Prefrosh Preview: News you can use

This week Vox figured we’d give you some sense of institutional history by presenting a primer of the ten most widely-discussed campus news stories from the past couple years.
10. GUSA election debacles

GUSA Candidates, pre-squabbling

Georgetown’s student government, GUSA, doesn’t have a great record as far as presidential elections are concerned. In 2008, they experimented with instant run-off voting. They failed to conduct the election properly, though, and had to have a re-vote with the top four candidates.

This past year wasn’t much better. GUSA ditched IRV, but the election still devolved into chaos when the Election Commission disqualified two candidates hours before voting started. GUSA largely objected to the Election Commission’s decision, the election was suspended, complaints were filed, Election Commissioners resigned, and the disqualified candidates were ultimately reinstated.

9. Hoya independence and insensitivity

Students hold a sit-in after the Hoya‘s April Fools’ issue

The Hoya, Georgetown’s self-proclaimed “newspaper of record,” has been trying to go independent from the University for a quite a while. Indications were that they were set to go independent this coming year.

They ran into trouble this spring when they published a racially insensitive April Fool’s issue. The issue led to protests from students and promises from the Hoya to reform.

8. SCUnity studies diversity

n1227960277_30520954_5020Cook and Kesten after presenting the SCUnity report

Two years ago, Brian Kesten (COL ’10) and Brian Cook (COL ’09) formed the Student Commission for Unity to study diversity at Georgetown. They conducted a large-scale student survey, and found serious problems with race relations on campus.

They analyzed the survey’s data in a 300 page report and used it to make some controversial policy recommendations. Although initially a GUSA committee, they broke away after GUSA approved only six of their eight recommendations.

7. The Norovirus Outbreak

A time line of Norovirus cases

This October, Georgetown was hit with the Norovirus plague. The aggressive, highly-contagious virus infected at least 215, causing vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. The outbreak was probably caused by food from Leo’s Grab n’ Go station and temporarily shut down Leo’s and forced athletic teams to cancel games due to sick players.

6. SAC and GUSA battle over funding student groups

SAC Chair Sophia Behnia (COL ’09) often came to loggerheads with GUSA

The Student Activities Commission, the group of students responsible for doling out funds to clubs and approving their events, is not exactly the most popular bureaucratic body on campus. A couple years ago a GUSA audit revealed that SAC had $210,006 sitting around in reserve funds, and GUSA and SAC have been butting heads ever since.

GUSA has attempted with little success to start up an independent club fund and battled with SAC over the process of appointing the Commission Chair. Most recently GUSA threatened to not approve next year’s budget for student activities due to SAC’s indiscretions, but they relented at the last minute.

5. Hard drive with 38,000 Social Security Numbers stolen

A non-encrypted hard drive containing the names and social security numbers of 38,000 Georgetown students and alumni was stolen from the Student Affairs Office in the Leavey Center over winter break two years ago. The administration didn’t notify students for three weeks.

Because the fifth floor of Leavey, where the Student Affairs Office is located, requires a key to enter and the only thing stolen was the hard drive, some suspected that it was an inside job.

4. The “Cuddler” assaults Georgetown students

View The Georgetown Cuddler in a larger map

Suspected “Cuddler” incidents as of March 2009

Over the past few years, there have been a series of sexual assaults in which a man climbs into bed with a female student. The Metropolitan Police Department has said they suspect the incidents are related and students have taken to calling the perpetrator “The Cuddler.”

3. Secret Intellectual Life Report

picture-111An excerpt from the report (click to enlarge)

Back in March 2007, the Main Campus Executive Faculty compiled a confidential report about intellectual life report at Georgetown, and the results weren’t pretty.

The report [PDF], which the Voice obtained, harshly criticizes the level of student engagement in academics and made several recommendations (including one about the need to address partying and drinking; shortly after the report was secretly released, the new alcohol policy was enacted).

2. Alcohol Policy crackdown

Among the new regulations was a ban on beer pong tables

After confronting significant student protest against a proposed keg ban, at the end of the 2006-07 school year the administration sneakily enacted some pretty restrictive new alcohol policies.

When school started up again, the policies ended up stifling on-campus student life and pushing parties off campus—much to the dismay of neighbors. At the end of the 2007-08 school year, the Alcohol Policy Working Group proposed some revisions to soften the policy, some of which were adopted.

1. Hate crime spurs creation of LGBTQ Center

GU Pride hosted protests against the hate crime in Red Square

In September of 2007, a Georgetown student accused Phil Cooney (MSB ’10) of yelling homophobic slurs and attacking him. The University only acknowledged the incident three weeks later, after many students had heard about it on the local news. Days later, a second anti-gay hate crime was allegedly committed.

Charges against Cooney were ultimately dropped, but the University’s silence about the first incident prompted protests by GU Pride which ultimately led to the creation of the LGBTQ Resource Center (the first such center at a Catholic university).

19 Comments on “Prefrosh Preview: News you can use

  1. Wow, this would have bee really helpful. I’m always a fan of building institutional memory, an this does capture some pretty good stuff.

    On the Norovirus, I thought that an investigation pretty much absolved Leo’s of all blame? In any case, I know the evidence is hardly rock-solid, and I’d hate to see the Voice start substituting rumor and conjecture for actual fact-checking and only publishing reliable information.

  2. Sorry Doug, you’re too late. That’s what the Voice has come to these days. I think the last time they fact-checked something was during the Clinton administration. Rumors? Shmumors! They don’t care-they’ll throw up anything as long as some blogger or website reported it first.

  3. Vox: “The outbreak was probably caused by food from Leo’s Grab n’ Go station and temporarily shut down Leo’s and forced athletic teams to cancel games due to sick players.”

    Health Report: “In other words, we can state with 95% certainty that those students who purchased food from the Grab and Go station on were 2.9 times more likely to become ill than those who did not purchase food from the Grab and Go station.”

    Looks to me like that’s some pretty good fact checking. Emphasis on PROBABLY CAUSED. But 10 for effort Re: Doug.

  4. @Re:Doug – shouldn’t you be over at the Hoya re-reading the two articles they’ve published this summer?

    – I think Juliana et al are doing a pretty good job keeping out of town students informed about what’s going on in DC. Especially because they are unpaid and this is a college blog.

  5. Vox,

    Wow, I have to say this is a great feature and you managed to cover all your usual favorite snark-topics without the usual snark. Great work, I think this was a very fair approach to some recent controversial and complex on-campus issues, and is both useful to incoming freshman and also a great example of Vox/Voice journalism.

    Vox’s print news coverage has always been fantastic for its objectivity and its ability to fairly treat complex matters, something for which I’ve had first-hand reasons to be thankful. As this blog begins to become a major news resource for the campus above and beyond The Voice itself, might I suggest that you begin considering what role hard news standards have to play in this space. I appreciate Vox’s sense of humor and relaxed tone, but sometimes I am disappointed to see Vox staff respond to criticism of their casual style and editorializing with choruses of “Hey, chill, this is just a blog.”

    I really do think Vox has become / is on the verge of becoming its own independently major news organization on par with the print Voice and The Hoya. I’d like to see it embrace that position by raising its standards and focusing more on separating its hard online news coverage from its editorializing and commentary. I enjoy both, but all too often last year they were mixed too closely, to the detriment of both. You really have an opportunity this year to take Vox to yet another next level.

    Good luck!

  6. Thanks for the kind words, Alum.

    I’m still suspicious about just how much Grab n Go was to blame for norovirus (I feel like a birther or a 9/11 Truther, hanging onto this theory). The DOH report notes a correlation between eating Grab n Go and getting norovirus, and Georgetown canceled its contract with the Grab n Go people after the outbreak, both of which suggest Grab n Go was at fault.

    But if the G+G distributor is at fault, then why didn’t all the other schools that get food from that company get sick?

  7. Re: GUSA, I feel obliged to note that GUSA didn’t run its past elections, so saying that “they” failed to conduct the election properly isn’t accurate. I’d at least specify that the EC did so.

    This election onward will be conducted by commissioners GUSA actually gets to appoint, though, so if they mess up, feel free to blame on.

    Also this year GUSA’s going back to IRV, after hearing directly from the head of FairVote (

  8. I hate to be the English freak here, but how about a “HEY-yo” on the dangling modifier in the caption for the picture to the hate-crimes story. I only bring it up because i threw me off for a second…thought the protests were for a hate crime done in red square, haha.

  9. What’s the current state of the university’s alcohol policy?

  10. While all of these topics definitely affected the campus community and life on campus in general, considering that Vox is marketing this information to pre-frosh it might not hurt to throw in a couple of positive things, too. I wouldn’t describe my four-year experience as dry, race-warring, or epidemic-dogding. It was a great time and it is my humble opinion that a solid majority found what they were looking for in their college experience and were very happy on the Hilltop.

  11. @freshman, The alcohol policy is pretty much the same one that caused so much trouble when it was first implemented, although there have been a few positive changes.

    Interesting point, Ek. I don’t think positive things would find their way as much into a list of big campus stories, if only because when everyone is drunk, tolerant, and healthy at a college, it’s not really news.

    That said, Couple of positive developments I can think of:

    -GUSA generally improving, and the Summer Fellows
    -Like above, improvements to the alcohol policy
    -Switching to Gmail

  12. @freshman – There are still plenty of parties with plenty of alcohol. If you’re at a party that’s broken up, you just go. As long as you aren’t walking the streets with an open container, you’ll be fine.

  13. So just because they’re unpaid and in college means they can flout journalistic standards? Sorry, that’s not a good enough excuse. And yes, I wish that I could be reading the Hoya instead of resorting to this blog right now.

  14. @re:Doug – where’s your integrity? Saying the Voice hasn’t fact-checked since the Clinton administration isn’t exactly an argument against sensationalism. Vox (and the Voice) does fact-check – and as Scott already pointed out your point in this case is also pretty unfounded.

  15. whoa, I was obiously wrong. I personally appologize for the broohaha I seem to have started. (Although for the record, all those semesters of stats has taught me to shun turning “were 2.9 times more likely” into “probably caused”). Once again, I’m sorry.

  16. RE: Ek. I guess I get what you’re saying in terms of wanting to “throw in a couple of positive things,” but I actually think of things like the response to the hate crime as a positive thing. It shows that Hoyas can come together and make a much needed change just by getting organized. It’s a story of love overcoming hate, not just the hate!

  17. Pingback: Vox Populi » Prefrosh Preview: Off-campus news you can use

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