agree with our mission, and it is incorrect to assume that a Palestinian flag is always directly associated with SJP. The Palestinian community – like every other marginalized community – has the right to express their identities in the aftermath of such a divisive election.

Denying this student’s right to carry her own flag at an event that called for solidarity would counteract the message of the protest: that the student body will not stand for suppression of the voices of marginalized communities. The claim that the presence of a Palestinian flag in the walk-out is divisive further marginalizes Palestinian students on campus who already fear discrimination. This is not the first time that a Palestinian identity has been suppressed on GW’s campus.

GW needs to support its Palestinian students in this time of uncertainty and hardship because the Trump Administration has already had a direct impact on Palestinians. On the Wednesday morning after Trump’s election win, the Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett stated that, “Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause.” This is a clear example of the inevitable harm and silencing of voices that Palestinians will experience under the Trump administration.

SJP recognizes the increase of violence and discrimination against the Jewish community because of the Trump administration, especially with the appointment of Steve Bannon. We stand in solidarity with the victims of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes that have increased since the election. As an organization, Students for Justice in Palestine stands against discrimination in any form, including but not limited to sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, classism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and bigotry.

Students for Justice in Palestine is proud to be a part of the GW community as we work together to combat the injustice that will be perpetuated by the Trump administration. We hope that our community will continue to be a space of diversity and solidarity where all identities are valued and respected.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 12:07 a.m.

Op-Ed: RA statement on organizing movement

This letter was written by a group of current and former resident advisers who are petitioning to unionize GW’s RAs.

To the community that we are honored to serve,

It is with great excitement for our future as Resident Advisers that we have filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election to form a bargaining unit to improve our position as student workers at the University. This is the culmination of over two years of organizing in our community. We take pride in our jobs, which allow us to help serve and improve our community, but we are disempowered through an ambiguously written contract that allows for arbitrary enforcement by our supervisors.

Through the process of filing for an election, we have been able to air our concerns about the nature of our current relationship with the Center for Student Engagement, and the way the ambiguities of our contract create real anxieties for us. In a meeting on Dec. 2, RAs expressed overwhelming concern for one another and for the lack of organizational support that has come to characterize the day to day reality of the job. Now we ask that you publicly hear these concerns and join us by adding your support to the power of our collective voice.

The nature of our contract leaves room for administrative interpretations that heighten anxieties over job security. The ambiguity of the simple four-page contract states that any violation of the text will result in “job action” being taken. With no standardized review or use of precedent, the vague nature of our contract leads to concern over a nuanced application of its power. In practice, many policies are not universally upheld. This creates further ambiguity for RAs to navigate. Moreover, the contract limits all outside commitments, including leadership positions in student organizations and outside jobs, to 10 hours per week. Many RAs take second jobs out of financial necessity, as the small stipend we receive in this role – which is not intended to sustain a D.C. student’s expenses — does not make ends meet. The existence of this policy, as well as the general ambiguities of the contract, makes us question whether or not our employer truly supports our well-being.

We acknowledge that RAs – and leaders, in general – must be flexible. However, the nature of our contract allows our employer to demand flexibility far beyond the scope of a typical student position. Furthermore, there is no semblance of equal pay for equal work. We agree with our employer that different populations require different engagement strategies, and that such support will inevitably translate into time commitments that vary across residence halls. For example, Resident Advisors in first-year communities are required to complete two cycles of one-on-one meetings with their residents each year. This translates to an additional 40-60 hours of work each year without additional compensation. RAs in upperclass communities are not subject to this requirement. All RAs, however, receive the same stipend that, when broken down over the 20 hours we contractually devote to the job, equates our pay to $3.12 an hour. This stipend is lower than the compensation that RAs at both American and Georgetown universities receive, though we all receive free housing. The only difference is that at GW, RAs are always on duty. In fact, there is no “off- duty” for a RA at GW. We are always, in every situation, in and outside our residence halls, on and off campus, at the discretion of our employer — an RA.


We seek to emulate the RA union that was formed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2002. It is not a construction of lawyers and third-party negotiators. Rather, it is a democratic organization of, for and by RAs to promote their well-being.Union representation at Amherst looks much like the executive board of a student organization, relying on elected resident advisers to represent the needs and demands of the collective. It will function much like a student organization, relying on elected resident advisors to represent the needs and demands of the collective. Relationships between both RAs and their residents, as well as RAs and their supervisors now thrive at Amherst, as student fears over arbitrary firings and the accumulation of uncompensated work were eliminated through the negotiation of a 22-page contract detailing their rights. We at GW have partnered with SEIU Local 500, the DMV-area affiliate of a national union that currently represents the part-time adjunct faculty at GW. They are supporting us in our petition to the NLRB and will work with us to negotiate next year’s contract.

We believe that the rhetoric used by the University speaks for itself. The Center for Student Engagement is currently disputing our status as employees of the University, despite our contractual label as such. On Friday night, Dean of Students Peter Konwerski referred to us as “students who are participating for a period of time in a program as part of their educational experience.” It is this very failure to recognize the value of the work we do to promote the physical, mental and emotional health of students as real work, that furthers our belief in our need to form a bargaining unit.

We, as RAs, have determined that in order to be able to fully empower the student body as we are committed to doing, we need to feel supported. This campaign is not in opposition to the CSE or its staff, as we genuinely believe that we have the same goal of connecting, supporting and empowering our community. We look forward to embracing our rights under federal law to democratically bargain with our employer. Ultimately, we look forward to coming to the table with the CSE to negotiate a contract that will allow us to continue to better the student experience.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Permalink
  • Comments