Past AU scandals in light of Penn State
by Jade Ryan
The sexual abuse scandal at Penn State continues to make national headlines, but Penn State isn’t the only university to fall victim to a major scandal.
As a matter of fact, American University has been home to two major scandals of its own over the last two decades.
In the spring of 1990, Virginia police began to investigate a series of obscene telephone calls sent to women advertising babysitting and childcare services. As the investigation went on, the calls were eventually traced back to the private university telephone line of then American University President, Richard Berendzen.
Berendzen eventually pled guilt to two misdemeanor charges of making obscene telephone calls from his office. He was sentenced to sixty days in jail but instead spent three and a half weeks at the sexual disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins University. Doctors there believed that his actions might have been a result of being sexually abused as a child.
He was re-hired as a professor in the Physics Department at AU just three years later, in 1993. He retired 5 years ago and was granted Professor Emeritus status, the same status that Jerry Sandusky was given after retiring from the Penn State football program.
A professor Emeritus status often gives professors continued privileges after retirement. This was how Sandusky was able to keep an office and have continual access to the locker rooms and the rest of campus and Penn State after he retired.
In dealing with any situation with a scandal involved, effective PR and communication is necessary to help handle the problem. Strategic Communications professor Lenny Steinhorn said, “I think AU had some damage control and some reputation repair to build on,” following the Berendzen scandal.
A more recent scandal in AU’s past occurred in 2005, when Benjamin Ladner was forced to resign as AU president. An anonymous letter sent to the board of trustee’s Executive Committee claimed that Ladner had been mis-spending university on personal expenses, such as a personal chef, expensive vacations, and family parties. The scandal lasted for many months and resulted in Ladner receiving a settlement of $950,000 and a compensation package including a life insurance policy close to $1 million and $1.75 million from retirement accounts, according to The Eagle.
“I think AU allowed a little bit of crisis creep to get in, so the story became about AU for far too long rather than the action to deal with it” said Steinhorn.
But Steinhorn believes that the University has successfully recovered from its scandalous past, as the scandals are rarely the first thing associated with American University anymore.
Population shift: young people are moving to Washington
by Laura Olson
Young adults are flocking to Washington, DC to find work. According to the US Census Bureau, people between the ages of 25 and 34 are moving to Washington area at the sixth highest rate in the nation. More than 7,000 young adults moved to DC and its suburbs in Maryland and Virginia in each of the last three years.
Back in 2006, the DC-Metropolitan area was losing young adults at a rate of nearly 8,000 per year. What changed? The recession made it harder than ever for college grads to find work. Many college students think of DC as a city of opportunity.
Unlike much of the nation, DC is hiring. In Tenleytown, new businesses including Panera Bread and Public Bar are hiring college students. Internship opportunities are everywhere. Government agencies and endless non-profits are based in or have hubs in the nation’s capital.
Young people are also learning that DC is a pretty cool place to live. Being in nation’s capital definitely has its advantages. Monuments, museums, festivals, concerts, the list can go on. The political action in this city doesn’t stop. The Brookings Institute says that young people are attracted to cities that are “known to have a certain vibe—college towns, high-tech centers, and so-called “cool cities.” Also, the institute says the cities attracting young people today are “places where young people can feel connected and have attachments to colleges or universities among highly educated residents.”
American University’s Career Center helps students prepare for the job search. Career Advisor Jennifer Carignan says the federal government sparks all industries in Washington. She says DC has been spared from most of the effects of the recession. Young adults see this and want to live closer to opportunity.
Samantha Basham is a senior at American University. She transferred from University of Mary Washington so she could be closer to Washington’s opportunities. Since going to AU, Samantha has had two internships with National Geographic and hopes to land a job after graduation.
Madeline Shattow is another success story.She interns at a local DC non-profit that offered her a full time position when she graduates in May. She is considering staying in DC and told me why
Turnitin.com finds more students using bad sources in papers.
A new analysis by anti-plagiarism website Turnitin.com found more college students rely more on social networking and content-sharing sites than they used to. The study also found more college students rely on paper mills and cheat sites for their papers.
Wikipedia was the most popular site for borrowed content at 11 percent followed by Yahoo! Answers, Sildeshare and Answers.com that were all around four percent.
The study followed a recent Pew Poll, which said 55 percent of college presidents are concerned about plagiarism increasing on campuses.
The study looked at 128 million content matched from 33 million papers. It found that College students are six percent more likely to use a cheat site or paper mill.
American University Literature professor Jona Colson said he thinks Wikipedia can be a good starting off point for a paper but should not be considered a scholarly source. Colson also said he saw a documentary on the creation of Wikipedia and it makes him more wary of the reliability of the site.
Turnitin recommends professors create plagiarism proof assignments , help students understand proper citation, and use originality checking in a formative manner.
American University librarians are available for students to find reliable sources and can assist in teaching proper use of citation.
New Anti-Bully Laws Causes Controversy
by Faith Sagaille
A new anti-bullying legislation approved by the Michigan Senate last week is said to be pro-bullying. The new law called Matt’s Safe School Law states that “it does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction.” This means an individual can make a claim against someone based on religious grounds. The law was named aftr, Matt Epling, a 14 year-old who committed suicide after constant bullying at school. The father, Kevin Epling, has denounced the law because he said it would allow bullying to continue.
In an article written by Valerie Strauss for Washington Post, the state Senate passed the law with 26 Republican votes against 11 Democratic votes and now advances to the lower house, includes language that permits student or school worker to make statements held in strong believes. The current clause has caused controversy among activists.
They believe the new provision gives bullies permission to continue to bully students including those who are gay. This also may prevent people from intervene when they witness bullying. Epling, has posted on the his personal Youtube channel denouncing the new law.
The new law has raised questions about anti-bullying provisions across the country. 47 of US states already have anti-bullying laws, however, Michigan, Montana and North Dakota plus Washington, DC do not have anti-bullying legislation. The D.C. Council is now seeking to ban harassment and intimidation in public places in hopes to create no-bullying zones.
The debate for the D.C Council is divided in two sides. Some believe that the council should provide the appropriate regulatory atmosphere to help protect public school from bully. This includes the physical, emotional, verbal abuses of bullying. On the other side, the National Coalition Against Censorship said, “the well-intentioned bill threatens constitutionally protected student speech and expresses strong concerns about imposing unconstitutional speech restrictions on members of the public outside of school.”
Dr. Lynn Bergfalk, director at CityGate, does community work and urban ministry for many years. As President and Executive Director, City Gate quickly developed a multi-faceted program of education and community-building at a variety of sites throughout the city. He believes it is up to parents, teachers and after-school programs to raise awareness on bullying.
Missing Laptops in Anderson Hall Dorm Rooms
by Rachel Bae
Anderson Hall residents are on the lookout for a burglar who sneaks in to people’s unlocked rooms at night and steals laptops. There has been an unusually high rate of reports regarding missing laptops this semester. Anderson Hall RA Sarah Messenger was on duty at the front desk of Anderson when a resident told her Saturday morning their laptop was missing. The victim’s room was unlocked overnight while they were asleep and found out the next morning someone sneaked in and took their laptop.
Students are receiving e-mails from their RA’s about the recent burglaries and warning them to keep their doors locked at all times. Kyle Hugo, an Anderson Hall resident tells us more about the e-mail.
Students who work for housing and dining are doing their best to keep on-campus living safe and respectful. Not only do they send out newsletters, RHA also holds council meetings for students to share their thoughts on how to improve campus life. RHA council member Allison Swietek says the robber is targeting Freshman because they are known to keep their doors unlocked.
To avoid future burglaries, residents should keep their doors locked at all times and report any strange or odd behavior.
Tenley Campus Receives Historic Status in advance of Renovation
by Zach Drescher
A neighborhood group is working to preserve American University’s Tenley Campus as a historic site.
The University is working with the Tenleytown Historical Society to keep the historical landmarks maintained, while the campus is remodeled. AU is working on plans to demolish some of Tenley Campus and make it the new home of the Washington College of Law.
Three buildings on Tenley Circle have been given the status of historic landmark by the DC Historical Preservation Board. Capitol Hall, which faces the circle and Wisconsin Ave., and the connected chapel, were built in 1904 and used to be an all-girls Catholic high school. The Dunblane house behind the Tenley soccer field was built just after the War of 1812, and served as a country home for a series of wealthy Georgetown residents.
The Office of the University Architect is facing serious concerns from area residents about increases in automobile and pedestrian traffic.They say the area is already too crowded, and streets are constantly gridlocked. Neighbors are voicing similar concerns about AU’s plan to build on the Nebraska Ave. parking lot.
The Washington College of Law is currently located on Massachusetts Ave., about two blocks north of main campus. AU is expanding its law school to 3,000 students, and the current facilities cannot contain that much growth.
Chang.org petitions Facebook over sexually-violent pages
By Rachel Annamarie DeMita
Facebook users are expressing their outrage over sexually violent pages on the site. Some of these pages have titles like, “Kicking Sluts in the Vagina,” “I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap,” and “Abducting, raping and violently murdering your friend, as a joke.”
Change.org started a petition that urges Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to remove all pages that celebrate and encourage rape and sexual assault. The Change.org petition states: “Facebook could and should do more to stop them (the violent pages) from popping up in the first place and to swiftly remove those that do exist.” In two months, the petition has over 187 thousand signatures. A Twitter feed, titled #NotFunnyFacebook, has also been created to protest these pages.
The petition demands Facebook make three changes to their current system. Firstly, that Facebook clarify that pages that “encourage or condone rape are in violation of standards.” Secondly, that Facebook makes a statement that pages which describe sexual violence will be taken down immediately and thirdly, that Facebook include specific language in their Terms of Service that make these violations clear.
Facebook’s current Terms of Service prohibit content that is “hateful, threatening,” or contains “graphic or gratuitous violence” and Facebook users are banned from posting content that aims to “bully, intimidate, or harass” any other users.
Student organizations at American University take a strong stance on women’s rights issues, and use social networking as a tool for empowerment. An AU undergraduate, Liz Morris works for Student Government and often works with Women’s Initiative and Women’s Empowerment. She says that these student groups often advocate against non-violence and sexual abuse.
Director of Student Conduct, Rosie McSweeney said that American University supports free speech, but hate speech is not tolerated. Any complaint from a student or faculty member on regards to bullying or any hate speech is closely examined.
On Monday zdnet.com reported that Facebook is responding to the protest by taking down the violent pages. Zdnet.com however, is the only media outlet that has said Facebook will take action.
The next step in the fight against hate-speech on the web will be to continue monitoring and enforcing specific policies, whether it is on Facebook or any other public website.
Countdown to Election 2012
By Emily E. Roseman
The 2012 presidential election is quickly looming upon us as candidates from both sides are preparing for battle. What is shaping up to be a very competitive race… the presidential election is now one year out.
Up until this point in the election race, the Republican candidates have left a somewhat unsettled feeling in the eyes of the media, but also with potential voters, leaving President Barack Obama as well as the rest of the country to only guess who the possible opponent will be come next year.
With continual media attention as well as a pressure-cooker atmosphere dawning over the entire GOP candidate camp, it is certain that the Republican candidates can now only look towards the primaries as their only means of making a true race towards the finish line. Political analysts however find that this year’s election will be markedly different from the 2008 race, playing out amide widespread economic anxiety and heightened public resentment of government and politicians alike.
Professor Chris Simpson of The School of Communication compared the race at this point in time on the GOP side as a horse race, citing the attempts many candidates make at this point are based on “non-issues,” due to scare tactics in trying to lure in potential voters.
Similarly, Professor Lucy Gettman of the School of Public Affairs, felt that with no true female candidate to stand behind in this year’s election, although Michelle Bachman holding up the female end of the bargain, she finds that candidates should, and in fact, must find a way to incorporate women’s issues into modern day politics in order to preserve the GOP’s position in this year’s election.
Many voters are curious just how the race will play out with looking ahead to the New Hampshire Primaries as our first true insight into the dog-eat-dog atmosphere that lays the landscape for the remainder of the political calendar. However, looking back on past elections could provide better insight, than guessing what is ahead.
Compared to the 2008 race which brought forth a more sense of drama to the political game with Obama’s grassroots, youth vote, and inspiring campaign that fed the masses versus the up and down inconsistency of the McCain- Palin campaign, voters this coming election will more likely see a highly partisan debate. Key states on the trail to the final polls will play a major factor as well, bringing home features of past races like the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections.
AU Gears Up for Halloween
By Faith Sagaille
Halloween is a one-day event where people have the opportunity to dress in costume and munch on free candy. American University decided to take advantage of this holiday and use it to connect with the students.
The School of Communications started the day with the SOC trick-or-treat event. Students had a chance going to the doors of SOC professors for candy. Senior advisor Jill Heitzmann saw this as a great opportunity for students and faculty to network further in a more exciting way. The SOC Student Ambassador team hosted the trick-or-treat event and it lasted throughout the day for anyone who wanted to stop by. Students were given list of participating professors and staff that were available in the SOC advising room on Monday. It included names of participants, office room numbers, and the hours they will be handing out candy. Professor Menke-Fish was one of the participating professors. She said she was happy to do the event and saw this as a great way to get to know students outside of the class.
Another Halloween event for the day was the Trick-or-Treat at the Embassies. The event began at 11 a.m. where Carlos Vera, the director of SIS programming, handed out maps to the participating Embassies for students to visit. This event was launched by SIS Undergraduate Student Council. Students came in full costume to meet in front of the SIS building for maps and prizes for the route. AU students had the opportunity to go as a group or head together with the club. Also for the event a prize was available. Students who felt they had the best costume to take a photo in the standing in front of any embassy building and tag SIS Undergraduate Council in the photo. The student with the best costume would win $25 Davenport Lounge gift card.
The last event at AU to round out the Halloween festivities was the First Annual Pumpkin Patch. Liz Richards, Vice President of Student Government, coordinated the event to raise awareness. Students had the opportunity to purchase pumpkins for decorations outside of the quad until 5 p.m on Monday. Richard said all proceeds for pumpkin purchases will go to the Susan G. Koman foundation for the cure for cancer. She said it was a way for students to celebrate Halloween when away from home while increase efforts to raise awareness for breast cancer on the last day of October.
Halloween: Where did it come from?
By Jade Ryan
Halloween. A time of costume wearing and trick or treating, scary movie marathons and pumpkin carving.
But where did the traditions associated with this popular American holiday come from?
Halloween’s origins lie in the coming together of various holidays, cultures, and traditions spanning over two thousand years and beginning with the Celts living in what is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France. The Celtic festival Samhain celebrated the new year of the Celtic people, starting November 1st.
“In October, the leaves were falling and they [the Celts] felt like there was a death that was coming upon the world,” said Dorian Belmonte, former Director of Religious Education at St. Ann’s. “They thought that at this time there was a window open on October 31st, when the souls that had been done wrong in their life could come back and seek revenge.”
Samhain traditions spread throughout Europe over time, being adopted and changed with each new European super power, specifically the Romans. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church decided to put their own spin on the traditionally pagan holiday.
“They want[ed] to reshape what they already [had] into something Christian, into something more beautiful,” said Belmonte. “Instead of making this a day of fear, [they would] make this a day of joy. They would call this day all hollows’ eve, hallow meaning holy.”
When the Americas were discovered in the late 15the century, many Europeans brought their cultural and religious traditions with them. It was the meshing of these traditions that created the Halloween known in America today.
Trick-or-treating arose out of two different English traditions. The first dealt with the distribution of soul cakes to the poor during the All Souls Day parade, in which the wealthy would exchange the cakes in exchange for prayers for their loved ones. The second dealt with people dressing in costume and going door to door, seeking money and food.
Costumes were also worn in order to ward off evil spirits. Many believed that when the sacred portal between the living and the dead opened, spirits would seek out specific individuals. People wore costumes under the assumption that a ghost would not be able to tell who the person really was behind the mask, and would mistake them for a fellow revenge-seeking spirit. Scary faces carved into various vegetables (pumpkins were not indigenous to Europe) were also used to ward off spirits.
GOP Race to 2012
By Laura Olson
On Sunday evening, Politico reported that two women were accusing Republican forerunner Herman Cain of sexual harassment. The complaints dated back from the 1990s, when Cain was in the National Restaurant Association. Politico withheld the names of the women to protect their privacy.
When a Politico reporter approached Cain with the question, he refused to comment. On the fourth attempt, Cain replied “have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?” never denying nor confirming the accusation. Cain’s campaign manager, Mark Block steadily denied the incidence. On Monday morning, Cain said on Fox News that he never sexually harassed anyone and the National Restaurant Association had falsely accused him on a baseless complaint.
What does this mean for the Republican primary field?
According to a Quinnipiac University poll taken from October 25-31, Herman Cain was leading the field with 30 percent of the Republican vote, with Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at 23 percent. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who used to be one of the Republican’s top candidates early in the race, only scored 8 percent of the vote this week.
The GOP race so far has been a roller coaster, with a new “flavor-of-the-week” as candidates are constantly scrutinized and different candidates lead polls every few weeks. Mitt Romney’s poll ranking have consistently been at or near the top but now some Republican voters accuse him of “flip-flopping” on issues such as abortion.
Rick Perry’s poor debate performance has him reconsidering his campaign strategy. After saying he would not participate in the five scheduled GOP debates in November, he reconsidered the situation. ABC News confirmed on October 29 that he will participate in these debates.
American University Communications Professor Dotty Lynch says the conservative and Tea Party Republicans are leaning toward Herman Cain as an alternative to Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But she is not sure that Herman Cain will maintain his lead. AU School of Public Affairs Assistant Professor Matthew Wright says this kind of news is typical for primary elections and will not have much of an effect in the long run.
Hacking Facebook for Financial Gain
By Rachel Bae
Facebook has released an estimate number of hackers attacking the site each day. Up to 600,000 activities involved with hacking on Facebook occurs on a daily basis. This is the first time Facebook has released figures related to hacking activity.
When hackers have access to Facebook accounts, they have full control over the account. They have the ability to post images, send messages and access all personal information from the site.
Facebook is not the only site facing security threats. Other social media sites such as Twitter is attacked each day. American University’s Director of Information Security Eric Weakland describes what hackers tend to target.
“Where the valuable data is, is where you’ll see attackers go,” Weakland said. ” It’s about what can attackers do to get valuable things or valuable resources.”
When hackers have full control over the account, they approach the opportunity in numerous ways. In extreme cases, hackers have sent messages to the account’s friends and asked them to lend out money through wire transfers.
Young adults who grew up with social networking sites understand the importance of not posting valuable information online. Zoey Edwards, a student at American University is familiar with Facebook’s vulnerability to hacking, and focuses her attention on what people can see on her Facebook page. Edwards takes that extra step to keep her Facebook private.
“I make sure to check the privacy settings like tag every periodically because apparently Facebook changes things without telling everyone,” Zoey said. “So whenever I hear of that happening I go back and still like the way that I want it.”
While students avoid posting too much valuable information online by controlling who can and can not see it, Weakland advises Internet users to have different passwords for every site.
“A lot of users use the same password on social networking sites or other sites that they do for their AU accounts and data and unfortunately that’s a bad practice,” Weakland said. “You want to try and use the different passwords for the different systems.”
By not posting valuable information online and using multiple passwords for each site, the number of hackers attacking Facebook pages every day may be decreased.
With Early Classes, Students Trade Sleeping in for More Class Options
By Sarah Parnass
Monday marked the first day to register for classes at American University for the spring of 2012, and some students discovered they will be getting up early next semester.
This will be the second term that American University has offered classes as early as 7:30 a.m. Phyllis Peres, the vice provost and interim dean for Academic Affairs announced these changes to class times in November 2010. Prior to this fall, the earliest class started at 8:30 a.m.
Director of AU Central Jonnel Clothier said the registrar altered the schedule in order to reflect students’ needs.
“I think one of the reasons was to find more classroom space that was available,” Clothier said. “So opening up that extra block gave another opportunity for additional courses to be offered.”
Graduate students and students completing internships also benefit from the earlier classes, because they can work their schedules around the time they need to spend off campus, according to Clothier.
Professor Sarah Menke-Fish contributed to the team that deliberated over the changes to the schedule of classes last fall. Though Menke-Fish comes to class energized each morning, she said her students often are less engaged.
“They have a tendency to not want to talk in the morning, and so I try to do an ice breaker, a wave of engaging them to get them speaking first thing in the morning.”
Menke-Fish also brings in breakfast for her morning classes on occasion. She said some students would come to class with coffee to cope with the early activities.
For journalism student Nadzeya Batson coffee is an essential part of her morning.
“I have two, three cups of coffee in the morning at home, and then when I get to school, probably every break that I have I go downstairs and get a cup of coffee,” Batson said, chuckling.
But even Batson said she would prefer a morning class to one that met at 6 p.m.
“Well, it kind of sucks because we have to wake up really early to come in time and to get here, but it really helps people to organize their day, and to get, well, things done.”
The only classes currently offered at 7:30 a.m. are in the Health and Fitness and Theater departments.
Implementation of HIV Screenings Might Depend on Media
By Nicki DeMarco
HIV’s tight grasp on American health is not loosening. More than 1.1 million Americans are infected with HIV and 55,000 of them are between the ages 13 and 24. This brings into question who is getting tested for the virus and how seriously the issue is perceived. The American Academy of Pediatrics has broadened its stance on the issue on Monday, saying all sexually active teens should be screened for HIV, and all people over the age of 16 should be tested in areas with higher rates of infection.
“Forty-eight percent of the youth who are infected don’t know they are infected,” said Dr. Jaime Martinez of the University of Illinois in Chicago, who helped write the statement published in the journal Pediatrics.
“It’s important to realize that those who don’t know they are infected drive the epidemic,” he said.
The success of the group’s strong advice will depend in part on the media, according to American University professor Declan Fahy.
“The media have a valuable role here in broadening the conversation and facilitating a wider conversation among the public and between the organizations that are advocating for this wider testing,” says Fahy, who teaches a course on health reporting. However, Fahy also says that the outcome of their platform will greatly depend on the determined target audience.
“What you [doctors and media] really want to do is carefully decide who you are communicating with–which groups in particular you want to reach. Are you communicating with particular at-risk groups? Are you communicating with parents, with the teenagers themselves, with teachers…” Fahy asks.
Today, many doctors only offer testing to patients they deem at risk, such as prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexual men. But since 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged everybody older than 13 to get an HIV test regardless of risk factors in areas with many undiagnosed cases.
Fahy adds that the narrative of HIV and AIDS in the media has changed over the years to become more sensitive and informative. AU Senior Theresa Delgado says she that while she believes there is more information available about HIV today, all teens should still be encouraged to be screened.
“If there is an increase in young adults getting HIV and AIDS, they should be getting tested… to be honest, I don’t think they would go get tested themselves,” she says.
Pulling troops from Iraq causes concern for conflict with Iran
By Rachel Annamarie DeMita
President Obama announced last week that the remaining 40,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year. The president is pulling troops because the White House did not reach an agreement with the Iraqi government on keeping a small U.S. force team behind for training Iraqi security forces.
Obama’s announcement is causing controversy, as some politicians think that pulling all troops will lead to more violence in Iraq. People opposed to the president’s decision are concerned that pulling U.S. forces will spark another Iraq–Iran conflict. The opposing party is arguing that keeping some U.S. troops in Iraq will help prevent a resurgence of violence and will help resist Iranian influence.
Two days after the president’s announcement, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton addressed concerns in a series of TV news interviews. Clinton said that the United States will continue training with Iraq and resemble training in Columbia and elsewhere. She also said that although the United States will not have combat troops in Iraq, the American presence will remain strong because of its bases in the region.
Clinton told CNN, “No one, most particularly Iran should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward.”
In response to Clinton’s remarks, American University adjunct professor and freelance journalist, Frank Smyth, shared his analysis. He said that Clinton may have made this announcement because of political reasons in the domestic upcoming presidential campaign.
Smyth does not think that removing troops will spark violence with Iran, but instead it will force Iraq to settle disputes without any foreign influence from the United States.
“There’s an argument to be made, and many have made it,” said Smyth, “that by withdrawing American combat troops from Iraq removes one of the reasons for the violence; one of the catalysts for violence in Iraq that has been there for the past eight years.”
The Dec. 31 deadline for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq was originally planned by former President George W. Bush.
Montgomery County to Implement Bag Tax
By Tiana Hakimzadeh
Montgomery County is imposing a tax on all carryout plastic and paper bags from retail establishments across the county starting January 1, 2012. They are imposing this five cent tax to decrease the use of plastic bags and increase the use of reusable bags. This increase is very similar to the same move the District of Columbia made last year.
The International Association for Food Protection released a new study in their Food Protection Trends magazine about a study they conducted to assess the potential for cross-contamination of food products by reusable bags used to carry groceries.
The study tested eighty-seven reusable bags taken from random shoppers. The results show that eight percent of these bags contained E Coli as well as other potentially harmful food borne bacteria. It was found that reusable bags are rarely washed and often used for multiple purposes. The results of the study indicate that reusable bags, if not properly washed on a regular basis, cross-contaminate the foods placed in them.
The study suggests that putting a reusable bag through the wash can eliminate almost one hundred percent of the bacteria. Only three percent of the shoppers who were surveyed actually washed their reusable bags between uses. Other precautions shoppers can take are simply separating raw meats from fruits and vegetables to avoid cross contamination. Shoppers can also make sure they don’t store their reusable bags in car trunks where high temperature can increase bacteria growth.
This new tax is being implemented to shift the burden of litter clean up costs from public taxpayers, to consumers who now have a choice to avoid the give cent tax. Another reason is the county is trying to reduce pollution in streams that flow into the Potomac River because plastic bags are a major component of litter and trash on county streets and streams. This ultimately contaminates the county’s source of drinking water.
The five cent tax is deposited into the Water Quality Protection Charge fund. This fund is used for storm water management as well as implementation of trash-control regulatory requirements. The retail establishments effected will receive one cent of the tax back.
The county is planning on educating the public about the bag tax by providing information on big shopping days like black Friday, which they are now referring to “Green Friday”. More information about potential bacterial growth in the bags as well as information on the bag tax legislation can be found on the county’s website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov.
Three Year Construction Plan Limits Bethesda Row Public Parking
By Kayla Fenner
Two of the main public parking lots located near Bethesda Row will be under construction for the next three years. The construction will begin in January and will eliminate more than 300 parking spaces. Shoppers and frequent visitors are concerned about finding parking and the temporary change of scenery during the construction.
The two lots are located at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenue, right at the entrance of Bethesda Row. Construction will also occur on the far block of Woodmont Avenue for at least 20 months. Construction on this alternate route into Bethesda row is likely to back-up traffic at the entrance and congest traffic on Wisconsin Avenue. The entrance to the Capital Crescent Trail will also be moved farther to the east, temporarily. The path will remain open, but it will have a shielded walkway for bikers and runners.
The plans for the construction include two high-rise buildings and an underground parking garage. The high rise on the southwest corner will be five stories with 162 residential units , and the southeast corner building will be nine stories with 88 residential units. Both buildings will have retail stores on the ground floor and underground parking. Developers and county officials say that the net result will be about 600 additional public parking spaces and more high-rise living. They believe that these changes should create a more vibrant “downtown” feel.
But despite the positive advantages, many current shoppers and people that work in the area are worried about the problems they will face during the next three years. Frequent Bethesda Row visitor and shopper Liz Norton, says that she thinks the construction and lack of parking will hurt businesses in the area. But for other visitors the construction will not affect their shopping habits. “I live within walking distant, so it’s just easier to walk down here. The construction really won’t affect my decision to come shop and hang out in the area,” says local Bethesda resident, Emily Young.
In order to create more parking for visitors during the construction, long term parking spaces will temporarily be replaced with short term meters. County officials are encouraging all day workers to utilize the farther public parking garages and commute into the row with the Bethesda Circulator shuttle bus.
Unfortunately, shoppers, diners, and workers are going to have to deal with the temporary inconvenience of the construction, in order to receive the overall benefit of the new parking garage and structures in the future.
Student Loans Reach $1 Trillion Mark This Year
By Emily E. Roseman
Students are now working harder than ever this year, but not on their school work. This year for the first time, total student loans will exceed $1 trillion, and the amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans now owe more to student loans than on their credit card bills. The unbearable amount of loans that students must pay back not only creates a burden for the already hard economy, but also potentially puts students at a disadvantage for young people looking for jobs and trying to start careers or families just out of college.
The College Board reports that students are now borrowing twice what they did a decade ago, after adjusting for inflation. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the past five years, which can end up delaying many of the life cycle events that post-graduating students want to participate in. Students can find expect difficulty when buying a car, a home, getting married, or having kids if they carry on their college debt into their future post grad lives.
But students looking to find some relief in with debt perhaps can’t even look to the political sphere for aid. This year lone the political candidates have either avoided the issue altogether, or suggested such dyer plans like Ron Paul this past weekend, as cutting the Student Loan program altogether. In any case, the student loans issue will present to be an problem that all Americans must face in the coming year.
GW Dorm Intruder Exposes Flaws in Security
By Zach Drescher
The dorm security at George Washington University is under scrutiny in the wake of an attempted burglary last week.
Mergen Battugla has been formally arrested today, after getting into an altercation with police officers in the West End apartment building. He was taken into custody early Friday morning, after entering a female student’s room. Police officers found Battugla scuffling with male students.
The break-in emphasized the lack of security at many of GWU’s residence halls. While most traditional dorms have a front desk, where an R.A. or police officer can check ID’s, many upperclassmen apartment buildings rely solely on a key card for entry. Battugla reportedly waited outside the building until another student opened the door, then snuck in behind him or her. This practice is known as “piggybacking.”
Across town, at American University, dorms are under tighter security. Resident Assistants are stationed at front desks in every dorm building 24 hours a day. After using student ID’s to swipe into the building, students must show their ID picture to the R.A. on duty.
Over the summer, the University installed another layer of security in McDowell Hall. Now, students must swipe a second time to enter the stairwell or use the elevator.
Occupy DC: Week Three
By: Laura Olson
The Occupy Wall Street protest has moved far from Wall Street itself. In Washington, DC, the movement organized on October 1 and the protestors seem to be there to stay.
Camped out in tents in McPherson Square, the DC protestors are quieter than their Wall Street counterpart, but their mission is the same. End corporate greed. End political, financial and social inequality. Fix the current economic system. The movement does not have any official demand or goals or an official spokesperson. It is purely a grassroots movement.
In DC, the community mostly supports the Occupy protestors. Volunteers donate food, water and medical supplies. They even have a makeshift “cafeteria” and a medical tent set up. The biggest concerns so far are concerning the grass…the city laid sod on McPherson Square earlier this year and the tents and activity on the lawn are ruining it. If so, the National Park Service may have to repeat the $200,000 grass project.
Unlike in other cities, the police in Washington, DC have mostly turned a blind eye to the peaceful protest. They are allowing the protestors to continue unless they directly cause problems.
On October 16, Cornel West, a professor at Princeton University, and 18 other protestors were arrested outside the Supreme Court. It is illegal to hold signs outside the Supreme Court building, and West’s was holding one that read “Poverty is the Greatest Violence of All.” He stayed in jail overnight but prosecutors decided not to press charges. He was arrested again in New York City will protesting with the Occupy Wall Street Movement on October 24.
Police action seems insignificant here compared to the number of arrests in New York City, Chicago, and throughout the United States. In Italy, police used tear gas used to settle protestors in Rome.
According to one Occupy DC protestor, the DC police have “been very gracious with looking the other way” and allowing the tent city to continue and grow. A visitor from New York thinks that the DC movement is “just waking up” in comparison the New York “circus.”
iPhone 4S: the BlackBerry killer?
By: Nick Pisano
Apple’s new iPhone 4S broke records in sales, while BlackBerry users worldwide suffered from data outages. But will the 4S really make BlackBerry users make the switch?
Apple announced on Monday that more than 4 million of the new model had been sold, a record for phones and more than double the opening weekend sales of the iPhone 4. 25 million iPhone 4 users also upgraded to the new operating system iOS 5, which was released with the 4S.
The upgraded version of Apple’s previous iPhone 4, the 4S included several upgrades including a faster processor, better camera, and a longer lasting battery. One of the most notable additions to the new phone was the virtual assistant “Siri”. Siri allows users to make calls, set appointments, and search the internet by voice command.
The release came at a difficult time for BlackBerry. Server interruptions at parent company Research in Motion’s Canadian headquarters triggered outages that spread from the Middle East and Europe all the way to North America. The outage lasted for several days, preventing BlackBerry users from using data or internet services. Research in Motion offered effected users up to $100 in free apps as an apology for the service problems.
But would the problems with BlackBerry and the upgraded iPhone make users switch? The 4S brings one thing that had been missing from previous models: more availability. The 4S will be available on AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. The 4S is the first Apple phone to be available on Sprint’s network. The Wall Street Journal reported the carrier had committed $20 billion to Apple in order to bring the phone to the network.
As well, the phone’s fast processing speed (double that of the iPhone 4) makes it the fastest smartphone on the market. It relies on the new A5 dual core chip, designed by Apple specially for the 4S.
Zachary Prichard, manager of the computer labs for the School of Communication at American university doesn’t think these changes will be enough. “I think people, for the most part, know what phones they want. They’re already willing to change, and while I think new features on the iPhone make it more attractive, if you’re a straight up BlackBerry user, you’re probably going to still stick with BlackBerry”.
It remains to be seen whether the 4S will be the thing that ends the reign of the original smartphone.
Washington Metro Invests in Improvements.
By: Juliegrace Brufke
The Washington metro system is receiving five billion dollars to improve its quickly deteriorating system over the next six years.
Many frequent metro riders say they are fed up with the constant escalator outages, delays and outages.
DC resident Marko Zlatich said he things the investment is necessary . ” I am a big fan of metro but I’m afraid its deterioration is at such an extreme degree that really requires a lot of work,” said Zlatich.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers five billion won’t be enough to cover the damages which are the result of years of neglect. Civil engineers have also said that the costs of repairs will increase if the problem isn’t addressed properly in the near future.
The Department of Transportation said more money spent on the system is currently not in the budget
Metro riders saw the extent of the damages first hand on Oct. 14 when a track fire broke out near the Union Station stop. Passengers were evacuated and delays persisted throughout the day.
Frequent metro rider Sarah Feliciano said the incident scares her and she hopes that never happens while she is on the train. Feliciano also said she relies on the metro as her primary source of transportation and riding it in unavoidable.
For more information on repairs, delays and future metro plans go to http://www.WMATA.com.
Bittersweet Weekend for AU’s GLBTA Community
by Nicki DeMarco
The infamous “Spock” came out this weekend. Star Treck actor Zachary Quinto announced he is gay on Sunday, igniting pride and excitement for supporters. However, the news came in less than perfect circumstances.
Quinto came out on his personal website, saying his actions are in response to the suicide a 14-year-old boy who killed himself after years of being bullied for his sexuality. Jamey Rodemeyer was found dead September 18 outside his home in Buffalo, New York, and his suicide has left Quinto in “deep despair.”
“In light of Jamey’s death, it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality,” Quinto posted. Just a few months prior to the suicide, Rodemeyer had posted a video for the “It Gets Better” project, aimed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth who experience bullying. His death has inspired not just Quinto, but singers like Lady Gaga who dedicated a song to him at a recent concert.
“While his death only makes me wish that I had done this sooner, I am eternally grateful to him for being the catalyst for change within me. Now I can only hope to serve as the same catalyst for even one person in this world,” Quinto wrote.
At American University, the GLBTA community is reflecting on the weekend’s events. Matthew Bruno, Program Coordinator for the GLBTA Resource Center, says events like Rodemeyer’s death never fail to surprise him.
“Why is this still happening?” Bruno asks. “For some reason, it always takes me aback.”
AU’s GLBTA Center works to ensure that GLBT students do feel safe, and has resources available if a student is bullied. “We have contacts within the Metropolitan Police Department within their Gay and Lesbian Lesion Unit,” says Bruno. “We can also be the mediary between the student and maybe a Resident Director, and get them in contact with them if the student doesn’t feel comfortable going to their RA.”
The resource center has helped students like Matthew Stewart, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, who started working in the GLBTA office as a freshman. “My experiences in high school with being very, very discriminated against and feeling like a total outcast really led me to look for resources here at AU,” says Stewart.
As advocates for the GLBT community at AU, the center also offers programming, workshops, one-on-one advising, and services to raise awareness on campus about GLBT issues. The resource center has started the Safe Space Sticker program, Rainbow Speakers Bureau, and other programs to help with their cause and create supportive environments for students and staff.
“The resource center is definitely in a position to make effective changes on campus… we do that with a lot of programs that we offer,” says Stewart.
AU Debuts New WONK Television Commercial
by Jade Ryan
The American University Communications and Marketing brand team is breathing some life into the WONK posters that dot DC-area metro stations and bus stops this fall, literally.
Starting Sunday, October 16th, a 30-second television spot titled “All the Wonks are Talking” began airing during the commercial breaks during political television programs including Meet the Press, Face the Nation, CBS Sunday Morning, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show throughout the mid-Atlantic region. In the TV spot, the current ads seen throughout DC come to life, as the academic WONK drops books from his poster in a metro station and the arts WONK begins belting out opera from the side of AU’s Katzen Arts center.
“It’s not your typical lab coat and beaker kind of spot,” said Deborah Wiltrout, Assistant Vice President of Marketing. “We wanted to make sure that we cut through the clutter…it catches people’s attention.”
“I think it’s also kind of clever that the commercial is about the ad campaign,” said former brand team member at AU Graduate Josh Kaplan. “After you see that commercial you can’t miss the rest of the ads that are around the city”
The commercial features a cast and crew entirely made up of AU students, alumni, faculty, and staff and was directed by Matt Fredericks. Bringing the posters to life was a long process. The first scene of the ad took over 250 hours to produce from start to finish.
However, students at AU have mixed emotions about the television ad, as the WONK campaign itself has been a controversial topic since it debuted in the fall of 2010.
“I think the WONK campaign is kind of a waste of money,” said AU Senior Mike DeFabo. “Most people have no idea what a WONK actually is.”
“I like how it focuses on different aspects of American University,” said AU Sophomore Liz Tomal. “I also find it to be very simplistic and very silly.”
But Wiltrout says the ad has already seen a significant amount of buzz on the American University Twitter account and Facebook page. She says her brand team plans to monitor the success of the ad through social media and the WONK website in the coming weeks.
The commercial is scheduled to air from now through November 6th. Additionally, it will air nationally twice in February on CBS Sports Network during AU Men’s Basketball games.
City Year Washington, D.C. Works to Decrease District Youth Unemployment
by Sarah Parnass
A high number of D.C. residents are out of work in comparison with the national average, and the district’s youth are some of the hardest hit, according to a study released by the Brookings Institute. Fortunately, one organization is already working in D.C. Public Schools to rectify this problem.
Martha Ross of the Brookings Institute reported that unemployment among 20 to 24 year-old D.C. residents was 17 percent and among 16 to 19 year olds, it was almost 50 percent. These figures are high compared to the national average, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists as 9.1 percent.
District public schools are largely to blame for the youths’ failure to find a place in the labor force, according to Ross.
Volunteers at City Year Washington, D.C. are hoping to change that. The group organizes advocates from around the country to assist in District schools from kindergarten to tenth grade in the hopes of bettering the opportunities available to the city’s children.
Twenty-one-year-old Janelle Rouse said working with City Year gives her the opportunity to give back to the community where she grew up.
“As a product of DCPS I definitely understood and related to the students of the public school system and grew up knowing that it wasn’t right, that there were issues that weren’t being addressed.” Rouse said. “I definitely wish that I had City Year.”
Ross pointed to truancy and drop out rates as key indicators of the problems facing the city’s young people.
City Year Washington, D.C. Executive Director Jeffrey Franco said a lack of leadership in children’s lives was partially to blame for these problems.
“Our mission really is to try to keep kids in school and on track and address the drop out crisis,” Franco said. “And so, if we can really work in that direction, I think we’ll start seeing a shift in what we’re seeing in terms of unemployment with young people in the District.”
The study also stresses the importance of higher education.
It recommends that the District “adopt a goal that by 2022, 90 percent of D.C. youth will earn a post-secondary credential and obtain full-time work by the age of 24.”
Working for City Year could help young people achieve that goal, according to Franco. The group gives its volunteers leadership skills, and the experience can often lead to scholarship opportunities.
Gas Prices Decrease around the Area
by Tiana Hakimzadeh
There is good news for drivers across the nation as gas prices dropped for the fourth straight week and are dropping substantially according to the new AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
The national average price of a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline is $3.42, according to the report. This number is down more than 12 cents over the past two weeks, and prices overall dropped 25 cents just in the month of September. This drop comes after crude oil prices closed last week at about $83 a barrel. AAA said retail gas prices have decreased as the price of oil continues to drop. AAA is calling the trend “welcome news for cash-strapped motorists.”
According to publisher Trilby Lundberg, “This is the rest of the crude oil price reductions of prior days, plus the downward pull on gasoline prices from our September gasoline demand falling below demand of the prior September.” She says the gasoline demand remains low largely because of unemployment and underemployment.
This drop in prices is also happening at a time when the demand for fuel is generally low because of the driving habits of most motorists and the end of the summer driving season. However, some analysts think this decline in fuel prices is going to be temporary as oil producing nations are starting to scale back their oil production levels which cuts supplies even though the demand for fuel is falling.
Jay Maroo, with the firm Energy Risk says in a recent research note that most analysts believe a major driver of oil prices in the months to come will be the economic performance of the United States and Europe. While forecasts for the economic performance are still mixed, concerns over another recession have increased in recent weeks, and as a result, this has been keeping downward pressure on oil prices.
In our area, prices are following the current national trend. In Maryland, the survey shows regular unleaded gas averaged $3.32 a gallon on Sunday. This price is down four cents from last week. Prices in D.C. average $3.50 a gallon, which is actually up two cents, but still down 24 cents from a month ago. Virginia remains the cheapest place to fill up your tank, with the average price at $3.25 a gallon. The city with the lowest average gas price found in the latest survey conducted Friday was Albuquerque, New Mexico, at $3.07. The city with the highest average was San Francisco, at $3.81.
City Saves Food Program for Low-Income Seniors
by Faith Sagaille
Last Month the city decided to cut the Commodity Supplemental Food Program out of the 2012 budget. The program provides free monthly groceries to over 6,000 low-income senior citizens in the district. The city’s investment of $450,000 is usually matched with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Many advocates including the D.C Hungry Solutions spoke out against the move. The program would cease this October. They said that cutting this program would increase health costs. According to the non-profit, it is the only way most of the seniors can stay nourished.
If the program ended, low-income seniors could lose access to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. This program provides produce from local farmers’ market each year. Soon after, D.C Hunger Solutions began their efforts to save the program by starting an online petition. The petition called on Mayor Vincent Grey and the D.C City council to restore funding. People visiting the site would see a list of how the seniors citizens would be affected by the program.
In an article written by Lydia DePillis at the Washington City Paper, the Department of Health spokeswoman Mahlori Isaacs wrote, “all subgrants issued by DOH are subject to funding availability. GWUL was advised last year that the previous funding used to partially fund their grant would not be available in FY 2012 and that only USDA funding would be available. Consequently, they would have to either reduce administrative costs to operate the program or initiate fund raising to make up the gap. That did not occur.”
The city could face a backlash as more non-profits such as the senior outreach at We Are Family commented against the decision. Seniors also make up an important demographic during elections. Many politicians rely on the senior citizen’s votes. Cutting a program like this would be a blow to councilmembers seeking reelection.
However, the offices of Mayor Gray recently changed their minds and decided to save the program. The program will be continued through the Greater Washington Urban League and given to a new provider. This will not affect any senior currently under the program. It will continue through 2012. The petition is credited to have been a part of the city’s move to save the program.
At AU, faculty and students talked with District Wire news about the importance of a food program for low-income seniors. AU grad Student, Nicole Lombardo and Professor Olmstead shared similar thoughts on the issue.
California Dream Act
by Kayla Fenner
California Governor Jerry Brown passed the second part of the California Dream Act on Saturday, October 8th. The law enables undocumented immigrants in California to apply for financial aid and scholarships at California state colleges and universities.
Part one of the California Dream Act was passed in July, which private funded scholarships and loans for illegal immigrants. Students must have attended an American high school for at least three years, have obtained a high school diploma or GED, and be in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship. Undocumented students must meet the same requirements as other financial aid and scholarship applicants in order to receive aid, but undocumented students can only qualify for aid after legal residents have already applied.
Before the law was signed, illegal immigrants would be allowed to pay California residential tuition rates if they graduated from a California high school, can prove they are applying for legal U.S. citizenship, and that they are able to pay for the tuition costs.
However, Rep. Tim Donnelly says that according to recent polls, 80 to 90 percent of Californians are against the new law. FoxNews quotes Donnelly, he says, “It is absolutely, fundamentally wrong and unfair and it is an insult to people who have worked and played by the rules, including those who have come to this country legally.”
Despite the opposition, the signing of the California Dream Act was a small win for supporters of the Federal Dream Act, which was first introduced in 2001. In the Federal Dream Act, in order to qualify, undocumented students must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16, they must have earned a high school degree or GED, or have been accepted into a two or four year institution of higher education. Students must have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years, with good moral character and no criminal record.
Directors from American University’s Center for Multicultural Affairs shared their thoughts on the California law. Assistant Director Isaac Agbeshie-Noye, believes that the law represents the core of American values; Education is a universal right and the opportunity for social mobility. Caroline Deleon, Program Director for Multicultural Affairs, explained her person connection to the act as a first generation American. She discussed the achievements of many undocumented students and their hope for equal opportunity in their education.
The California Dream Act hopes to set an example for those who oppose the bill. California legislators want this law to be a positive vision of how the U.S. should deal with the challenging issue of immigration.
D.C. Protestors Outlast Police
by Zach Drescher
The Occupy DC rally was supposed to leave Freedom Plaza Sunday night. But on Monday morning, the protesters showed no signs of budging.
Police had not showed up to kick the activists out of their tent city on the corner of E and 14th Streets. Much of the talk on Monday morning focused on what to do in case the authorities did come to disperse the rally. That conversation would soon become unnecessary. Later that afternoon, DC Park Police told organizers that they could stay in Freedom Plaza for up to four months. The next day, DC City Council members threw their weight behind the protestors, saying they had no problem with the rallies proceeding indefinitely.
The threat of a confrontation did not scare off many participants. By 9 am, the protesters were out making coffee and planning the day’s actions. The protestors planned to march to Union Station, where representatives from the Italian and Spanish Embassies were set to participate in a wreath laying ceremony to honor Christopher Columbus. They also intended to rally near the Mt. Vernon Convention Center and volunteer at a local homeless shelter, to honor World Homeless Day.
The Occupy DC protest has taken over two plazas in downtown Washington. The rally began with a dozen people in McPherson Square last week. It spread to Freedom Plaza when a separate, previously planned protest arrived on Thursday. The “Stop the Machine” rally had been in the works since the beginning of the year, and organizers secured a permit to stay in Freedom Plaza starting October 6th. Over 500 people attended that protest over the weekend, and many refused to leave Sunday night. Meanwhile, Occupy DC swelled to almost 200 people in McPherson Square, and the two protests quickly agreed to support each other.
People traveled from across the country to attend this rally, many of them leaving family and work behind. One protestor flew in from Dallas, where his stepdaughter has recently given birth to her first child. He says he is protesting on behalf of his granddaughter, so that she could grow up with a chance to succeed and lead a comfortable life. He bought a one-way ticket to Washington, and does not know when he will return to Texas.
The protest was inspired by the movement that started in New York last month. That rally was aimed specifically at eliminating the corporate greed that, in the protesters’ view, is the root cause of the national depression. Most of the DC activists shared those same views, but also rallied against the war in Iraq and environmental destruction.
Facebook predicts Alcoholism on Campus
by Emily E. Roseman
College students might have more reason to worry than before about their day-to-day Facebook habits. A study published on October 3rd by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine claims that the association between displayed alcohol references on Facebook and pictures posted online can lead to severe drinking problems among college students. The study, developed by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, looked at 224 undergraduate Facebook profiles of actual students attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Washington.
Those who referenced alcohol or “being drunk” in their Facebook status updates and photo albums, were much more likely to score higher on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, claims the study. But students at AU were hard-pressed to believe statistics. When it comes to posting with responsibility, many AU students profiled claimed that either their friends or themselves were quite comfortable with what was featured on their own social networking sites. Many students entering the workforce are more inclined to tone down the postings of last weekends activities, as well as many incoming college students are aware of the repercussions that online posts have when it comes to admissions.
Numbers Speak Louder than Words…
In addition to the results from the study, researchers found that students who post about alcohol-related problem behaviors—like blacking out, drinking alone or driving while intoxicated – are 20 percent more likely to meet the clinical definition of being at risk for alcohol related disorders, than students who simply post pictures or status updates about drinking. Students who post about problem drinking behaviors are also six times more likely to report an alcohol-related injury than people who abstain from discussing drinking at all on Facebook, the study adds.
“If someone posts they had a great wine night with the girls this weekend, that’s not as concerning as someone who says, ‘I shouldn’t have been driving because I was so wasted,’” says lead author Megan Morena, M.D.
While binge drinking and risky-behavior in college leading to a life of future alcoholism is nothing new in the world of medical studies, the developers of the study feel that analyzing Facebook pages could help school administrators across the country determine which students could benefit from intervention regarding their drinking problems. By utilizing Facebook’s keyword targeted advertising capabilities, displaying links to the school’s health center or other support resources directly on student’s Facebook pages containing key terms like “drunk”, “wasted,” or “blacked out” can help universities target issues like alcoholism and handle the issue directly with the student on their terms.
For further data on the study and research on the topic, click here to learn more.
From Rattlesnake Roundups to Mudbowl Championships; 40,000 mile journey explores American culture
Caitlin Ochs, Contributing Writer; images courtesy of AFP
Thirteen months ago Ross McDermott left his home in Charlottesville, Va. driving a truck powered by vegetable oil pulling a silver 1960s trailer. His goal: explore American subculture by photographing ‘small, hidden and bizarre’ festivals.
“We were looking at American culture through the back door,” said Andrew Owen, a photographer and Georgetown University alum who was McDermott’s partner. “Each festival was like seeing new documents and new information about our culture.”
Together, McDermott and Owen drove 40,000 miles, stopping at festivals in every region of America. In Louisiana they saw the Saint Joseph’s Day Indians Mardi Gras celebration. In Wisconsin they went backstage to photograph the Xtreme Spirit Dance and Cheer Regional Competition. In South Carolina they took portraits of traditional tribal dress at a pow wow. In Alaska they documented facial hair of all shapes and color at the World Beard and Mustache Competition.
“These festivals revealed how multifaceted and multiethnic we can be,” said Owen. “When you get off the main highways and into people’s lives you really see how interconnected we all are.”
With a background in Industrial Design, McDermott got the project idea after spending a year in Japan studying the culture and photographing what he saw. “Often examining culture meant visiting traditional Japanese festivals,” McDermott said. “This caused me to question if festivals in the U.S. had the same cultural significance.”
Planning the trip:
Funded partly by a grant from National Geographic, the photographers set out to visit festivals in almost every state. Before leaving McDermott researched many “less known” festivals,” but said that not everything was planned. “We heard about a lot of these festivals through word of mouth,” said Owen. “Some of it was random, some of it luck…often a couple days before we didn’t know where we were going.”
This made for a grueling driving schedule and little sleep. “Once we drove from New Orleans to Wisconsin in one night,” said McDermott. “We slept whenever we could, but it wasn’t unusual to spend 20 hours straight driving. It was an amazing adventure, but it wasn’t always glamorous.”
Relying on vegetable oil for fuel made getting around difficult. “We got into some pretty smelly places to get vegetable oil,” said McDermott. “Finding it was also at times unbelievably stressful. In some small towns we would spend hours searching for fuel.”
They sold the truck with 30,000 miles traveled and three months left in their journey. “We started with the ideal of the great American road trip but we had to adjust. Freeing ourselves from veggie oil totally changed the spirit of the project. It let us focus more on shooting and editing,” McDermott said.
‘Finding America’s warm spirit’
Sometimes getting there was only half the battle. “To get access to events we really had to work with each situation,” said McDermott. “We drove ten hours to visit the Breyer festival in Kentucky for model horse collectors only to get rejected at the door…the president and public relations representative said they wanted nothing to do with us.”
Despite setbacks, McDermott and Owen said most people they met were welcoming. “It was really amazing to just walk into these people’s lives, lives of total strangers,” said McDermott. “People showed us that great warm spirit of America, they really opened their doors to us.”
To find places to stay they used CouchSurfing, a global hospitality network of individuals who agree to host other members for free. “We absolutely couldn’t have done this trip without outside support, which was often from strangers” said Owen.
Along the way, friends and family closely tracked their progress. “I could check the website so I knew they were doing well,” said Owen’s mother Lisa McRae. “Sometimes I did worry, especially seeing Andrew holding a hook and one of those rattle snakes. But I think their project really opened my eyes, and others eyes to all of these small town traditions. Usually, people just tend to pay attention to headlines and national news.”
Continuing the Journey?
Since finishing their trip in October, McDermott and Owen have presented their project at National Geographic’s Headquarters and Georgetown University. Last week they participated in gallery exhibition for FotoWeek DC.
When asked at the Georgetown University presentation about future projects, McDermott said they planned to turn in another list of festivals to National Geographic next week. “There are some we missed because we were short on time,” he said. “Also, now that we have the experience, we’d love to take the project international.”
For more photos, videos and stories visit http://www.americanfestivalsproject.net.
Getting serious about going green
Caitlin Ochs, Contributing Writer
It’s the first time at American University that there’s an entire office dedicated to making its campus environmentally friendly. Chris O’Brien, AU’s new Director of Sustainability, plans to make sure it succeeds.
“As a planet, we’re essentially in credit card debt,” said O’Brien. “Water, trees, air—we’ve overspent our resources and the first thing we have to do is stop spending.”
As director, it’s his job to help AU cut down waste and eventually achieve “carbon neutrality,” the goal of a climate commitment signed last year by university President Neil Kerwin. O’Brien hopes to do this through a comprehensive plan that targets not only visible pollution, like garbage or extra food from the dining hall, but invisible stuff as well, like the carbon dioxide emitted by the campus on a daily basis.
The biggest polluters
“Electricity is by far our worst source of carbon emissions,” said O’Brien, pointing to the 55 percent slice of a pie chart showing sources of university carbon emissions. “Solid waste is interestingly only a really a small percent, which is funny because it’s so visible. But the other really big chunk is travel to and from AU.”
A shrinking footprint
While there are many problems left to solve, the University is taking steps to become more sustainable. Trash from campus gets resorted and 43 percent of solid waste is recycled. The new School of International Service building will have solar panels and the latest technology to minimize environmental impact. Plans to build a wind turbine that would power part of campus are under discussion.
This fall, there was a small farmer’s market on campus. Every Wednesday students came for freshly baked breads from Upper Crust, a family-owned bakery in Silver Spring, Md., or for crisp locally grown produce from Agora Farms.
Calls to action
To make plans reality, the Sustainability Office is looking to AU’s community for volunteers, feedback and creative solutions. Eco-Sense, AU’s environmental club, Eco-Sense plans to help with new projects.
“There’s so much people can do,” said Jennifer Jones, policy director of Eco-Sense. “We have new projects almost every week and would love any students to come out and volunteer. The best way to get us is to come to our weekly meeting, join us on facebook, or sign up for our list-serve.”
For his part, O’Brien hopes to get feedback from students. To let students weigh in, he has a new twitter page where he will post questions such as, “Should AU renew contracts with Pepsi or Coke?” O’Brien is also working directly with students whose senior projects focus on environmental issues.
“Translate idealism into pragmatic solutions,” is the message O’Brien hopes will reach students. “There’s no shortage of commitment, we all know we need to become more sustainable, the question is how. We’ve got lots of potential strategies but we need lots of new ideas that are practical that can prove themselves to work,” that said O’Brien, is where students come into the picture.
A volunteer medical group is also a university legacy
by Stephan Cho
The Emergency Medical Response Group (EMeRG) is a volunteer organization that provides medical services to George Washington University students. They respond to campus emergencies with an a team of student medical technicians who are always on duty. But when they aren’t responding to calls, they’re having fun.
Foggy Bottom Staple for Over a Decade
According to their website (gwemerg.com), EMeRG was first created in 1994 as a way to provide emergency medical care to GW’s Foggy Bottom campus. All members are volunteer undergraduate or graduate students who are licensed as Emergency Medical Technicians.
“I took an EMT class and thought that I’d put it to better use,” EMeRG member Meredith Hurley said.
Hurley and other members are “capable of assessing any kind of medical emergency,” according to the website. They are trained to handle everything from minor cuts and illnesses to childbirth and cardiac arrest.
They are connectioned to the University Police Department (UPD), a campus-based law enforcement agency. Despite EMeRG’s campus involvement, many students see them as a nuisance.
“EMeRG isn’t liked on GW because we’re known as people who are trying to get students in trouble, which isn’t true,” Hurley said. “If UPD calls us and there’s a medical emergency, we come. It’s not like we go out looking for people.” She said that EMeRG does not share medical reports with anyone other than medical providers.
When they’re finished with a call, they head back to their office located on the second floor of the Fishbowl lounge on G Street, complete with TV, bunk-beds and personal lockers. When things are slow, Hurley says they have fun and chum it up with other students.
“For the first half-hour, we prepare ourselves and make sure we have everything,” EMeRG member Jacob Washovsky said. “Then the next half-hour, we usually catch up with people on shift, hang out, and watch South Park.”
Despite the fun times they have, Washovsky says the time commitment is like a part-time job. He clocks in about 100 hours a month for the overnight shifts – 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. – while balancing another job and a full course load at GW.
“Calls can come in at any time,” he said. “Like 10 p.m. or 2 in the morning or 7:45 a.m., and then I’m late for class.” He does homework in between answering calls and delivering patients to the hospital.
“Friday and Saturday nights, you can get on shift at early evening and not go to bed until the next morning after you’ve been to classes all day,” Hurley said. “You learn how to be sleep-deprived.”
But EMeRG members are always alert in emergencies, knowing that the lives of their fellow students are at risk.
“When you’re with a patient on a call, you don’t even think about whether you’re hungry or anything like that,” Hurley said. “Then you leave and realize ‘Oh my gosh, I am so tired.’”
The firsthand experience has taught members to go into everyday situations with an eye on health. When talking about how EMeRG has changed him as a person, Washovsky said that he’s quick in identifying problems.
“If I had a friend who said his stomach hurt, it used to be that I would just ask ‘Do you need to go to the bathroom?’” Washovsky said. “Now it’s ‘When was the last time you ate?’ or ‘Have you been drinking?’ We take our work seriously, but we try not to take ourselves too seriously.”
Balancing Work and Play
Not all EMeRG members are medical majors. Washovsky is a third-year International Affairs major. He says he joined EMeRG because his dream is to work in the Middle East where medical care is not readily available.
“I joined because I like the skill set, and I think it’s generally good to know,” he said.
Nicole Marquand is a third-year Public Health major. She hopes to be an emergency driver, and was given the opportunity to practice on a closed Fire Department course.
“It’s definitely worth trying for,” Marquand said about anyone interested in joining. “It’s a lot of work, but we’re really good people and it’s a lot of fun.”
“We work hard, but we know how to relax at the end of the day,” Washovsky said. “New members should be ready to have a good time.”
Rebellion in Bell-Bottom Pants
Exhibit at George Washington University is a fashionable history lesson
by Stephan Cho
“Clothing the Rebellious Soul” is an ongoing fashion exhibit at George Washington University that follows the hippie revolution of the 1960s. It features paintings, photographs and vintage clothing collected by the curator, Nancy Gewirz. The exhibit is playing at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery on the GWU campus until Jan. 22 and is open to the public.
A “Timely” Lesson
The exhibit opens at a time when the government has ordered an increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan. Assistant Director Olivia Kohler is hoping that students will be able to learn first-hand what it means to act out against authority during a time of war.
“With the comparisons between the different wars, we thought it was something that was really timely,” she said. “It’s different this time because there’s no draft, but it’s a similar situation in that there is a war without an end that people see.”
An Alumni Memory
Along with the mannequins in tie-dye outfits and classic rock albums, the exhibit also has a video display featuring GWU alumni who discuss their experiences as students during the 1960s.
“On alumni weekend, a lot of people from the ’60s era came down,” fourth-year art student Ryder Haske said. “So we set up a studio and just called people in who wanted to reflect on their experiences as an undergrad.”
Haske was hired as an assistant to the exhibit as part of his Federal Work-Study program. He photographed many of the items in the gallery for the catalog and interviewed the GWU alumni for the video.
“It’s interesting when they talk about stories of tear gas and the Civil Disobedience Unit arresting reporters, beating them and all kinds of wild stuff,” Haske said. “The photographs help reinforce what the climate was like politically and socially.”
While Kohler says that many of the lessons from the ’60s are lost to the current generation, she hopes students will at least be able to connect with their parents.
“I think young people from both generations could see that it was something they were unhappy with, so they reacted to it,” she said.
Fashion Reflecting Culture
While Kohler and Haske hope to reach out to GWU students and show a different side to war, they also want people to enjoy it and see it as an art exhibit above all things.
“This is cultural – a lot of this is really about clothing and photography and how America felt and looked at the time,” Haske said. “But of course, it was all colored by the Vietnam War.”
According to the catalog, some of the gallery items are said to be classics:
- a 1970s Earth Day Flag – a symbol that was intended to resemble the U.S. flag but with green and white
- anti-military posters that protested the draft
- an Andy Warhol-inspired “Souper” dress made from patches of the Campbell Soup design
On a large plaque in front of the exhibit, Gewirz writes that she wanted to make it engaging and educational.
“Honestly, I came in and wasn’t expecting much,” third-year GWU student Lynn Lee said. “But I was able to relate to a lot of it and it was really cool, if not a little scary.”
Gerwirz’s husband helped out by getting in touch with his old fraternity. Members wore tie-dye t-shirts and handed out invitations during opening day.
“There was a lot of student involvement,” Haske said. “It was a good collaboration together with them, the gallery, and outside curators.”
Visitors to the gallery are encouraged to leave feedback in a small notebook in front of the entrance. Haske says that reception has been mostly positive, especially from other students.
“These people broke free of the ’50s where it was all about conforming to their parents and decided to experiment,” Haske said. “A lot of students can relate to this because it represents a lifestyle.”
LAYC & Lessons in Determination
Latino Youth Organization Provides Education, Hope
by Stephan Cho
The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) in Columbia Heights has been serving immigrant Latino youth since 1974. According to their website (layc-dc.org), their purpose is to provide education and social services for low-income and minority families in D.C.
Many students like Efrain Buitron, a 17-year-old who says that the organization has literally changed his life, are coming out successful with the LAYC. “I feel very appreciative to be in this program and to have a second chance at an education,” Buitron said. “It’s helped me think about my future – something I never did before.”
A Second Chance at Education
According to their website, the LAYC has over 50 multi-lingual programs including tutoring and homework assistance. They work with public schools and other youth centers to help struggling people like Buitron. He says his story is typical of an LAYC student.
“When I was in normal high school, I didn’t consider myself a student at all,” he said. “I was very involved in drinking and drugs, never went to school, and then recently dropped out.” With only three credits to his name, he felt that he had no reason to continue. It was then that his mother convinced him to join the organization.
“Once it started, I really didn’t know how to feel about it,” he said. “But I started hearing and seeing everything they can do for you, and I became really interested and motivated on doing my work.”
Buitron is now working on getting his General Equivalency Diploma (GED) so that he can go to college, which he says is something he never would have imagined before LAYC.
“If you asked me a year ago if I wanted to go to college, I would have probably walked away from you,” he said. “You come here everyday and you meet the same people. That alone got me interested.”
Karen Josefina Guevara works as an administrative assistant in the LAYC school. She has several tasks ranging from tutoring classes to substituting for other teachers.
“It’s almost like an alternative school,” she said. “We have high school students from places like Mexico and Central America who want to learn English to continue their education here.”
The LAYC community hopes to give immigrants in the neighborhood a place “to call home,” according to the website. The organization kept growing since the 1970s with the number of Latino youth in D.C. without an education.
“Some students here have never been to school before in their country, so they come here without knowing how to read or write when they’re 15,” Guevara said. “You get real happy when you teach them something and they’re writing their own names.”
Buitron said that one thing LAYC has that was missing in his public school is support. The close interaction with his peers and tutors helped him become a better student.
“You get to know everybody on all three floors of the building,” he said. “They’re just a great group of people to be around and put yourself around.”
“I like the fact that you really feel like you’re making a difference with a student population that has some serious needs,” Luis Carias said. Carias teaches GED-level math in Spanish to students ranging from ages 15 to 21. “It’s very rewarding to see the process of going from one stage to another, and also being able to interact with other people who have the same goals and views,” he said.
“They’re not just students and teachers – they’re people,” Buitron said. “They didn’t just help my academics, but my personal life as well. It’s like a very close-knit family.”
Volunteers for the DC Rape Crisis Center provide support and empowerment
By Lauren Gardner
From nine to five these DC residents work as lobbyists, government employees and students. After hours they sit by the phone and wait for a call from someone affected by sexual assault. These volunteers work for the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and directly deal with rape survivors or their friends and family who are in crisis.
The volunteers complete an application, interview, and a 65-hour training course over 2 months. “You don’t need a degree in counseling to be a rent-a-friend to support somebody and be trained on the resources,” DCRCC Volunteer Coordinator, Amy Gordon, said in a phone interview. “We arm them with the resources they need so that they can use their natural compassion and drive [to] empower survivors.”
What they do
Volunteers for the center take two types of shifts: crisis hotline counseling and advocacy. The hotline receives calls from either the DC area or ones redirected by RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) from anyone dealing with a sexual assault issue.
Volunteer JoAnna Smith said that those who call the hotline may not have reported their assault or even told their families. “[It’s] a resource for people who may never have told their stories before and just need somebody to talk to,” Smith said.
As advocates, the volunteers go to the hospital with the survivor and stay with them through their SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) examination, which compiles a rape kit. This rape kit can then be kept by the police for up to 3 months in case the survivor chooses to press charges.
Recently out of training, volunteer Megan Lieff got rid of her “nervous jitters” after going on her first advocacy call. “The strength of the survivor was really amazing and they showed a lot of courage, which was a blessing to observe,” Lieff said. “It put a realistic image to all the things that we’ve been learning about and gave me an idea of how this actually plays out in real people’s lives.”
Kim, a volunteer who wished to remain anonymous, said she uses her training to validate a survivor’s experience and empower them. “Extremely common to sexual assault are the survivors who blame themselves because we live in a society that blames survivors and says that if you got sexually assaulted, you probably did something – you said something, wore something, looked a certain way. That’s bullshit,” Kim said.
How they prepare
The training consists of different classes on topics that would affect the volunteer’s work. “Some of the classes were more to establish the background thinking that helps you be a more effective advocate,” Kim said. “We had a whole class about ism’s – classism, racism, heterosexism. That kind of information is more about informing the way you think.”
One class that the volunteers have is about dealing with male survivors. Smith helps present this class with her former colleagues from a past internship at Men Can Stop Rape. “Society has certain demands on men, namely that you have to be strong, be powerful, be a man,” Smith said. “We talk to the volunteers about what sort of things that men have internalized that might be harder for them because of the stereotype that men who have been sexually assaulted are gay.”
Volunteers are only allowed to talk to other volunteers or DCRCC staff about their experiences on calls because of confidentiality. Volunteer back-ups are volunteers who have gone through extra training so they can provide support to other volunteers. “If they have a hard call or have questions that they can’t remember from training, they can call me,” Smith, a volunteer back-up, said. “As a volunteer you always feel supported by many layers of people who can help you out.”
The training stresses the importance of self-care, Gordon said. The volunteers develop their own ways of dealing with hard calls: Smith cries after a bad call while Lieff buddies up with another volunteer during a hotline shift to “make things situation less serious between calls,” Lieff said.
The volunteers must also attend monthly meetings called supervisions. They learn about new counseling tips and policy changes affecting their work. “We also talk about difficult calls and make sure that everyone is getting what they need to continue volunteering and do well with it,” Gordon said. “It is a huge emotional commitment.”
National Gallery of Art Provides A Different Look at 1950’s America
Frank’s Americans Exhibit Sheds New Light on a Lost Era
By Cody Snell, Contributor
If you thought you knew the America of the 1950’s, Robert Frank’s 83 photographs will make you think again. His book of photos entitled The Americans depicts scenes from across the United States and captures an era, not of innocence and wholesome family values, but a gritty reality full of provocative contradictions.
First released in 1958, The Americans collection is now being revived by the National Gallery of Art in an exhibition featuring all 83 original photographs from the book. The exhibition details Frank’s two-year, 10,000 mile journey from the urban political rallies of Chicago to the desolate roads of rural Idaho.
Each picture builds upon the last and the sequencing of the photographs takes the viewer on a journey through the geographic, racial, economic and political melting pot of America.
Themes of The Americans
Frank divided his book into four sections. The first segment looks at the various dichotomies of American society, the second examines American recreation, the third concerns religion and work life, and the fourth highlights politics and power.
“He’s looking at the racism that existed in American society in the 1950’s, he’s looking at the nature of the political system and questioning whether it is one that is as inclusive as it should be,” said Sarah Greenough, the senior curator of photographs at the Gallery.
“He’s looking at the rising consumer culture as jobs begin to take over American life at that moment, but he’s also looking at religion within America as well as examining our fascination and obsession with cars,” she said.
The way in which Frank sequences his photos is particularly important in how he depicts the true nature of the 1950’s. In one example, he follows a clear, in-focus photograph of wealthy, well-dressed couples attending a New York cocktail party with a grainy shot of auto workers on a Detroit assembly line.
“The 1950’s media was presenting a much more wholesome image of America…and Frank was very much looking beyond the simplistic rendering, looking beneath the surface of American life to show a lot of the tensions that were there at that time,” said Greenough.
Reaction to The Americans: Then and Now
When The Americans was released in the United States in 1959, many in the art world saw it as a complete misrepresentation of American culture.
“Initially, the book was really decried by a lot of people, it was condemned as a very one sided view of America. A number of authors [wrote] critiques of the book and almost all of them were very critical,” said Greenough.
Luckily for Frank, the free form art of the 1960’s changed a lot of people’s attitudes towards his work. “During the 1960’s younger photographers got a hold of the book and it really came to be passionately embraced by younger groups of people,” she said.
Many spectators at the gallery felt that their perception of the 50’s changed after seeing Frank’s photos.
“I felt like it was different than the America I grew up in, it kind of showed a dark side a little bit, not the real happy things I like to think of,” said Diane Olsen, a registered nurse from Ashburn, VA.
“A whole lot of people romanticize the 50’s as the age of innocence, but I think Frank shows a grittier side [of America] and focuses on the everyday life of people living then,” said Alexander Leeding, a student at Willamette University in Oregon.
“I still have that whole romanticized idea of the 40’s and 50’s, and now that I’ve seen another side of it, I’m just trying to reaffirm my thoughts and figure out what this era in American history is all about,” he said.AnoTwilight Saga Bites into Fans
A teenage vampire story creates pandemonium across the world
By Natalie Barg, Contributor
Watch out Harry Potter, your broom isn’t as powerful as it once was since a new saga is in town. Vampires and werewolves are winning over wizard fans in the Twilight phenomenon.
Author of the Twilight, Stephanie Meyer, created the story of a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. Millions of fans worldwide are uniting to celebrate the fictional characters, drool over actor Robert Pattinson, and let the world know there is no age limit to loving vampires.
From teeny boppers to grandmas
The saga includes four books, one movie, millions of fans across the world, and a sequel to the second book. While the story was created for teenage girls it continues to steal the hearts of teenagers, moms, and grandmas.
“Yeah I am 62, but who doesn’t love a story with a good looking vampire who falls in love with a girl? How much more excitement do you need?” said Elena Anzaroog, committed fan of the saga.
TwilightMoms is a web-site built for moms who love Twilight and want some juicy gossip after a long day with the kids.
Insanity or just dedication?
Fans lined up in blockbusters nationwide at midnight, March 21st, to celebrate the DVD release of the movie Twilight. The movie sold more than 3 million copies its first night.
For the past two years fans celebrated the saga on September 13th in Forks, Washington. The town named this day “Stephanie Meyer’s Day” and is celebrated on the main character’s, Bella Swan, birthday. The day includes a town parade, storytelling, contests, and fans screaming just for the heck of it.
For those looking on online for a Twilight fix- there are thousands of Twilight blogs, fan sites, and merchandise online.
“What makes me so drawn into this whole craziness is how great Meyer revved up the characters. She feeds us the words and we find that we want more and more. And having all these other vampire lovers around the globe makes your own insanity seem saner and its exciting to get involved in these different shenanigans,” said Rachel Ozeryan, a 27 year old devoted fan.
Meyer first released the book in June 2006. One book turned into three more. So far she has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. Twilight began its journey on screen last year.
“I am so devoted to this saga it’s insane! I have a blog and a photo gallery I submitted online. My dream would be to go to Forks to celebrate Stephanie Meyer day, but until then I will keep feeding my hunger with the final book Breaking Dawn,” said Ozeryan.
Vampires are bringing sexy back
Steamy actor Robert Pattinson appeals to women of all ages. Fans describe him as dangerous but yet safe, seductive but polite, good looking but yet natural, and everything their significant others could be if they too were vampires.
“Edward mesmerizes everyone. Potter doesn’t do it for people anymore because Edward is way too sexy,” said Yana Artamoshyna, fan of the movie.
What’s next on the bloodsucking agenda?
All the actors reunited in Vancouver last week to begin filming of the second book New Moon due out in theaters this November.
“All I can say is that it’s time for Edward to move on to someone his own age, and I am still available. If not, it’s okay cause I will still see the new movie either way,” said Anzaroog.
Anonymous cafeteria chef cooks up laughs
Sassy Chef answers students’ comments while doubling as a comedian
By Adam Vingan, Contributor
When AU students go to the Terrace Dining Room (TDR), they like to eat food prepared by their favorite chefs. The most popular chef is the one that no student has ever seen or met.
She’s called Sassy Chef and has become a cornerstone of American’s cafeteria without ever lifting a spatula. She is responsible for answering students anonymous’ comments they leave on a bulletin.. After hours, Sassy Chef retrieves the comments and writes back with her trademark red pen. The following day, the comments are reposted for everyone to see.
“You can definitely count on Sassy Chef to answer your comments or concerns,” said sophomore Eli Engelbourg. “But she also makes sure to poke a little fun at them.”
No student knows her identity. Even some of Sassy Chef’s fellow employees do not know who she is.
“I work at the cash register, so I am never around the chefs,” said Christine last name, a TDR cashier. “I have no clue who Sassy Chef is and I am not the only employee here who doesn’t. It’s a well kept secret.”
The only thing students know is that Sassy Chef is a woman, which has been mentioned on past cards.
“A Real Comedian”
Sassy Chef has stated on comment cards that she takes all suggestions into consideration, from serious requests to jokes. But she always puts a creative spin on her answers. On a recent comment card left in TDR, a student initially praised the cafeteria’s falafel night. The student then told Sassy Chef that TDR “dropped the ball” by not having enough sauces.
“You made me feel like king of the world on the bow of the Titanic,” Sassy Chef responded. “Now I feel like I’m going down with the sinking ship.”
“Sometimes, I have something to comment on, but other times, I write something funny just to see her responses,” Engelbourg said.
Other students disagree. While Sassy Chef does take the time to answer students’ comments, some believe she is immature. Freshman Brianna Kirsh thinks Sassy Chef can be rude and inconsiderate.
“I think people expect the comments to be rude and that is why people like to read them,” Kirsh said. “People don’t write Sassy Chef comments with the expectation of receiving a nice response back.”
Either way, students say they know that Sassy Chef cares about their wants and needs at TDR. Joking aside, she has expressed that she really wants to make TDR better for the students.
“I think some comments are totally legitimate, such as bringing back soy milk,” Kirsh said. “She may be rude, but I think that Sassy Chef and TDR as a whole take our suggestions to heart. The important ones get heard.”
The mystery continues
Students have asked Sassy Chef on comment cards if she will ever reveal her identity. On several occasions, Sassy Chef has said no. She signs off on certain comment cards by saying she is “your friendly neighborhood Sassy Chef.” Her identity will remain a secret except for those close to her. While some may be disappointed, others feel her anonymity is for the best.
“It would not be the same if we knew who she was,” Engelbourg said. “All of the students would find her at TDR and ask her to tell a joke or make some sort of witty comeback. I wouldn’t want to annoy her. Plus, it’s more fun to wonder.”Students Protest Tom Tancredo
Demonstrators disagree with the former Congressman’s position on immigration
By Kristin Parrotta, Contributor
More than 380 students peacefully demonstrated former Congressman Tom Tancredo’s speech at American University Tuesday night.
Tancredo spoke in the Ward Circle building, which was filled to capacity, in an event organized by Youth for Western Civilization. The event consisted of a speech from Tancredo followed by questions from the audience. The majority of the audience, dressed in all black were, there to protest Tancredo.
The protest was organized by a group of individual activists who represented several campus groups including the Latin American Student Alliance, Black Student Alliance, and AU Students for Choice. The protestors held small signs with slogans like “America is multicultural.”
Tancredo mostly focused on the topics of immigration and American culture. He is well known for his strong opposition to illegal immigration and for what his opposition calls an anti-immigrant attitude. “There’s nothing wrong with immigration,” Tancredo said. “It’s immigration without assimilation that’s problematic.”
Tancredo expressed his opposition to what he called the “cult of multiculturalism”, that is “the desire to accentuate the differences, the things that pull us apart instead of the things that pull us together.” He instead says he supports maintaining one American culture.
“Globalization has certainly pushed the issue of multiculturalism, but I don’t think it has to be that way,” Tancredo said.
Tancredo said that “American culture, first of all, is a language, the English language” that is “an enormously important part of the culture,” uniting people of different cultural backgrounds.
Tancredo believes that American culture is part of a broader Western culture, and immigration usually flows toward the West. “The idea of the rule of law, that is a uniquely Western concept, we should be proud of that,” Tancredo said. “The idea of individual liberty, uniquely Western. This is not something we should be ashamed of. We have brought the world some very good things.”
While Tancredo thinks that the Democrats support immigration for “a source of votes” and the Republicans support it for “a source of cheap labor,” Tancredo believes that illegal immigration has economic consequences. “The more people who come here who are unskilled, that depresses wage rates for people in this country who are low-skill,” Tancredo said. “That’s unfair to them.”
Tancredo said that allowing immigration does not get at the root of the economic problems in other countries. He said that he would rather other countries improve their economies to give workers a higher standard of living so that they would not need to come to the United States to work.
Tancredo responded to accusations of racism by saying that the issue of immigration has “got nothing to do with race,” Tancredo added, “I don’t think it’s racist of me to think that there are good ideas that we can all share.”
Demonstration against Tancredo
Despite significant police presence at the event, students were able to hold a large demonstration against Tancredo without any security issues. “I’m happy that he respected our right to oppose his hateful rhetoric,” demonstration organizer Travis Ballie said.
Ballie said that the demonstration was called in order to “support civil debate and not name calling.” He said, “It’s exciting to see students organize, regardless of what they believe in.”
Ballie represents AU Students for Choice, but he supports like-minded student groups. “When one group’s equality is under attack, it’s really everybody’s equality that is under attack,” he said.
“Tancredo is a well-intentioned man, he just has glaring misconceptions of what multiculturalism is and the history of our immigrant society,” Ballie said.
Esteban Garces, the son of an undocumented immigrant, says he came to the event because of Tancredo’s reputation as anti-immigrant. He mainly opposed Tancredo’s ideas about American assimilation. “Assimilation takes generations…I feel that I don’t have an accent, I feel that I am assimilated,” Garces said. “My colors are the red, white and blue.”
Other students expressed outrage at Tancredo’s speech. “I think it was a disgrace,” freshman Katrina Casino said. “His ideas are the same ones that perpetuate genocide.” Casino comes from a family of Filipino immigrants and takes Tancredo’s message personally. “The ideas that he perpetuates are the reason my country doesn’t have a culture anymore.”
Many demonstrators wanted to learn something from the event while still expressing their beliefs. Sophomore Rahkendra Creighton-Ice said, “I can’t fathom why someone would say that multiculturalism is a bad thing, so I wanted to hear the explanation behind it.” Creighton-Ice left disappointed, believing that Tancredo still did not properly explain himself and did not answer the questions asked to him. She was still impressed by the outcome of the demonstration. “Tancredo can’t ignore it. Our numbers were incredible.”
SSDP Hosts Panel on False Positive Drug Testing
By Hannah Hankins, Contributor
American University Students for a Sensible Drug Policy met Tuesday night for a panel that took aim at police drug testing.
The panelists criticized the drug tests used by police in field arrest situations. The three guests discussed their recent report that investigates legal substances that produce false positives in the kits used by officers.
The panelist demonstrated their point by testing many household products and commercial foods with the Duquenois-Levine and KN Reagent tests used by police officers to test for hashish or GHB, the “date rape drug”.
The tests and chemical background of the kits were presented by researcher John Kelly.
The kits contain small vials of toxic liquids that will react by changing color when crushed and mixed with an illegal drug.
Some items, such as Dr. Bronner’s Magical Soap, showed vibrant colors that indicated positives in the test for GHB. This positive reading would require the officer to arrest and detain the owner while the product was sent on to a forensics lab for further tests. The length of time the lab has to test varies from state to state, but it can be up to six months.
The fifteen audience members were encouraged to come forward and test many of the products for themselves.
Some of the products available for testing:
chocolate covered pretzels
The Oreos and chocolate covered pretzels tested positive for hashish, but the Twix came out clean.
Drug kits were handed out to the leaders of SSDP, and they were encouraged to experiment and find all the legal substances that produce these false positives.
One of the panelists, Ron Obadia, is the owner of Living Libations Chocolate. He produces all natural and organic raw chocolate bars and other sweets out of his home in Canada. Obadia has twice been detained by officials during border crossings where his chocolate tested positive for marijuana.
The additional forensics reports showed that there was no hashish in his product. During his arrest and legal battles, he spent tens of thousands of dollars and felt he was treated unfairly.
In the first arrest he was traveling through the airport with his wife and one-year-old son. “I saw dogs and scales and a guy with a taser,” Obadia said. “I was like “wow, someone’s really getting busted,” and then it was us!”
Now Obadia and Kelly have joined with Vote Hemp Communications director and AU alum Adam Eidinger to publicize the message in their report.
They said in their materials that “millions of people have been and continue to be, prosecuted and convicted of marijuana charges without proof that the possessed marijuana.”
Eidinger said that their report showed a “drug-testing regime of fraudulent forensics used by police.”
Ignorance or Abuse?
When asked if the panelists believed that police were knowingly arresting people on false charges because of bias or discrimination, the panel was split.
“These guys don’t know what’s going on,” Obadia said. “They’re given these tests—so they’re supposed to work.”
Eidinger disagreed and said that it was their responsibility to use tests that work properly.
Kelly asked the students to organize and help promote the cause. “We need to tell everyone about this,” he said. He wanted SSDP to present the report to students at the Washington College of Law. “ There are lawyers who just don’t know the facts,” he said. “If you guys can do one thing; go out and tell everyone you know about this.”
More than a Movie
Muslim Comedy Film Fights Stereotypes in a Showing on American University’s Campus
By Sarah Sheya, Contributor
The Muslim Film Festival came to American University to bring to light American stereotypes of Muslims and make the crowd laugh in a showing of “Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age,” on February 25. The program included a set by guest comedian Dean Obeidallah, one of five comedians featured in the film.
The Dirty Work
Project Nur brought the event to campus.
“Project Nur is a student group on campus that was formed after 9/11 to provide a forum for students to talk about religious hate crimes and social justice issues that arose, especially with Muslims,” says Project Nur Vice President Patricia Ward.
AU was the kickoff to the Muslim Film Festival, which reached a number of schools in the DC area. This year’s theme was “Art Under Fire.”
“It’s about Muslims trying to express themselves and the political hostility they face not only from their own countries and own regions but also from the United States,” says Ward.
Ward said organizing the festival was stressful. AU students worked with students from George Washington University, Georgetown University, and University of Maryland.
“The advertising was really important because we wanted it not to just be for students but more for everybody in the community,” said Ward.
The event was free, so “more people would come,” said Ward. “It was supposed to be a learning experience too.”
Why it Matters
Project Nur decided to show the film “Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age.”
“We thought it would be cool to show the U.S. connection with these stand up comedians—some of them are American-born, some of them immigrated here, and they still face that same political hostility even though they’re in this country we call the ‘land of the free’,” said Ward.
The humor created a lighthearted atmosphere at the event. “We definitely thought for AU that it would be a good way to bring people in to understand the issue more,” said Ward.
“I expected to laugh, and I also expected to have a decent analysis of how comedy’s advancing, actually fighting stereotypes of Arabs in the United States,” AU student William Hea said.
“It exceeded my expectations. It was extremely funny,” Hea said. “Everybody was laughing.”
Some of the stereotypes joked about included Muslims automatically being terrorists, the exaggerated “oppression” of the hijab (traditional Muslim scarf) and Muslims not eating pork.
“I am a virgin by choice,” said comic Maysoun Zayid, “It’s my father’s choice.”
“I’d be a lot more receptive of going to a comedy show than just listening to someone tell me how racist I am,” said Hea. “…It lowers the hostility and allows for discussion.”
Most of the jokes in the film had a serious undertone to them. Heath speaks on comic Ahmed Ahmed’s struggles at airport security.
“I was really embarrassed when he kept talking about how hard it was for him to get through security and how he was always randomly selected.”
Ward said the crowd was diverse. “It wasn’t just Arabs, it wasn’t just Muslims. It was everybody, ” he said.
Dean Obeidallah, a Palestinian-American comic featured in the film, did a brief set after the showing.
“I always enjoyed making people laugh, as a child and all through my life,” said Dean.
Obeidallah is aware the crowd may misinterpret the jokes. “We just have to be aware of it so we don’t feed the beast,” he said.
Dean and his colleagues’ work reaches beyond shows in the United States. He’s traveled across the Middle East and North Africa and brought his comedy to Arab countries. “I feel like we’re comedy missionaries,” he says.
“I do a show called Stand Up for Peace with a Jewish-American comic Scott Blakemen,” said Obeidallah. “I love the fact that we’re bringing Jews and Arabs and Muslims in the room together to laugh… and then at the end we talk about issues in the Middle East and try to get people involved in the peace process.”
Muslims and Arabs are often misrepresented in the media, says Obeidallah. “There’s still a typical movie like ‘Kingdom’ where you have one good Arab guy, one good Muslim, and the rest are all bad.”
Obeidallah says it isn’t going to help to just be angry. He says comedy is a form of activism. “Be involved behind the camera or in front of the camera… that’s how we’re gonna change the way we’re defined in American entertainment media,” he says.
Ward says Obeidallah has done wonders for the Muslim community. “He’s very humble and very appreciative of other people,” he says.
“He’s also very patient,” says Hea. “With a lot of activists you see they’re very angry but he’s very patient, he knows it’s gonna take time and he’s willing to see it through.”
AU Hosts Discussion on Baha’i Persecution in Iran
By Rebecca Lange, Contributor
Dwight Bashir, senior policy analyst of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), speaks out on the religious discrimination of Bahai’s in Iran.
Dwight Bashir, senior policy analyst of USCIRF, spoke Monday at American University about the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran.
The event was hosted by the Office of the University Chaplain and the AU Baha’i Community. Christine Gettings, Assistant Director to the University Chaplain, in cooperation with the Baha’i Chaplain, Donna Deniza, helped organize the event.
Bashir has spoken at AU before on a panel discussion on religious persecution in Saudi Arabia. He has a regional concentration on religious issues in the Middle East.
Nearly a year ago, seven prominent leaders in the Baha’i community were imprisoned as threats to Iran national security. Ayatollah Dorri Naja Fabadi, the Head of Iran’s Supreme Administrative Court, has recently accused the five men and two women of spying for Israel and other enemies of Iran. The seven are currently awaiting trial.
In response, members of the Baha’i community have said that the seven are not spies, but merely just responsible for managing affairs of the community in Iran, according to Bashir. Headquarters for the Baha’i community are located in Israel.
“Prison conditions are extremely poor,” said Bashir. “Security forces arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals, often holding them incommunicado.”
The Baha’i community, which makes up about 300,000 of Iran’s population, “…is in the most dire situation,” said Bashir.
Job discrimination, denial of secondary education, destruction of homes, churches and cemeteries are also a part of the repression that Baha’is facing, according to Bashir.
Smoke-Screen of Compassion
In defense of Iran’s actions, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has emphasized freedom and compassion towards all religions in the nation, according to Bashir.
“I think the general public doesn’t realize that the president of the country is really not the power-broker in Iran,” said Bashir. “Ayatollah Khāmene’i, who took over as Iran’s supreme ruler in 1989, has final say over everything.”
Instead of arresting the Baha’is – and other non-Muslim minorities in the country – for their differing beliefs, they are labeled as threats to national security. Other common charges are, “acting against the Islamic Republic or using propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” said Bashir.
A Glimmer of Hope
Bashir said that although times are bad, the fact that the word is spreading, is helping out the cause. “Use of the internet and blogs have increased the number of people speaking out against oppression,” said Bashir.
Years ago, people were imprisoned, given a private trial with no representation and then executed. Now, the Iranian media and secular groups throughout the region are asking questions, forcing the government to be more open with their procedures, said Bashir.
Ian Harris, AU’s Washington College of Law student, is a member of the Baha’i community and is an active member of raising awareness for the cause. “I’ve done some work with Baha’i refugees and seen the big impact,” said Harris. “Everyone knows someone who’s been affected.”
Currently, Bashir and the USCIRF are working with Congress to pass H. Res. 175, a resolution condemning the actions of Iran’s government and calling for the release of the seven Baha’i leaders.
What is USCIRF?
“The mandate of our body is to make recommendations for U.S. policy on ways to advance and protect religious freedom,” said Bashir.
Created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the USCIRF makes recommendations to the U.S. State Department. It suggests which countries should be designated as an area of particular concern. The USCIRF has designated Iran as one of those countries.
To increase awareness for international religious and political issues such as the Baha’is, the Office of the University Chaplain holds weekly “Table Talk Lunch” discussions. Josh Klemons, graduate student at American University, frequents the “Table Talk Lunch” series. “I’m an international peace and conflict major so they’re interesting events to go to,” said Klemons.
“There are lots of students who study these issues in the classroom,” said Gettings. “So these discussions give them the opportunity to meet leaders in the community and ask them questions in an informal way.”
The Reality of Documentary TV
National Geographic Vice President Says Real Life Better Than the Movies
By Cody Snell, Contributor
Documentary television is the purest and most interesting form of new media according to Michael Cascio, the Senior Vice President of Production for the National Geographic Channel. Documentary film and its entertainment value dominated Cascio’s speech to a group of American University students, faculty and alumni in an event held by the Center for Environmental Filmmaking on February 24.
Films vs. Documentaries
Cascio spoke for about an hour, while showing various television clips to illustrate his major points and took questions from audience members at the end of his speech. He emphasized the differences between fiction and documentary describing an epiphany he had while recently watching the 1997 movie Titanic.
“I began to get annoyed, most of the film was about fictional characters…they were placed alongside true historical characters,” he said. He then compared the monster block buster film with a documentary he had produced in the 1990’s called Titanic: Death of a Dream.
“It won an Emmy and was as gripping as anything in the movies and it bought its
Network the highest ratings it had ever seen,” Cascio said. “So why did the director, James
Cameron feel the need to make up characters…when the real thing was far more interesting?”
The Rise of Amateur Filmmaking
Cascio introduced the first clip of his presentation by discussing how documentary films can “come from anywhere.” Cascio illustrated this point by highlighting a YouTube video sensation that has drawn over 30 million views entitled “Battle at Kruger”.
The video shows a never-before-seen fight between a herd of buffalo, a pride of lions and two crocodiles. The video was shot by a man vacationing on safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. He was merely filming for his own personal enjoyment, but ending up capturing one the rarest and most spectacular natural events ever caught on film. Cascio explained how the rise of amateur films demonstrates the power of the digital age.
“There is drama all around us, there is a documentary happening right now somewhere in the vicinity, you just have to be ready for it and keep your camera handy,” he said. “Some guy on a safari creates the best nature documentary in years with his little home video camera, it’s an accidental documentary and it’s the intersection of traditional TV…meeting alternative media.”
The Negative Effect of Reality Television
Cascio said that while documentary filmmaking is at an all time high in both quality and quantity, cable television has blurred the line between fiction and truth through the flood of new shows that claim to be reality television. To illustrate his point, Cascio talked about a panel he served on with School of Communication Professor Chris Palmer several years ago in which they argued about the quality of reality television.
“We talked about things like MTV’s The Hills, The Bachelor, Flavor-Flav, Dog the Bounty Hunter and The Girls Next Door…Are they good for America or are they mucking up the documentary business?” he asked. Cascio was forced to defend these types of programs during the panel discussion and Palmer went on the attack against them, calling the shows a “scourge upon television and society.” Cascio said that although he had to argue in support of reality television, Palmer was correct in his criticism.
“He was of course right. These reality programs are fun to watch, but tend to blur the line between real documentaries, which actually document life, and reality television shows which at best are designed to manipulate the emotional connection for entertainment purposes, not for the truth,” he said.
Cascio was most disturbed by the completely artificial nature of reality shows which tend to taint the work of documentary filmmakers who search for the truth.
“For me the biggest sin is that they stage scenes and recreate dialogue and actions for the benefit of television.”
Many students were persuaded by Cascio’s arguments and thought that he highlighted the conflict between documentaries and reality television in an interesting way.
“I think it’s sad that so many Americans would rather watch dating shows or singing contests rather than shows that watch what’s really going on in the world…I think that’s the point he [Cascio] was trying to get across tonight,” said Alex Margolis, a sophomore in the School of International Relations. Other students thought reality shows aren’t all bad, but have gotten to the point where there are just too many of them.
“I think reality shows have their place, but we have to make sure that they don’t replace better quality shows such as the ones on the Discovery Chanel or National Geographic,” said Michael Sahl, a sophomore in the School of Communication.
“Television networks need to think more about whether their programs are really benefitting the public,” he said.
University Offices Go Green
Student organization promotes environmentally friendly office spaces
By Sarah Cough, Contributor
Eco-Sense, a student environmental group that promotes green living, is holding Eco-certification classes for all staff members of American University. The goal is to teach more sustainable office practices and maybe even save some money.
This program stems from a 2007 policy that Eco-Sense wrote about how to make offices more sustainable. In the two semesters since the policy was implemented over 100 members of office staff have been certified.
“I think it will make a huge difference,” said Grenye O’Malley, a course instructor and member of Eco-Sense. “People don’t realize how many offices there are on this campus, how many different people go into running this entire community. We’re basically addressing every single person who has an office space and that will make a huge difference.”
But, Prince Mbanefo, a student who attended the program is not sure it is enough. “I think it’s going to make difference for me but I think it is going to take more for everyone in the school to be more aware,” he said.
Why Go Green?
The Eco-Certification classes are required of every staff member in the office of campus life, including work-study students and interns.
O’Malley says that including works study students and interns is important. “It makes a difference because the work study students are going to be working somewhere else eventually,” she said. “And part of what is great about changing a campus is that all the students, especially at our school, go across the country and bring these practices to their communities.”
Mbanefo, a work-study student at the counseling center, agrees. “I think the fact that I went to the meeting is going to make a difference to me,” said Mbanefo. “We learned about some of the things that departments in the school are engaging in to be more green.”
Casey Roe, policy director for Eco-Sense, O’Malley, and Angali Bean, another Eco-Sense member, explained during the training why Eco-certification is important and what each individual and each office can do to make American University more green.
They said offices have to decrease waste and energy use and explained why it matters to American University. Bean said that office paper is one of main causes of deforestation and that limiting water use can decrease sewage overflow. This is especially important to American University after a sewage overflow last year caused the dorms in Letts Terrace to be evacuated.
Bean also emphasized energy use, condemning mountain top removal, a process of getting coal by essentially harvesting the top of mountains. “A portion of AU’s energy comes from mountain top removal in West Virginia, which causes environmental problems and makes air quality decrease,” she said.
Make Your Office Green
• Unplug things that are not in use
• Print on both sides of paper
• Use recycled paper
• Use washable plates and silverware instead of disposable items
• Separate recycling
• Turn on power-save or energy-save modes on equipment, such as printers or computers, when not in use
Green in Practice
“We started off with a few pilot offices that were really into getting the certification and since then it has become more of a requirement,” Roe said.
During the training Roe explained that American University President Neil Kerwin has made it a goal for 100 percent of university offices to become Eco-Certified. She said that this has made a big difference for the program: “Now there’s just a lot more demand and everyone’s really receptive of it.”
Mbanefo says that his office is making an effort to be green. “We have everything labeled: trash, plastic, paper and glass,” he said. “We try not to mix things that are meant to be recycled with trash, things that are meant to be thrown away.”
Even though Mbanefo says he does not have much control over his paper use for the office he says he will try to do smaller things to decrease waste. “If I am not sharpening pencils, I will unplug the pencil sharpener. That will help,” he said.
Media Industry Floundering
American Forum discusses future of Media Industry in Washington
By John Minks, Contributor
Four of Washington’s key figures in Media met last Tuesday for an American Forum titled ”Washington Watchdogs: An Endangered Species?”. They discussed the new direction of journalism and how it is affecting society.
Among the panelists was Mark Whitaker, senior V.P. Washington Bureau Chief, Melinda Wittstock, CEO of Capital News Connection, Suzanne Struglinski, Senior Editor at Provider magazine, and Tyler Marshall, a Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist. Wendell Cochran, an associate professor in SOC was the mediator.
Media Under Transformation
The one message that was heard loud and clear was that the industry of communications is undergoing massive transformation. The world of traditional media is shrinking. Half of the newspapers that existed in 1985 are no longer around. “Three recent developing trends are transforming the media, the increase in niche media, and the rise in international correspondents,” said Marshall.
Mark Whitaker spoke about the transformation occurring the in the news media. He fears that the current financial situation is resulting in the loss of experienced reporters. “The danger is what you lose when there are fewer veteran reporters,” said Mark. “Who will be able to reach confidential sources? Business today needs trust, and trust takes time.”
All the panelists shared personal experiences with the recent shortage of reporters. Marshall said that a short time ago there were 14 correspondents from Indiana in Washington, today there just two.
How Does This Change Media?
“You don’t have the trusting relationship with key people and sources without veteran reporters,” said Struglinski, “you need that background, now these people are not here. Who will people get that information from?”
Wittstock explained how important it was to be in Washington to cover Washington. Things like context and body language of politicians can only be observed in person, according to Wittstock. Cities who no longer have correspondents in Washington will be at a disadvantage in terms of news coverage.
The CEO of Capital News Connection described the difficulty of catering the same news story to different audiences. “It makes you think in new ways,” said Wittstock. “You gotta tell the same story ten different ways.”
What This Means for Students
Despite all the seemingly negative change occurring in the media industry, the panelists believe that as students we were best prepared to adapt. “It is important to have as many multi-media skills as you can,” said Whitaker.
Journalists these days are doing everything from interviewing to shooting video. “Above all, being a good writer is key in all areas,” said Whitaker.
Struglinksi talked about the importance of blogging. Our generation, acting as the spearhead of technological revolution, has grown up using social tools such as “blogs” and “tweeting.” “Blogs are not going anywhere,” said Struglinski. “The difficulty will be integrating blogs and news to our best advantage.”
The panelists were all optimistic about the future of journalism. “Every day is different,” said Wittstock. He says, in a changing industry, the chance for new opportunities is always present. Whitaker said that entrepreneurial opportunities often present themselves.
Amy Eisman, director of the writing program at AU said that the two most important things for aspiring journalists in this competitive industry are to be familiar with your target publication and have good writing samples. “Publications want to know that you know about them,” she said.
“Industries are looking for younger talent,” said Sara Reddington, a senior in SOC. “We know how to do all the technology that would otherwise take 6 people. We can do all of it. We will replace to the old people.”
SIS GIVES ITSELF THE GOLD BEFORE THE RACE IS FINISHED
The new SIS building isn’t green…yet
By Jordyn Phelps, Contributor
At the construction site of American University’s new School of International Service (SIS) building, there is a large banner that says the building is “LEED Gold Certified.” The banner is wrong.
“That kind of all happened when I wasn’t looking,” says Joseph Clapper, SIS assistant dean. “You can’t get certified until the building is constructed.”
Once the building is constructed, the United States Green Building Council decides if the building meets the environmental requirements that will qualify it for LEED certification, according to Kira Gould, a representative from McDonough & Partners, the company that designed the building.
Though SIS prematurely declared the building’s green qualifications, the building is on schedule to meet the LEED Gold requirements. Clapper says that he is “pretty comfortable that we’re going to achieve it [gold].”
The school has also hired an independent contractor, Whiting-Turner, who is making sure that the building is meeting its environmental goals during all the stages of construction.
What does LEED Certification mean, anyhow?
LEED certification is a nationally acknowledged mark of approval that a building is meeting the highest “green” standards.
There are three levels of LEED Certification:
• Gold (the level the school is projected to meet)
According to Clapper the building isn’t likely to reach the Platinum standards because of two reasons:
1. All the buildings on campus must be connected to the campus-wide heating/cooling system, which is powered by gas and does not meet the requirements.
2. With the relatively small space for the building, there simply isn’t room to include some of the features that allow a building to meet the platinum standards, such as installing a water recycling system
While SIS isn’t reaching the highest possible environmental standards, Eco-Sense, the environmental advocacy group on campus, is pleased with the building’s design. “It’s amazing,” says Meg Imholt, president of Eco-Sense and a second semester senior in the Environmental Studies program. “It’s not just about this one building. This creates a legacy for the school.”
A design for a greener tomorrow
The building’s design includes large windows and an atrium that will maximize the amount of sunshine entering the building and reduce the need to use electricity.
In addition, the dean of SIS recently announced plans to install solar panels on the roof, which can provide up to 20 percent of the building’s electricity.
“The most aggressive things we’re doing is capturing all the water that hits the roof using it in the toilets and for landscaping,” Clapper says.
Many students are not happy about the plans to move the Davenport Lounge to the new building. “I have seen the renderings of what the new Dav is supposed to look like, and it looks worse than Starbucks, says Leah Bomberger, a junior student in SIS. “I think a lot of the heart and soul of the Dav will be lost.”
Does going green mean dishing out more of the green?
Going green isn’t cheap. The building is expected to cost $25 million, not including the newly promised solar panels. So far, the school has raised a little under half of the funds needed since it started asking for donations in 2004.
The high price for going green is often justified as an investment that will pay for itself, but this is only sometimes true. “The panels are more of a statement than an economical alternative,” Clapper says. “However, there are other things that we’re going to do that are definitely going to save us money.”
Among the money saving plans is a system that will preheat the hot water by capturing sunlight. Clapper says this is projected to pay for itself in about four years.
The green brick road that lies ahead
While the new SIS Building is viewed as a big step forward for American University’s among environmental advocates on campus, Imholt says this is only one step in a longer journey: “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. When I came here, sustainability was just an interest group really, and now, it is a campus-wide initiative. There are advocates for sustainability everywhere in the university, from the board of directors to the students.”
Students Debate Politics, Provide Voices for Today’s Generation
By Sarah Sheya, Contributor
Members of American University’s College Republicans and College Democrats met last night to debate two important issues in the new administration: the stimulus plan and healthcare. Communications professor Joseph Campbell moderated the debate.
Democrat Quinn Hurdle and republican Will Haun debated healthcare while democrat Maia Tagami and republican David Lindgren tackled the stimulus plan. While Haun and Lindgren focused on the positives of a free market system, Hurdle and Tagami argued support for government intervention.
Hurdles in Healthcare
Hurdle said the government must insure every American, echoing one of President Obama’s campaign slogans that healthcare is a “fundamental right,” not a privilege.
“In the United States, the most powerful entity in the world, there are over 45,000,000 Americans who do not have access to quality care,” said Hurdle.
Hurdle said insurance companies are “secretive” and clandestine. “The private enterprise has failed. The market has failed…the system is economically unsustainable.”
Haun said healthcare should be kept personal and in the private sector.
“The stimulus…ignores the human cost of healthcare,” he said.
Haun agreed with Hurdle that today’s healthcare system is flawed, but blames government. “It [the government] says that it can provide universal healthcare to everyone without telling us the only way to do so is to give everyone the same bad care.”
“I’m here to defend open, free competition that works for you,” said Haun.
Haun asked, “Do we want bureaucrats to decide for us?” in reference to individual health care, while Hurdle said, “There is no organization filled with more bureaucrats than an insurance company.”
Stimulating Stimulus Talk
The stimulus debate presented polarized views as well. Republican David Lindgren said the stimulus included a lot of unnecessary “pork barrel spending,” while Maia Tagami said the new plan “is going to allow our nation to prepare for long-term economic growth.”
Tagami said the need for the stimulus package cannot be denied. “He [Lindgren] ignores the billions of dollars that are going to go into education, to help modernize our schools; how this is an investment in the future,” said Haun.
Lindgren said the US is in “recessionary cycle” right now. “Private sector in capitalism runs natural cycles,” said Lindgren.
Lindgren said the democrats have no way to pay for the bill, over one trillion dollars in cost, and argues the “pet projects” will not be successful in creating jobs.
Haun said the bill will create 3-4 million jobs, including those in transportation and the arts, which Lindgren refers to as “per projects.”
“It’s about you and me spending the money the way we want to,” said Lindgren. “Republicans value every single dollar that you give to us in the form of your tax dollars.”
Audience Talks Back
College republican Glen Dalakian said just before the debate began he was there to learn about the stimulus bill, hear both sides and form an opinion. “I’m against it right now…the sheer size of it,” he said.
Some attended the discussion in support of their friends. “Our friend Maia is debating…We’re being good friends,” said Maria Cardone. “We’ve only learned what we have about the stimulus because of her.”
Moderator Joseph Campbell got the audience involved through question-and-answer after both debates, before the representatives’ closing statements.
After the debate, College democrat Samantha Green said, “I think the debate further verified my own beliefs in democratic ideology…I believe in Obama’s plan.” Green said she would have liked to learn more on what the republicans would want to see happen specifically.