AWOL - Issue 018

Page 1




+ CUFFING THE KIDS: Linking suspension & incarceration

+ LET'S TALK ABOUT SEX: Health education in public schools

+ GRANNY'S BALL OF ODDS: Music unifies a gentrified community




"It's important to show support for our own human brother, no matter what color, what race, what religion. We bond together."


—Reina Dufore-Byrd, p. 17

AWOL is a progressive magazine run by American University students in Washington, DC. Founded in the spring of 2008 with support from Generation Progress, we are now an awardwinning publication funded by AU Student Media. We exist to ignite campus discussion of social, cultural and political issues, and serve as an outpost for students to explore solutions to local and global problems. We hope to build bridges between American University and the world around it, ultimately making our campus more inquiring, egalitarian and socially engaged. AWOL is not affiliated with any political party or ideology. Our stories have an angle, which is different from having an agenda; our reporting is impartial and fair, but our analysis is critical and argumentative.

EDITORS-IN-CHIEF: Jess Anderson & Pamela Huber ART DIRECTOR: Ellyse Stauffer WEB EDITOR: Rachel Falek

EDITORIAL STAFF EDITORS: Lydia Crouthamel, Evie Lacroix, Andrea Lin, Alex Maz-



"In homelessness you lose so much of yourself, you really forget who you are and the world kind of forgets who you are too."

—Lauren Fay, p. 26

zarisi, Laura Saini, Jessica Wombles COPY EDITOR: Lofaine Bradford WRITERS: Maeve Allsup, Jess Anderson, Lydia Crouthamel, Reina DuforeByrd, Lauren Fay, Lindsey Grutchfield, Pamela Huber, Genevieve Kotz, Evie Lacroix, Maris Laughton, Paloma Losada, Kendra Yoshinaga

ART DESIGN ASSISTANT: Andrea Lin ILLUSTRATION & PHOTOGRAPHY: Jess Anderson, Jessica Dodman, Andrea Lin, Mithila Samak, Janée Walsh, Jessica Wombles


AFFILIATIONS AWOL is a member of the Associated Collegiate Press, AU Student Media Board and Generation Progress’ Voices Network. The publication has won awards at the National College Media Convention, and its writers have won awards from the Society for Professional Journalists and the College Media Association.

Want to join AWOL? Write to us:


COVER ILLUSTRATION by Ellyse Stauffer BACK COVER PHOTO by Jessica Wombles



12 WHEN WILL DC BECOME A STATE? THE 51ST STAR by Lindsey Grutchfield Partisan priorities block legislation

DIGNITY & JUSTICE 14 FIGHTING THE SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION GONE GLOBE by Pamela Huber The end of the world as we know it

17 REFUGEES SEEK ASYLUM BORDERLINE JUSTICE by Reina Dufore-Byrd Navigating the political gridlock

19 DISPARITIES IN FINANCIAL AID ACCESS BREAKING THE BANK by Kendra Yoshinaga Minority students face unique challenges

22 PHOTO ESSAY MÊME PAS PEUR by Jessica Wombles Not even a little bit scared



by Lydia Crouthamel

by Lauren Fay

The shift toward long-term birth control

A space for creative progress among the homeless



by Maris Laughton

by Evie Lacroix

DC students teach sexual education

Students seek mental health solutions



by Maeve Allsup

by Paloma Losada

What we learned from student surveys

What makes us human


She said that her doctor was not a gynecologist and had not talked to her about the prescription before writing it nor knew that her symptoms were a problem. Desiree Francis, an advanced practice clinician at American University’s Student Health Center, explained that although everyone’s response to birth control is different, Sobran’s reaction was not a normal case. She said that before prescribing a method of birth control, the clinicians at the health center and most gynecologists consider a woman’s family history, her typical period and other aspects of her health. “Any time you start birth control it can take up to three months for your body to acclimate to the hormones,” Francis said. “We always say try to bear it through three months.”



By Lydia Crouthamel Illustration by Jessica Dodman

Forty-seven percent of women who have used at least one method of contraception have discontinued using a method due to dissatisfaction, according to the Center for Disease Control. Many young women have been using a birth control method for a number of years, and most young women begin with the birth control pill. Every woman’s body is affected differently by the available doses and contraceptive methods, but women are not always aware of all their possible contraceptive options. Sophomore Mary Sobran temporarily stopped taking the birth control pill after having a scary reaction to it her senior year of high school when she took two pills to get back on schedule. “Probably six months into using it I passed out and threw up while unconscious,” she said. “I was having seizure-like movements. I had to stop taking it. I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore.”

According to Francis, patients usually discuss alternative options if the side effects are undesirable or persist after three months. These alternative options include the IUD, or intrauterine device, which has increased in popularity among younger women in recent years. The IUD is a small contraceptive that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider. Its failure rate is less than one percent. According to AU professor Melissa Hawkins, the percentage of women aged 15 to 20 using the IUD is currently six to eight percent and is expected to increase to about 25 percent in the next decade. Hawkins is a faculty member of the Health Science Department and an expert in public health, maternal and child health and perinatal reproductive epidemiology. “We have a problem in our country of unintended pregnancy,” Hawkins said. “We can really make an impact by providing particularly young women with safe and effective contraception that is completely in their control.” Maile Young, a sophomore who has never taken the birth control pill, chose to get a newer form of the IUD called Skyla. Hawkins explains that Skyla is being marketed toward younger women because it lasts three to five years and is safe and effective. Young, a public health student who teaches sex education to DC public school students, said this helped her make her decision considering her body’s history of bad reactions to hormones. “A lot of people I know are scared away from it because it’s inserted,” Young said of the IUD. “It’s not a super comfortable procedure… but it’s manageable.” She tells the students she teaches that the IUD is an option. Hawkins said that in the United States there is memory of a dangerous IUD available in the 1970s and '80s called the Dalkon Shield that caused infections, pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancies in a number of women. The memory of this failure may contribute to the country’s previous hesitance to promote the IUD. But research has come a long way.

Forty-seven percent of women who have used at least one method of contraception have discontinued using a method due to dissatisfaction, according to the Center for Disease Control. 3

“This new generation of IUDs is completely safe, and we have peer reviewed articles and rigorous studies that have shown again and again the effectiveness of these IUDs,” Hawkins said. The CDC found that 50 percent of all pregnan-


cies are unwanted, with the majority of those pregnancies occurring in adolescents and younger women. Hawkins said that this is due to a lack of birth control or a lack of reliable birth control. She said that IUDs are more common globally, and that there may be a cultural shift in the U.S. that will increase IUD use. Other countries are typically more positive in approaching sexuality in the younger population. This could be where the U.S. is headed. “So part of the conversation – and I think part of the shift – is acknowledging that it is important to provide a safe and effective birth control method for young women,” Hawkins said. According to Francis, to be a candidate for the IUD in previous years, a woman had to be in her 20s or 30s, engaged or married and have no history of STIs. Now, healthcare providers prefer to stress efficacy. “The research has shown that those issues aren’t as important, and that the efficacy rates are so high,” Francis said. “We prefer to prevent unwanted pregnancies.” Along with efficacy, Francis believes that convenience is another draw of the IUD for young women. Young agrees. “There’s less human error,” Young said. “You don’t need to remember to take a pill every day.” Like the birth control pill, a woman’s body needs time to adjust to the IUD. Young experienced severe cramping early on. Francis and Hawkins said that in addition to cramping, other early side effects of the IUD are spotting or bleeding; some women do not like the idea of not having a period. Various forums and health websites explain that every woman’s body is different. Certain types of birth control pills may not necessarily be “right” for them, but it is important for young women to understand that the options have broadened to methods other than the pill. Choosing to use a form of birth control may be about staying safe, regulating the period, lessening the severity of cramps or another personal reason. In the end it is always about what is best for one's body. “I feel like people suffer through it because they think they have to,” Sobran said about the birth control pill. Younger American women should be informed that there are other contraceptive options available that may suit them better.

Lydia Crouthamel is a sophomore studying business, language and culture. She is a staff editor for AWOL.



By Maris Laughton // Photo by Janée Walsh

Some of the most common questions volunteers at the Peer Health Exchange (PHE) hear in their classes include: “What if I’ve had blue balls for more than a day?” “How do I get rid of a hickey?” “Is it okay to wear two condoms?” PHE is a national organization that trains college student volunteers to teach health curriculum in high schools. It has sites in six major cities, including Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and the District of Columbia. “I have been absolutely thrilled to see how thoughtfully Peer Health Exchange is responding to the needs of teens,” said Cassandra Bell, a member of the Board of Overseers for Peer Health Exchange of DC and a teacher at Eastern Senior High School. “[They’re] really moving towards empowering students with information and resources to make their own healthy decisions and, even more importantly, it’s connecting them with local providers.” The volunteers are not licensed teachers, so their curriculum goes hand-in-hand with the curriculum taught at the high schools. In the past, volunteers would teach a series of content-based workshops, but the organization has taken strides to change that. “They’re fulfilling a unique role of coming into ninth grade classrooms and giving students that information when they might not otherwise get it for another year, and when [students are] already being exposed to a lot of things just by being in high school,” Bell said. In the District, the organization is trying a pilot program where volunteers teach high school students how to access important and credible resources for all aspects of their health. Many students are not aware of the information they have at their fingertips. This new program is critical to educating students. The volunteers go the extra mile by leading tours of local clinics and health centers. Since most ninth graders in the District do not receive health and sex education because it does not fit into their schedule, there’s a gap in their knowledge on healthy decisions. PHE fills that gap. “Every single thing they learn is so impactful for them because this is such an important time in their lives, learning about such serious stuff like drugs, alcohol, mental health and sex," said Meg WWW.AWOLAU.ORG » FALL 2015



“The research tells us that the best sex education programs are programs that are comprehensive, that definitely introduce abstinence as an option," Gardner said. "We certainly know that abstinence is the best way to not get an STD and not get pregnant, but we also know in public health…that teenagers 100 percent practicing abstinence is not reality." In 2013, 53.5 percent of high school students in the District had sexual intercourse in the past and 36.6 percent were currently sexually active, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, 70.1 percent of students used a condom during their last sexual intercourse while only eight percent used birth control pills. Though DCPS’ curriculum is inclusive, the time allotted for it is not necessarily sufficient. “The issue is, because it’s only one semester, there’s only so much you can fit in,” Meyers said.

A peer health educator instructs a class of high school students.

Carter, a volunteer for PHE and a junior at AU. "It’s such an honor to be part of their decision-making process.” The health education standards in DC Public Schools (DCPS) are specific to each grade up until high school, where there is only one class that students can take any semester their schedule permits. This class is comprehensive and includes subjects like emotional health, human growth and development, nutrition, disease control and prevention, drugs and alcohol, sexuality and reproduction. “One of the issues is that a lot of the students won’t take the class until 10th, 11th or 12th grade, after many of them have already engaged in some sort of sexual activity,” said Emily Meyer, a former volunteer for PHE and a senior at AU. Jolynn Gardner is the Director of Public Health in the Department of Health Studies at AU. She believes that the public health community has a responsibility to make sure kids are as well prepared and as protected as possible, especially because there are so many youth already engaged in activities that are risky for pregnancy and STI transmission.

Limited classroom time and low attendance rates of students in DCPS add an additional obstacle in successfully improving the students’ comprehension and understanding of the health and sex education curriculum. DC Action for Children is an organization that provides databased analysis on critical issues facing children and youth to encourage and support policies that heighten child well-being. They found that the truancy rate, or the percentage of students with more than 10 unexcused absences over the course of the year, was 42 percent in DC public high schools for the 2012-2013 school year. Furthermore, 30 percent of high school students had more than 20 unexcused absences in that same school year. “Students just don’t go to class,” Meyers said. “It just doesn’t happen so, sure, they’re required to take [sex education classes] but are they there? And if they are there, are they paying attention? Chances are, 'No.' So it’s a very multifaceted problem.” Gardner believes that the only way to lower misconceptions of sexual health in teenagers is by continuing the conversation as a community. “We need to keep highlighting the fact that, for instance, in school districts where there’s either no sex education or abstinence-only education, we often see higher rates of teen pregnancies and higher rates of STDs as well,” she said. "But I think when we have those conversations and keep talking about it, we need to do so in a very patient, measured and consistent manner.”

"We certainly know that abstinence is the best way to not get an STD and not get pregnant, but we also know in public health...that teenagers 100 percent practicing abstinence is not a reality." 5

Maris Laughton is a freshman studying print journalism.



By Maeve Allsup Infographics by Ellyse Stauffer



In March of 2014, “Molly” (who preferred to remain anonymous), had a non-consensual sexual encounter with a student who lived on her floor. Despite taking all necessary steps to report the incident and push it to a hearing, her offender was never punished, leaving Molly frustrated and without closure, asking, “What is the point of such an extensive process if there are n harsh consequences?” American University is one of 145 universities in the United States currently under review by the U.S. Department of Education for its handling of reports of sexual violence. While opening an investigation does not necessarily mean that the university is at fault, these investigations stem from complaints filed under Title IX, meaning that at some point someone at AU filed an official complaint. Under the Clery Act, universities are required to release information about crime statistics on campus, including statistics about sexual assault. AU’s 2014 security report revealed that 21 forcible sex offenses were reported on campus that year, 19 of which took place in a residential facility. Forty complaints occurred off campus. Sara Yzaguirre, the victim advocacy services coordinator at the Wellness Center, meets with students who look to the Office of Advocacy Services for Interpersonal and Sexual Violence (OASIS) for mental and emotional support.

Sexual touching without consent

19.2% Sexual penetration attempt without consent

8.5% Sexual penetration without consent


WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL... Someone had sex with me without consent


“I do as little question-asking as possible,” Yzaguirre said. “My first question is usually, ‘How is your current functioning?’” At this stage, she says she isn’t asking for specific details of the event—if the student chooses to make a formal complaint, that part will come later in the process.

I had sex with someone without their consent

“The common sentiment is, ‘I should’ve done something,’” Yzaguirre said. “This is where trauma response education comes in. Many people have heard of ‘fight

Source: National College Health Assessment (NCHA)





or flight;’ when it comes to traumatic experiences; however, ‘freeze’ is the brain’s reaction to this sort of incident.”

SEARCHING FOR HELP According to information released by the Wellness Center, 137 students came to speak to counselors at OASIS during the past academic year. Yzaguirre said that most students who come to see her have experienced sexual assault or rape while at AU, but some come to discuss an incident that happened before they arrived at the university or come on behalf of a friend. More students received help from OASIS than in previous years, which Yzaguirre also attributes to increased awareness about campus resources. “If the resources are there, people are going to use them,” she said. “The numbers are going up every year, which is good because it indicates increased reporting. It’s difficult to know how to figure out if perpetration rates are going down.” Of the 83 total complaints filed in 2014, only 15 complainants decided to pursue further action. Dean of Students Robert Hradsky said he would like to see more cases go to conduct hearings, because the university can’t take direct action against the perpetrator unless victims choose to pursue further action. “We never want to put any pressure on students to take the case further, but we obviously don’t want perpetrators on our campus,” Hradsky said.

“I felt like the process was really just checking off boxes,” said Molly. “It makes it seem like the process exists only to be in accordance with Title IX, but will there really be consequences?” Molly’s incident occurred at the end of March, but because she chose to seek counseling first, she didn’t get in touch with the Dean’s Office until nearly a week later. She said her initial appointment with Marianne Huger Thompson, the assistant Dean of Students, was very positive. Huger Thompson also met with the perpetrator and filed a no-contact order, which the accused then signed. “I also signed the no-contact order, but there really are no repercussions for contacting the person,” Molly said. “He tried to contact me after signing it, even leaving me voicemails.” Although Molly said she had been under the impression that the process would be simple after speaking with the Dean’s Office, and that she was encouraged to file a formal report, her case never went to a hearing. Molly had already informed the deans that she knew the perpetrator was considering transferring out of AU. But, because the end of the semester was so near, they told her that it was too late to deal with the case immediately and that it would be pushed to the following semester.

National College Health Assessment (NCHA) Survey

Think About It Survey

Jane Palmer Survey

APRIL 2015






National survey that covers a broad range of issues including drug and alcohol use and mental health, in addition to sexual violence.

An educational program, which replaced AlcoholEdu, that surveys undergraduate students before and after coming to AU, covering issues including alcohol, drugs and sexual assault.

Survey conducted by Dr. Jane Palmer and distributed every other year to a random sample of AU students. Administered by online survey, respondants received $2 in the mail.

CAVEATS All students did not necessarily answer each question. In many cases, the question was left blank or multiple answers were marked. This survey does not give explicit definitions for sexual assault and the body of students surveyed is not demographically representative.


Still, many students feel that the process of reporting and the administration’s support of survivors do not reflect the seriousness of sexual assault on campus.

CAVEATS While the initial response rate in August is very high, as students who complete the course must take the survey, there was a much lower response rate to the follow-up survey in October meant to see if behaviors and attitudes had changed.

CAVEATS Women were overrepresented in the survey. White students were also overrepresented. 75 percent of respondants identified as white, while the actual percentage on the AU campus is 57 percent.


“Generally, if a case is brought forward within three weeks of the end of the school year, it has to be picked up again the following semester, because we can’t take action against a student who isn’t currently enrolled in classes,” Hradsky said. For Molly, this was exactly what happened. “He did end up transferring, and mid-September this year I got an email from the Dean’s Office saying that he was not enrolled in classes and therefore my case wouldn’t be going any further,” she said. Even though AU had closed the case, for Molly it still isn’t over. “He lives nearby, and even though he isn’t enrolled I’ve seen him on several occasions already this year in Tenley and even on campus, and it’s even worse because we have a lot of mutual friends,” she said. “I felt like my case was unnecessarily ignored, especially because I was encouraged to file a report and then nothing happened.”

TRYING TRANSPARENCY There are three different surveys currently administered at AU concerning sexual assault experiences. “The results of these surveys inform how we move forward in many areas,” said Hradsky, who also serves as chairman of the Sexual Assault Working Group (SAWG). He explained that changes in staffing and educational programming as well as training for faculty, staff and student leaders are heavily influenced by the survey results. For example, the administration implemented the Empower AU and Think About It programs in response to the results. “We strive to be completely transparent and we also want to make sure that people accurately interpret the data they are reading, so that the results are not misinterpreted or misrepresented,” Hradsky said. Because only a small, random portion of the student body is surveyed, examining the demographics of the respondents is vital because they are likely slightly different from the demographics of the student body in general, causing some groups to be under- or overrepresented. While Hradsky said SAWG ultimately hopes to improve transparency, he also believes it is important for students to attend town hall meetings and read the emails from the university that detail sexual assault initiatives on campus.

MAKING PROGRESS? Within the past few years, AU has also introduced the Step Up Bystander Intervention Program and Empower AU, a peer-led, sexual assault prevention workshop. During Welcome Week 2015 1,790 students were trained in consent, bystander intervention and communication through Empower AU, while 2,400 students received Step Up training in the fall of 2014. The workshops also focused on de-stigmatizing talk about sexual communication, setting the expectation that consent is absolutely mandatory and educating students about campus resources. AU continues to make changes to campus resources and the processes regarding sexual violence using the results of student surveys and the input of several different campus organizations.

On October 30, the Office of Campus Life announced the appointment of the university’s first full-time Title IX Program Officer. The discussion continues outside of the AU bubble as well, most notably on Capitol Hill, where national fraternity and sorority groups hired Trent Lott, a former senator from Mississippi, to help push forward the “Safe Campus Act.” The act was orginally supported by a coalition made up of the National Panhellenic Conference, the North American Intrafraternity Conference and fraternities Kappa Alpha Order, Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Nu. However, both the Panhellenic Conference and the Intrafraternity Conference and the three fraternities pulled their support after eight sororities publically stated they would not support the bill, according to the Huffington Post. The Safe Campus Act would require that local police be involved in incidents of sexual assault on campuses in order for colleges to punish perpetrators. Administration would still be able to discipline students for other illegal acts; however sexual assault cases not involving the police would go no further. “I am 100 percent against it,” Yzaguirre said of the bill. “From an advocacy perspective, it is important that survivors maintain control over their reporting and recovery process. A stipulation that they would be unable to report or pursue a complaint without going to the police takes away options, full stop.” Supporters of the bill, including former national Chi Omega advisor Cleta Mitchell, feel that the requirement to involve law enforcement will ensure that sexual assault offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, rather than the fullest extent of campus action, helping to eliminate the issue of unresponsive universities. Still, Yzaguirre insists that the legislation fails to support the needs of victims. “The act will likely have a ‘chilling effect’ on reporting, meaning numbers will go down because fewer people will report their assaults,” Yzaguirre said. “In this case, lower numbers will not mean that campuses will be any safer.” The controversy surrounding the bill brings into consideration many of the ramifications of sexual assault and university response. For Molly, whose case never went to trial, speaking up about sexual assault yielded little response and no closure. This indicates that despite the many changes being made both on campus and off, universities have a long way to go when it comes to supporting the victims of sexual assault. “If people could feel assured that our school takes a hard stance on sexual assault cases and perpetrators, I think it would change the culture,” she said. “But because it takes so much to decide to press formal charges against someone, to have nothing done about it is really disheartening.”

Maeve Allsup is a junior studying international relations.




nahue stepped in, playing funk music for the first time in her musical career. Two decades later, she hasn’t stopped. “Alice might be 82, but the music is really stopping her from aging,” Lynch said. “Good!” Donahue chimed in, laughing. In comparison, Santos and Harrod are relatively new to the scene. Santos joined six years ago after the band’s former bassist passed away, and Harrod joined less than a year ago after the last guitarist suffered from a stroke. The band, however, interacts as if they’ve been friends for life, joking around and always laughing. “It’s been real playing with Alice and Roberto and Tony,” Lynch said. “And I thank God for that.” The group just released a song, “Mad to the End Zone,” which they hope will pique the interest of the National Football League. They are currently working on their eighth studio album, titled “Songs for Cel-


GRANNY'S BALL OF ODDS Words & Photo by Genevieve Kotz

Since 2013, the Showtime Lounge has become a popular fixture in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of the District of Columbia. With its warm atmosphere, cheap drinks and friendly staff, it’s easy to see why. But it’s the Sunday night show with Granny’s Ball of Odds that has made Showtime a

“There are enough problems in the world, and I don’t want to contribute,” Lynch said. He’s seen some of these problems with his own eyes right outside his window. A longtime resident, Lynch has lived in the apartment above the bar since 1997 and has watched the neighborhood change quite a bit. For Lynch, this change has been positive—for example, the barbershop that occupied the space before Showtime brought in a rowdier crowd. Other people don’t view the gentrification of Bloomingdale as positively. Kelly Green, a resident of the District for the past 15 years and a Showtime regular, has also seen the city change drastically. Although aware of her own whiteness, Green said she felt gentrification was happening “too fast, too soon.”

local hot spot.

“Everyone wants to be safe, but when you’re blowing everyone out of this city, it’s not fun anymore,” she said.

“If you move into Bloomingdale, you’ll find out about Granny and the boys pretty quickly,” sad Paul Vivari, the owner of Showtime. “A lot of neighbors come every week to see them.”

Although Showtime could be viewed as a part of this gentrification, it brings in a crowd from all walks of life.

Granny’s Ball of Odds plays a free show every Sunday starting at 7:30 p.m. The funk fusion band is composed of Richard Lynch on drums and vocals, Tony Harrod on guitar, Roberto Santos on bass and Alice “Granny” Donahue on keyboard. Together, the four of them cut quite the figure, but it is Donahue who receives the most double takes. As an 82-year-old white woman, she stands apart from her black male band members. Some people even think it’s a gimmick, staring at her fingers to make sure she’s actually playing. “It must really puzzle them that a person my age would be willing to do it,” Donahue said. “They think once you’re in your 80s, you just sit around and sip tea.” But Granny is no joke. A classically trained pianist, she met Lynch 19 years ago when he recruited her as the band’s manager. When the thenkeyboard player could no longer play with a gig right around the corner, Do-


ebration (featuring the Cat Song).” A fan favorite, “The Cat Song” is about the passing of Lynch’s cat, Bobby. Despite the sad origin, it still has a positive message—to celebrate life. All the music they write, Lynch said, spreads a positive message and avoids any negativity.

“It’s a nice little anchor here that can connect everyone living here,” Robert Jacobs, a neighborhood resident, said of both the bar and the Sunday night show. Green and other regulars expressed similar sentiments. “It’s one place to go where it’s something natural,” Green said. Like Showtime, Granny’s Ball of Odds connects the people of the neighborhood and the band hopes that their music inspires those who listen to it. They believe music, if positive and not degrading, can change the world. “Give people real things,” Lynch said. “Give them realness, so they can grow. The music keeps us grounded.”

Genevieve Kotz is a senior studying journalism.



PEDALING FOR PROGRESS By Jess Anderson // Illustration by Mithila Samak

seeking out funding and support. The result was 475 miniature bicycles, and the scene at Lafayette replicated in schools across the District: a swarm of small bodies navigating the controlled chaos of their biking lesson. “Sometimes I get nervous,” said one girl seriously, taking her eyes off the classmate she was supposed to be observing. She was less confident than the others, and McClure still had to walk alongside when it was her turn to use the bike. “After the first lesson my parents taught me,” interjected another.

It is raining, and Marjorie McClure is not pleased. Instead of the hillside outdoors, her second-grade physical education class troops into the great white tent serving as both cafeteria and gym-

Over the course of the forty-minute lesson, there were a few minor collisions, some teetering and tottering and toppling over. But the most important thing was that despite this, despite the rain and the cramped conditions, the kids were learning.


nasium while Lafayette Elementary School is under construction. Babbling amongst themselves, the students snap on matching blue helmets with nimble fingers. The bright blue scrub caps that they must wear underneath poof out around their heads and they look like miniature lunch ladies or doctorsin-training. Around a makeshift track in the makeshift gym, a handful of child-sized bicycles lie waiting. Today is the final lesson. In less than a week this group of kids will go on a seven-mile bike trip through Rock Creek Park, the grand finale in the District of Columbia’s pilot Biking in the Park program. “It’s a great opportunity,” McClure said later, after the class had gone and she was left cleaning up the various hula-hoops, rubber dots and bicycles. “It’s going to be very challenging and rigorous for them. But when they’re finished they are really going to feel good about themselves, because it’s quite an accomplishment.”

Within the past year, the chancellor of DC public schools initiated a plan intended to teach kids skills deemed essential cornerstones. For high school students, it was cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills. For second graders, it was riding bicycles. “We picked second grade because several kids may already know how to ride, and then some kids will not, but it’s a good age where it’s not embarrassing to not know how to ride and it’s not too late,” Kenyon explained. To fund the program, she worked closely with Safe Routes to School coordinator Jennifer Hefferan. The federal government grants an allocation to cities and towns for its nationwide Safe Routes to School program in an effort to encourage children to walk and bike to school, simultaneously lowering consumption rates and battling childhood obesity.

The grand idea to teach all second-graders in the District’s more than 70 public schools to ride bicycles came from a chance email from Daniel Hoagland, the education coordinator for the Washington Area Bicycle Association, to Miriam Kenyon, the city’s director of health and physical education. Hoagland suggested that the city remove all the tricycles used in pre-kindergarten classes in exchange for two-wheeled balance bicycles. Since part of his job entails providing bike safety and education programs to district schools, he saw firsthand how ineffective the tricycles were at preparing kids for realworld biking. “As he goes around to schools, he sees kids in fifth grade that didn’t know how to ride,” said Kenyon, 42, her soft tone contrasting the severity of her tight ponytail and tall figure. “And I just couldn’t even believe that.” She herself learned at four years old, when her father perched her on top of a hill and simply let go. It was clear to her that something had to be done. Hoagland provided the educational expertise. McClure wrote the curriculum. And Kenyon helped put it all together,




According to Hefferan, initial funding for the program came from the money left over in the city’s budget, though in the coming years maintenance fees will be simply be built in.

Transportation examine the risk factors for crashes—number of bike lanes, speed limit and width of lanes—in order to determine high-priority areas.

Previously, Safe Routes developed bicycle education plans for schools, but now the cornerstone program will cover both education and technique. The biggest problem, Kenyon fears, will come after the four weeks of in-class training are up.

“All those things contribute to our more severe crashes,” Rogers said. “And where our big arterial streets are, where our interstates, like 395 or 295 are, do kind of coincide with some of the lower income areas of the city.”

“The issues that I see are that kids in lower income areas don’t have access to bikes,” she said. “Bikes are expensive.”

The interstates aren’t the only problem. An avid biker, Hoagland is familiar with the multitude of routes crisscrossing the city. He said certain routes have become more treacherous in recent years, leaving bikers facing unique challenges.

And it’s no secret that certain parts of the city are more suited to biking than others. Wards 7 and 8 in particular lack essential resources. “Obviously, from the District’s perspective, they want to give people the option to bike downtown, because that’s where the jobs are for the most part,” Hoagland, 37, said. “So the neighborhoods on the fringes tend to be a little bit left out in the cold.”

“It’s sort of the way the city is right now,” he said. “There’s large barriers—the river is one, the train tracks from Union Station going north are another, Rock Creek Park is a third. There’s large barriers and only a few ways across.”


Officials at the District Department of Transportation are not unaware of this concern. In February, Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced a plan to improve the quality and safety of transportation across the city. Dubbed “Vision Zero,” it is a set of sweeping recommendations and policy changes aimed at making roads in the District safer for drivers, bikers, pedestrians and public transportation-takers alike.

That’s not to imply that the District hasn’t already come a long way. Within the past decade and a half, the city has added nearly 57 miles of bike lanes, 3 miles of cycle tracks and 10 miles of multi-use trails, according to statistics gathered for MoveDC, a 20-year plan and precursor to Vision Zero designed to make the city’s transportation system more sustainable.

“Sort of the whole idea behind Vision Zero is that the mayor asked us to tell her, ‘If I want to get to zero fatalities, what do I have to do?’” explained Jonathan Rogers, 32, a policy analyst for the District Department of Transportation.

The catch, though, is that despite increased accommodations for bikers, much of the city’s focus has been on the more populous downtown area. For example, Rogers said that Capital Bikeshare stations tend to be clustered in the heart of the city, demonstrating “very obvious inequity.”

The ambitious proposal seeks to end transportation-related casualties by 2024. In 2014, data from the Metropolitan Police Department show 23 fatalities, down from the 29 fatalities in 2013, but still on par with several cities with similar population sizes. According to the Vision Zero website, some of the more than 20 different government agencies involved with the plan will develop strategies for improved biking conditions, considering not just safety but equity as well. Using police data and an interactive “crowdsourcing” map where users can flag a street, intersection, or location that they think is dangerous, the analysts at the Department of

Part of this has to do with neighborhood culture. During the 2010 mayoral race, many residents in lower-income fringe neighborhoods voted against the incumbent, biking-enthusiast Adrian Fenty, fearing that he would cater to the wealthier half of the population by bringing in more bike lanes and stations. However, the idea that people in these neighborhoods are against biking is “a complete misconception,” said Sterling Stone, 37, the executive director at Gearin’ Up, a nonprofit that sells and donates used bicycles. “We see a lot of bikers, whether they be young or old, that are in these low income communities that bike just as much, if not more, than the affluent bikers in the city,” he said. For these people, the decision to bike is not usually born of a desire to be healthier or more environmentally conscious.

"Obviously, from the District's perspective, they want to give people the option to bike downtown because that's where the jobs are, for the most part. So the neighborhoods on the fringes tend to be a little bit left out in the cold." 11

“Low income bikers need a bike to get to work, to get to school, to get to wherever they are going for whatever purpose and it’s a necessity, a need, it’s the only option other than walking,” he said. In 2010, the problem was not that people in lowerincome neighborhoods were opposed to


biking; according to Stone, it was that they perceived bike lanes and Bikeshare stations as “signs of gentrification.” “They certainly do use bikes and they enjoy biking, but…I’ve had kids and families speak to us about the Bikeshare, and I’ve literally had people say, ‘Well, the Bikeshare is not for us,’” he said. “Meaning it’s for the white folks, the gentrifiers in the neighborhoods.” To this day, biking resources and support are still lacking in these areas. “There are zero bike shops in Wards 7 and 8,” Stone said. This is problematic, because bike shops often provide valuable safety and educational programs. Others, like Gearin’ Up, offer low-cost maintenance and repairs.

ROLLING FORWARD The Washington Area Bicycle Association now offers its East of the River rider education program, bringing mobile bike shops to areas where support isn’t as strong. “We just wanted to make sure these communities weren’t left behind,” Hoagland said. Educators from the bicycle association have also made an effort to train community leaders and provide resources to existing bikers; simultaneously, Gearin’ Up has tried to reach residents that haven’t been able to access those programs. “We try to augment each other, not try to be in competition or anything, because there is so many people in need over there and not one organization can take that on,” Stone said. Gearin’ Up is also committed to helping Biking in the Park succeed, pledging to host pop-up shops before the group rides so that the students can bring in their bikes for tune-ups. With the extra support, McClure is optimistic that the program will “put everyone on the same playing field.” And Hoagland, whose email started it all, is also looking forward to long-term effects of the program. “For students who already bike it’s just a chance to go out and have fun on a bicycle,” he said. “But for students who don’t already bike or don’t have access to a bike, it can be a real game-changer.”

Jess Anderson is a senior studying journalism and CLEG. She is co-Editor-in-Chief of AWOL.


THE 51ST STAR By Lindsey Grutchfield Illustration by Mithila Samak

Emblazoned across the bottom of all District of Columbia license plates are the words “Taxation without Representation.” Even today, the phrase has a degree of truth to it. In a nation that prides itself on democracy and equal representation for all, the capital of the United States actually has very little actual representation in the federal government or autonomy as a district. This discrepancy is largely due to the District’s status as a federal district rather than a state. In practical terms, this means that there is no state government in the District. All matters normally dealt with by the state—such as the court system, local legislation, and budget—are handled instead by the federal government. It also means that residents of the District do not have any representation in Congress beyond a single non-voting representative, although the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution did guarantee them the right to vote in presidential elections in 1961. The unusual status of our nation’s capital has proven a contentious issue for years. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched for home rule in the 1960s, and in the 1980s, the District held a constitutional convention of its own, drafting a constitution and deciding to elect a shadow delegation to Congress.




A shadow delegation is created when a territory seeking admission to the Union as a state elects two Senators and a Representative who are then sent to Congress to lobby for statehood. In addition, the District has been granted a non-voting Congressperson, who functions as any other Congressperson, but without the power to vote on legislation. Today, Representative Franklin Garcia, Senator Michael Brown and Senator Paul Strauss make up the DC shadow delegation, while Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is the nonvoting representative, functioning largely as a legislator from within Congress while the shadow delegation lobbies for statehood outside it. Proponents of DC statehood view the issue as a civil rights issue. As Norton said, as long as “there’s one part of the country, the part you would least expect, that has to submit its budget to Congress, has to submit every piece of legislation and get it held over and see if Congress wants to overturn it, we are essentially treated as a colony.” According to Garcia, statehood is “the one way that the citizens of DC would be equal to citizens of all the states.” The reason that more people are not up in arms about statehood as a civil rights issue is a matter of priorities, according to Brown. “When it comes to other civil rights struggles—when Michael Brown gets killed in Ferguson—African Americans all across America feel that pain,” Brown said. “But when it comes to DC not having a vote, we’re the only ones that don’t have a vote. We need to make other people see our pain. But we don’t.”

In recent years, the push for DC statehood has heated up. In 2007, the District partnered with Utah in a nearly successful bipartisan attempt to gain voting rights for itself and another representative for Utah, according to Norton. However, she said lobbyists for the NRA “attached an amendment that required the elimination of all of DC’s gun laws,” and the bill ultimately failed. “That’s not the kind of bargain that any jurisdiction can possibly make,” she said.

"It's a more partisan issue than it ought to be, because they're playing with people's democracy, and that's simply wrong."

As passionately as supporters stand for it, DC statehood remains a deeply divisive issue sharply defined by party lines. The District has been and likely will continue to be staunchly liberal in its political affiliations for the foreseeable future. There has never been a republican mayor, nor has the District ever voted republican in a federal election. The Democratic Party as a whole is strongly in support of DC statehood, while the Republican Party is just as firmly opposed. “If we become a state, we’ll get two democratic senators and a voting democratic congressman in perpetuity, and so the republicans stand against us,” Brown said. Garcia sees the problem as a moral one.


“It’s a more partisan issue than it ought to be, because they’re playing with people’s democracy, and that’s simply wrong,” he said.

The current centerpiece of the DC statehood movement is a bill called the New Columbia Admission Act (NCAA), which has been introduced year-afteryear by proponents of statehood. The NCAA seeks to downsize the District to primarily federal land, while the rest, including residential areas, would be admitted to the Union as the state of New Columbia. During the 2015 legislative session, a Senate hearing was held for the bill, which had a record 126 cosponsors, with not a single republican among them. With DC statehood in the public eye more than ever before, the question remains as to the movement’s next steps. Educating the public is top priority for Brown. “We need to be able to go out to Ohio and say, ‘We have over 30 Congressional Medal of Honor winners from the District. We have 200,000 people who have served in wartime. We’ve lost over 2,000 of them. And we deserve the same rights that everyone else in America has.'”

Norton also believes that the push for statehood needs to come from the people as much as from elected officials. “I think residents accept the notion that it’s really up to them,” she said. “Congress never gives anyone anything. Congress responds to democratic—’small d’—pressure.” For Norton, residents of the District have the cards stacked against them. “It’s hard to keep up pressure for 200 years. We may be the longest in history to get our rights.”

Lindsey Grutchfield is a freshman studying journalism.

DIGNITY & JUSTICE continents, the megafauna were wiped out within a relatively short period,” said Angela van Doorn, the lab director for American University’s environmental science department. “I think there is some good evidence to support that large-bodied, slow animals were wiped out." Today, amphibians are the animal class most at risk; in her novel, “The Sixth Extinction,” author Elizabeth Kolbert explained that amphibian extinction rates could be 45,000 times higher than the average background rate. Their rapid loss is the result of a fungus that humans helped spread around the world. With mammals dying at 20 to 100 times the rates of the past, there could be a dinosaur-level extinction in only 250 years. The resulting collapse of ecosystems would mean game-over for humans. USAID



By Pamela Huber // Infographic by Ellyse Stauffer

Apocalypticists predict the world will end in a ball of burning ash and fire with the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. While that cataclysmic event is unlikely to happen in the next one to two million years, a supervolcano explosion in Siberia did wipe out 85 percent of land species and 95 percent of ocean species 252 million years ago. The catastrophe, nicknamed “The Great Dying,” marked one of Earth’s five mass extinctions. It won’t take a supervolcano to create the sixth mass extinction. It’s happening right now—and scientists seem to agree that humans are causing it. While the sixth mass extinction has been underway for centuries, a 2015 study by Stanford scientists brought the issue to the media limelight. The team of researchers claim to have proved that the sixth mass extinction is underway using relatively conservative estimates. They found that, on average, vertebrate species are going extinct at approximately 114 times the average “background” rate, which is generally considered to be 0.1 - 1.0 extinctions per 10,000 vertebrate species every 100 years. Invertebrates, whose populations are more difficult to study yet comprise over 99 percent of Earth’s diversity, may be in greater peril. While most mass extinctions take thousands of years to reach such alarming rates, this one has managed to proliferate in a few centuries, thanks to the efforts of man. As the study's co-author Paul Ehrlich said to the BBC, "We are sawing off the limb that we are sitting on.”

*** All around the globe, mass graves marked by twisting white fans of stalactites rise up from the ocean floor. These graveyards, the same color as bones, not only mark dead bodies—they are made from the dead themselves, the bleached exoskeletons of coral reefs. As climate change heats up the oceans, coral exposed to increasing water temperatures becomes stressed, expelling a vital algae called zooxanthellae from within its tissues. This strips coral of their brilliant coloring. Although coral can survive bleaching, they need zooxanthellae, which provide about 90 percent of their energy, to grow and reproduce. Without it, coral are exposed, weak and prone to starve. Just four weeks of a one degree Celsius increase in ocean temperature can trigger bleaching, according to The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Replacing reefs is harder than ever before. As the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, so too does carbonic acid in ocean waters. “As CO2 gets dissolved into the ocean water, it turns into an acid called carbonic acid, the same stuff that’s in your can of Coca-Cola," said Kiho Kim, the environmental science department chair at AU. "And that CocaCola has a detrimental impact on corals, which are made of limestone, which dissolve in the presence of acid.” Because of this, coral reefs are the most at-risk ecosystems in the world. Half of the world’s coral species have been destroyed in the last 50 years, and at this rate, the rest may be gone before the end of the 21st century. Aside from amphibians, coral is more endangered than any terrestrial group of organisms on the planet. And losing the coral means losing the oases in what are effectively ocean deserts. “Coral reefs are like a train station,” Kim said. “Species come in, they do their thing and then they leave. But when that train station is gone, things don’t have a place to ‘complete their destination.’” Because ocean ecosystems are linked to terrestrial systems through the carbon cycle, loss of ocean life disrupts the entire planet.


The study concludes that mankind triggered this mass extinction through hunting, pollution and habitat loss. Some scientists even trace it back to the spread of homo sapiens across the world.

Climate change has ripple effects on nearly every ecosystem. Global warming also instigates migration of species around the globe, leading to the spread of invasive species that disrupt the balance of ecosystems and destroy indigenous wildlife.

"There is some evidence that...when humans colonized the different

While migration is a natural phenomenon, deforestation and desertiWWW.AWOLAU.ORG » FALL 2015



"People don't understand—especially people in the U.S. who aren't experiencing desertification or drought—the connection to climate change."

tiative, which raises public awareness about climate change in time for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference this December.

fication complicate the process. As forests shrink into small fragmented pockets, tree species that would normally migrate toward cooler climates have nowhere to go. They’re stuck.

Consumerism plays a part too. Every purchase has an impact, with the materials coming from some natural source. While making sustainable choices is important, some worry that with the increasing rates of global population growth, greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, telling people to conserve water and recycle may not be enough.

“In the past they've always—if it didn't drive them to extinction—moved northwards,” van Doorn said of the stuck species. “They moved up mountains. But now with human development, they don't have anywhere to go. I think that's the biggest thing ahead of us.”

“Some people argue, 'Forget those small steps, it’s too late for them; we need to do something drastic,'" Kim said. “I don’t think it’s either/or. You have to do both. You have to set the culture of doing things and being aware of what the impacts of your actions are.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found that between 2000 and 2010, 13 million hectares of forest were affected by deforestation per year. This not only means a loss of biodiversity, but of natural resources and a vital link in the carbon and water cycles. According to the World Wildlife Fund, because forests absorb and store carbon dioxide, deforestation is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions behind oil and coal, responsible for 15 percent of the world’s emissions. And without trees and plants sucking up ground water and releasing it into the atmosphere through transpiration, the rain disappears. Local climates dry up.


Trees also prevent soil erosion. Fewer forests means less arable land for farming and more mudslides. And for those who rely on the goods of the forests for their livelihoods rather than farming, their natural resources disappear along with the habitat. “People don’t understand—especially people in the U.S. who are not experiencing desertification or drought—the connection to climate change,” said Anthony Bucci III, a public affairs and media intern at the United Nations Foundation. Bucci’s work at the UN supports the Earth To Paris ini-

In 2015, the UN unveiled 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) meant to build off the momentum of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that spanned from 2000 to 2015. Only one MDG focused on the environment: Goal 7—ensure environmental sustainability. In contrast, six of the SDGs focus specifically on sustainability and the environment. “With the SDGs, one of the most exciting parts of them is that they were deliberately crafted to be interconnected with one another,” Bucci said. “There are some that will be more challenging than others, but that’s the nature of issues like climate change: that they touch on everything.” The SDGs, like the MDGs, are ambitious. One goal, for example, aims to promote sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation and restore degraded forests by 2020. Some, however, are skeptical of the impact the goals will actually have. "They seem really lofty and I want to know is how do you make sure that countries are accountable for these?” van Doorn said.









PERMIAN “The Great Dying”

85 percent of sea life wiped out after ice

75 percent of all species become extinct

90 percent of all species died out due to asteroid

sheets causes a fall in sea level and

due to changes in sea levels and soil,

impact, flood basalt eruptions, methane release,

changes chemistry of oceans.

asteroid impacts and climage change.

a drop in oxygen levels, sea level fluctuations or some combination of these.


DIGNITY & JUSTICE “If they've signed them or agreed to them, what does that mean?" Bucci said that countries are not merely signing onto the UN’s proposal, but were integral in developing the SDGs. “These SDGs were developed through an extensive multi-year process in which there was a deliberate effort to make sure that communities from around the world, from the smallest communities and local efforts to international organizations and countries, submitting their own ideas about what the SDGs should be,” he said. “So I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s top-down, but that everyone was a part of that.” While FAO data shows that the MDG Goal 7 had some success, especially pertaining to increasing the conservation of forests, Bucci believes that the SDGs stand an even better chance. “We wanted to make them interconnected and wanted to make them really idealistic,” Bucci said.“We wanted to make them things that were not always high-in-the-sky, but also achievable and measurable and that we could set as goals to work towards.”

“I think there are species that are really doomed to extinction at this point because they have such small numbers,” she said. Bucci, on the other hand, believes the UN SDGs will play an important role in saving biodiversity. “The current period of extinction is deeply worrying,” he said. “Embracing the SDGs and taking ambitious yet practical actions will certainly have an impact on mitigating this current extinction event.” International organizations such as the UN do have an important role to play by participating in global agreements. "I think that if you put something together that said 'Oh we're going to try to prevent 10 percent of the [world’s] biodiversity loss,' or something more realistic, maybe it would have a hard time to get people to rally behind it,” van Doorn said. “So maybe it's better to have some lofty goals and you know at least you can make some action towards them.” For Kim, the agreements that international organizations create matter.


“Nobody wants to feel paralyzed about not being able to change the climate.”

Scientists vary in their current extinction rate predictions (Kolbert cites a critical 2004 study that predicted anywhere from 10 to 52 percent of the world’s species could go extinct), though most agree that people need to act fast.

Bucci finds value in tackling climate change through multiple international agreements. He believes that in addition to the UN SDGs, the Paris Climate Conference this December has a big part to play in making the world care about and work towards sustainability.

According to the Stanford study, avoiding the extinction means a rapid, intensified effort to save threatened species and mitigate the effects of habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation for economic gain.

“This is the beginning of a centuries-long conversation on how we as humans will live symbiotically with the environment,” he said.

“There are reasons to be hopeful,” Kim acknowledged. Still, he’s not convinced. “I’m not terribly optimistic about the long term outlook,” he said. “The best case scenario is that we have small pockets of reasonably intact coral reef ecosystems in fairly isolated places around the world.” Van Doorn is equally worried.

“What Paris needs to be is the moment that humanity took control of its destiny. A sort of, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ of the climate movement.”

Pamela Huber is a senior studying literature, creative writing and biology. She is co-Editor-in-Chief of AWOL.







Roughly half of all species alive at the time

Flood basalt eruptions and falls in sea levels caused

became extinct due to climate change,

a general decline in the number of living species, but

flood basalt eruptions and asteroid impact.

an asteroid or comet striking the Yucatan Peninsula marked the end for the dinosaurs.



Source: BBC NATURE Prehistoric Life




Photo courtesy of Ahmed Badr



All of the sudden everything around Ahmed Badr turned dark and cloudy. His previous life—his possessions and the house in which he’d created his dearest memories— vanished the instant the bomb dropped. His family told him that it was time to leave, transforming Badr’s eight-year-old life into a statistic: he was suddenly one of the world’s 19.5 million refugees. Today, Badr is a 17-year-old refugee from Baghdad, Iraq living in Houston, Texas. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), he is one of the 11,778 refugees from Iraq resettled in the United States. “As a kid, you don’t really understand what tragedy means,” Badr said. “We went home and then I saw for myself.”


After months of trying to make a new life in the economically unstable country of Syria, the family found hope in the form of a bus driver. The driver told Badr’s father that he could apply for resettlement in either the United States or the United Kingdom. “The thing about this program was that only one percent of the people that apply get accepted,” Badr said. “But my dad thought we didn’t have anything to lose, so we went for it.” Badr was lucky his family’s case was actually addressed. However, he still went through months of security measures. “We had six months of interviews in different places in Syria,” Badr said. In the midst of the expansive refugee crisis, the

time span for resettlement in the United States has only gotten longer. The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants requires 13 steps before a refugee is allowed asylum in the United States. According to Defense One, an online news site, it takes at least 18 to 24 months to resettle a Syrian refugee, resulting in the resettlement of fewer than 1,900 of the 20,000 applications filed since 2011. Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. tightened security measures for resettlement, lengthening the time that people must wait for their case to be considered. “When you look at this crisis, the area where you have a security problem is human security,” said Kate Tennis, a speaker for the American University Migration

DIGNITY & JUSTICE Crisis panel and a graduate student at AU. “Thousands of people are dying on terrestrial routes and maritime routes. That’s the security problem.” According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there were still 82,175 pending asylum cases as of March 2015. The U.S. pledges to take in only 15,000 more refugees in fiscal year 2016, in addition to the current maximum of 70,000.

“In 2013, it started to rain mortar shells in Jaramana,” Mcleash said. “We had like 14 mortar shells a day and that was considered normal. So that was a really tense time to live in.” Mcleash is one of the 216,973 Syrian refugees currently residing in Germany. After meeting AU professor Alex Cromwell, Mcleash agreed to Cromwell’s idea of establishing a GoFundMe page in order to raise money to flee Syria. The GoFundMe

Emma Ashford, 32, a Visiting Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, is from the United Kingdom. At the migration panel, she compared her experience applying for U.S. citizenship to the difficulty of applying for asylum: “The requirements for getting asylum status in the U.S.—[as] someone who just went through the citizenship process as a West European, white, English-speaking immigrant—was a nightmare,” Ashford said. “So, it’s a very high bar for these people, which is why the processing is so slow.” Many refugees from Syria are fleeing to Germany to escape the effects of the civil war that has been going on since 2011. Fadi Mcleash, 23, from Damascus, Syria, was oblivious to the severity of the war when it first began. However, two years into the civil war, he knew that he needed to leave Syria.

“Many politicians are using fear to prevent policies that they don’t like,” Ashford said. “And with the line between humanitarian needs and security needs, we should certainly be relaxing the security needs right now to deal with the major humanitarian crisis.” Because of the strict procedures to gain asylum in the United States, countries such as Jordan, which are not economically capable of handling the large influx of refugees, are the ones who are forced to handle it.

“[There are] politics of fear that we have seen going on in the United States since 9/11 and an overabundance of caution due to the anxiety around the Islamic State,” Mary O’Toole, a reporter for Defense One Politics, said at the panel. Following the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, there have been 4,289,792 registered Syrian refugees at the time of print, according to the UN Refugee Agency. In comparison to the 85,000 total refugees that the U.S. has pledged to accomodate in 2016, Germany pledged to take in 800,000 refugees this year alone. They have also implemented more efficient ways to speed up their asylum process. According to Asylum in Europe, it takes Syrian refugees 4.2 months to receive asylum even in Germany, a country that has taken on a significant amount of the European refugee influx.

Mcleash said. Despite these harsh circumstances, the U.S. has been slow to respond to pressures for changes in their policies.

"It's important to show support for our own human brother, no matter what color, what race, what religion. We bond together."

“Jordan is a great example where one in five of the population [are refugees],” O’Toole said. “So if their resources are so stretched, and the U.S. has unique resources to deal with the problem, I expect more of a response [from the U.S], being such a global leader.” While Badr was able to find refuge in the U.S., the U.S. is not making it an easy process for current refugees to get asylum. Out of the 12 million Syrians that have been forced to flee their homes since the start of the conflict, the U.S. has only taken in 1,500. Refugees need resources that the U.S. has and that other Middle Eastern countries currently taking in millions of refugees are struggling to provide. “I remind myself every day to remember why I left, even when I get homesick,” Mcleash said. “In Syria, we don’t even have freedom of speech. And as you can see, I can talk for hours, so I need that freedom.”

Page was a tremendous success. Through the help of donations, he raised a total of $2,681 to finance his journey. Mcleash and a small group of friends, who were also leaving Syria and traveling to Germany, embarked on the dangerous journey crossing the Mediterranean. With one piece of mortar shell in his leg and another in his hand, he knew that the only way to remove the shrapnel required fleeing his home country. “All of the good doctors in Syria are [sic] either traveled outside of Syria or have passed away because of mortar shells,”

Countries that provide asylum to refugees are allowing them to escape the presence of war and an oppressive government. They provide a place of solitude that rids refugees of constantly fearing a mortar shell or car bomb. “It’s important to show support for our own human brother, no matter what color, what race, what religion,” Mcleash said. “We bond together.”

Reina Dufore-Byrd is a freshman studying international development and economics.




visit back to DC, she says, “It was really hard seeing my friends…I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed taking classes and learning.”

*** Ellen’s story sheds light on a host of interconnected problems that students like her—first-generation, low-income people of color—face. Students of color are more likely to rely on student loans, according to public policy think tank Demos, and nearly four in 10 low-income borrowers drop out of college. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, first-generation students are more likely to be of color and to come from low-income families and are more likely to drop out than their continuingeducation peers. Robert Kelchen, a professor in Seton Hall University’s education department who studied the disproportionate reliance on student loans among black families, says that one of the reasons for this disparity is that people of color are more likely to lack family wealth. “Family income is how much money a family makes during a given year, while wealth refers to their total level of resources,” Kelchen wrote in an email. “Black families tend to have less wealth because they have made less money than white families for generations. The cumulative effect of higher incomes for the average white family results in the wealth disparities.”



By Kendra Yoshinaga // Photo by Jess Anderson

Kelchen says slavery and widespread employment discrimination are examples of the ways that black families have historically been prevented from accumulating as much wealth as white families. Latino families are also more likely to have a disproportionate lack of wealth. “In the aftermath of the recession, whites held 13 times more wealth than Black households and 10 times more wealth than Latino households,” says Demos researcher Mark Huelsman.


When Ellen first came to American University, she hit the ground running. The women’s studies and politics double major immersed herself in campus organizations like Students Against Sexual Violence and Women’s Initiative. By her sophomore year, Ellen, who asked to remain anonymous, had landed a job at the Rape & Incest National Network. “I felt like I was really coming into myself at AU,” she says. Ellen was the first in her family to go to college, and her parents took out loans to help supplement her AU grant and partial Frederick Douglass scholarship. But last spring's tuition hike, along with a cut in her financial aid, forced Ellen to put her AU career on hold. “When I found out I couldn’t come back, it was heartbreaking,” Ellen says. Ellen moved back in with her parents in New Jersey to work. She's hoping to save enough money to return to AU next fall. On a recent


Sydney Young, a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs, says she's thought about dropping out. Her parents had to move from their house to a small apartment so that they could support her. Her father, a corrections officer, started driving an Uber to make extra money. Still, Young expects to be nearly $100,000 in debt by the time she graduates. “[My parents] want me to do well in school, so it’s worth them paying the loans,” Young says. “They’re very sacrificial: ‘If you do well in school, get that job you want, then it’s worth us being in debt.’” Given the competitive job market, however, Young says she’s under a lot of pressure. “It makes me feel bad because I don’t want my parents to work until they can’t work anymore to pay for something that may not even be lucrative in the end,” she says. When it comes to entering the workforce, the odds are stacked against people of color. In the Washington metropolitan area, for example, the unemployment rate for African Americans is nearly double that of Caucasians, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

DIGNITY & JUSTICE Young’s loans were the first that her parents had ever taken out, and there was a steep learning curve. “We’d never done anything like that before,” she says. “I feel like we weren’t educated in the process, and it makes us even more paranoid about it.” For Young, the process of taking out loans was so protracted that she wasn’t able to register for her first semester until after classes started. First-generation families like hers, Young says, need more resources to make up for the financial literacy they often lack. Roshni Sharma, a freshman in the School of International Service, says that her parents obtained higher education—her father got his associate degree in the U.S. after moving from India, and her mother got her master’s degree in India. Yet when it came to getting financial aid for their daughter, they were as mystified as she was. “My parents didn’t have a lot of schooling here, so I had to get all my information from my cousins who were older than me,” Sharma says. “Even now, it’s pretty coded in a lot of big words.”

*** When asked if AU’s financial aid resources had been helpful to her, Ellen laughs. “If you talk to anyone who has ever been to the financial aid office, it’s six different headaches every time you go in,” she says. She recalls receiving her first bill as she was preparing to come to AU as a freshman. It was $2,000 more than the amount she’d thought she would have to pay—the financial aid office had forgotten to include her meal plan in her initial acceptance letter, and her family was left scrambling to scrape up the extra money.

of attending AU for a year nearly matches her parents’ annual income. When Sharma visited for Freshman Day, she went to the financial aid office to ask if there was any way that she could get more aid. “Before I even finished the sentence, they were like, ‘We can’t do anything,’” she says.

*** “When I hear stories like that, it breaks my heart,” says Shirleyne McDonald, Associate Director of the Financial Aid Office. “There are so many different trainings and conversations that we have to ensure that all of our students feel supported and that all of our staff understand that when you speak to a student, you’re representing the institution...So even though you may have said it five other times to five other families, for the one in front of you, this is their first experience.”

"For some students, maybe that wouldn't be a problem. But I think there's a fair amount of students at AU that that's a huge issue for—even coming up with 500 extra dollars is an issue."

When she called the financial aid office, she says that the staff wasn’t very understanding. “For some of the students, maybe that wouldn’t be a problem,” Ellen says. “But I think there’s a fair amount of students at AU that that’s a huge issue for—even coming up with 500 extra dollars is an issue.” Ellen would have felt better “if someone would have been more understanding of my situation, had tried to work with me, as opposed to telling me ‘I don’t know what to tell you—you’re going to have to figure out where to get that money from.” Sharma says that even with financial aid and loans, the cost

Brian Lee Sang, the director of the financial aid office, says that many staff members from the financial aid office and AU Central have undergone voluntary customer service training from AU’s human resources department. “The university is very focused and sensitive toward providing good customer service to students,” Sang says. However, he acknowledges that “sometimes [students’] perception doesn’t work out as well as we’d hope.” Both McDonald and Sang were firstgeneration students themselves, and they understand the anxiety that students have about financing their education. Sang says the office’s capacity to support underserved students has improved since he started in 2000.

“For many, many years I put forth proposals to try and change the funding structure here at AU,” he says. When he came on board, for example, the majority of AU’s scholarship resources went to merit scholarships instead of need-based scholarships. “That certainly brought the profile of AU up,” he says. “It made us get really high in the rankings. But to me, it was closing off access to students—students of color in particular, and needy students.” Eventually, the university switched to a funding structure in which the majority of resources went toward need-based scholarships. While Sang and McDonald recognize that students of color are disproportionately challenged when it comes to paying for college, they cannot legally award aid on the basis of race, so they must find other ways to assist underserved students. The Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program, for example, gives




preference to both first-generation students and students who are committed to working in communities of color. Sang says that changing the Pell grant strategy also helped AU support students of color. Pell grants, which are federal need-based awards for students from low-income families, can be the deciding factor when it comes to success for students of color. Researchers at Clemson University found that the graduation rate among low-income African American students who received a Pell grant was 12 percent higher than for those who did not. Among low-income Latino students, the difference was 20 percent. “We knew a couple of years ago that Pell students in general were almost predominantly students of color,” Sang says. Since he started pushing the university to take on more Pell students, he says, AU has nearly doubled its Pell population. Another recent improvement, McDonald says, was creating AU Central. The old system was so complicated that it was nicknamed “the Bermuda Triangle.” “You had to go to so many different offices, and sometimes it felt like you got lost in the middle,” McDonald says. AU Central was created to streamline the student services network, and the Office of Financial Aid works with AU Central’s staff to ensure that they’re well-informed. She says that for about 80 percent of the student population, the new system works. But for those who aren’t satisfied with the answers they get from AU Central, the Office of Financial Aid has a counselor on call.



fter the recent attacks in France, the French government decided to close the country’s borders as a safety measure, and many outgoing flights were canceled. This left a number of travelers stranded throughout the country, looking for places to stay. Airbnb, a company founded in 2008 that facilitates partnerships between travelers looking for lodging and people willing to host them, has quickly become a popular way to find a quick and cheap room while on vacation or on the go. According to The Telegraph, Airbnb launched a disaster response initiative in 2013 and is currently offering its services to stranded travelers in Paris. It’s the first time the company’s disaster initiative has been activated in response to a terrorist attack. Airbnb has asked hosts throughout the country to offer extended lodging for free or a relatively low cost to travelers to ensure that they have a place to stay, according to an email sent to hosts. The company is working with the French government to ensure that its services remain available for all. —Lydia Crouthamel.

*** According to Sang, the university does require online entrance counseling for students who take out loans. They experimented with holding mandatory sessions in person, but those sessions were “very sparsely attended,” and ended up placing too much of a burden on students with busy schedules. Although the office offers a variety of workshops geared toward financial literacy, McDonald says the staff struggles to publicize these events to students. They have tried using TodayAtAU, the Eagle and working with their campus partners like the Office of Campus Life and AU Student Government, but she says that despite these efforts there is a “disconnect” between the way students view the office and the way she wants the office to be seen. She hopes students will reach out to her if they aren’t receiving the help they need. “We’re all invested,” she says. “We all want to see our students do well. And I don’t know how to make that translate.”

*** At the end of the day, financial stress carries a significant emotional burden for low-income students. Ellen says she know how frustrating it is to always worry about money. “Take advantage of everything that AU has to offer,” she advises other students. “Since you’re already in debt and you’re already paying so much money, take advantage of every free thing.”

Kendra Yoshinaga is a senior studying broadcast journalism and legal studies.




rivate companies are one step closer to mining space for precious resources such as water and platinum. In mid-November, the U.S. Senate passed the Space Act of 2015, which would allow companies the rights to resources that they may one day be able to extract from space bodies, according to Popular Science. The bill, which is is expected to clear the House of Representatives as well, also extends the period of time in which private spacecraft companies can operate without a large amount of government oversight. W hile the international Outer Space Treaty prevents any individual or state from owning property in space, the Space Act of 2015 would allow, under U.S. law, for individuals to retain the property rights to materials that they extract from "land" that no one owns. As the bill moves through Congress and onto President Obama, one concern that remains is the logic that allows one to claim rights to resources on property that, legally, belongs to no one. — Pamela Huber


MĂŠME PAS PEUR Words and photos by Jessica Wombles

Not even a little bit afraid. This was the sentiment shared, in English and in French, on Saturday, Nov. 14, at a vigil following the terrorist attacks in Paris. Just the night before, members of a militant extremist group planted bombs that killed 131 and injured many more. The vigil lasted for several hours as hundreds stood in hushed silence in Lafayette Square, the crowd dotted with candles and posters proclaiming peace.

to be filled in

A deep silence filled the air when hundreds gathered before the White House in solidarity with Paris. WWW.AWOLAU.ORG Âť FALL 2015



Valentine Pétit, a French National, held her sign high. It read: “Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforParis, but we don’t need more religion! Our faith goes to music! kisses! life! champagne and joy! #Parisisaboutlife.” “There is much talk of prayer and religion, but for me, at the moment, we do not need more religion,” Pétit said. “For right now, it's better to keep focus on the spirit of Paris.” Pétit holds her sign, designed by a Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, in response to the Paris attacks.

People of all nationalities gathered to honor the victim of the Paris attacks.


Amanda Ruberto, a Canadian national, summarized the mood perfectly. "When tragedy like this happens, whether you know the people or not, it still affects your heart in a deep way, no matter how far across the work," she said.

A sign pinned to a tree reads "meme pas peur." Translated directly, the phrase means "Not even a little bit afraid," but colloquially, it has a more defiant edge—a "hit me with your best shot" feel that conveys a sense of determination to conquer hate and fear.

Jessica Wombles is a junior communications and international studies. She is a staff editor for AWOL. WWW.AWOLAU.ORG Âť FALL 2015



“Everyone who is a vendor here when they met us found themselves otherwise unemployable,” Carome said. “And we can give them a job today.” The process is simple—one only needs to walk into the Street Sense office and will receive 20 newspapers for free, along with a mentor, to start selling the papers. After completing a training course, new vendors get an official name badge and yellow vest. They can then buy newspapers for 50 cents and sell them on the street for a suggested donation of $2. If interested, vendors can also contribute to the content of the newspapers by submitting stories and other artwork and attending various workshops led by volunteers from several fields of media production. Shernell Thomas presents the newest issue of Street Sense. Shernell has been a vendor for nearly four years.



By Lauren Fay // Photo by Jess Anderson

If you’ve walked around the streets of the District of Columbia, you’ve probably seen people who are homeless. Lying on a bench wrapped in a blanket, busking outside a metro station or shaking a cup on a street corner, everywhere you look there is a reminder of how pervasive the issue of homelessness is in the District. According to the planning and coordinating committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, there are 11,623 homeless people in the DC metropolitan region. Policymakers are faced with the issue of housing people in the face of overcrowded and decaying shelters, and finding employment for people with limited job training in an evermore competitive market. Discussions surrounding these topics have been at the frontline of local politics, but there is one key group missing from the conversation: those actually experiencing homelessness. As Brian Carome, executive director of Street Sense, points out, instead of seeing people who are homeless as fellow human beings, “We see


them as other, the alien.” While homelessness may be hard to ignore, the thoughts, feelings and ideas of individuals experiencing homelessness are commonly disregarded. Street Sense, a nonprofit newspaper written and sold by people who experience homelessness, seeks to change that. Harnessing “the transformative power of storytelling,” Street Sense provides a forum for people who are homeless to share their talents in writing, music, artwork and filmmaking to engage the public in their lives and bring about a greater understanding of what it means to be homeless in the District. “We’re trying to show that we are more than what people say and think ‘homeless’ is,” said Sasha Williams, a vendor who recently produced her first short film with Street Sense. But the goal of Street Sense is not just to educate the public. It is to help those experiencing homelessness by providing them with a space to express themselves and a job so they can begin to earn an income.

The content of Street Sense doesn’t suggest stigmas on homelessness. Stigmas often prevent people from seeing that many of those living on the streets have talents and skills but are denied the chance to utilize them. “Some of the folks who are sleeping outside tonight are really talented writers, and some of them are playwrights and filmmakers,” Carome said. “They’re artists and they just need the right amount of training to nurture that element.” Street Sense seeks to develop programs to channel vendors’ talents into more sustainable careers. Today, many companies outsource their marketing needs, like blog pieces and filming advertising videos, to third parties. Carome hopes that if Street Sense can train people that are homeless to do this type of work, it will allow them to get a foot in the door of the job market. Additionally, since all of the work is done digitally, it won’t matter if someone doesn’t have home mailing address or can’t afford to buy a suit—two issues that commonly prevented people who are homeless from finding a job. “In homelessness you lose so much of yourself, you really forget who you are and the world kind of forgets who you are too,” said Street Sense Editor-in-Chief Mary Otto. She hopes that the paper can provide people who are homeless the opportunity to reclaim their identity and share their unique talents and perspectives. Lauren Fay is a sophomore studying international relations.


Okonkwo, the executive director of DCLY. “It is not just the result of zero tolerance policies, which people like to tote as being the only contributor, but school suspensions for minor offenses and out-of-school suspensions in general.”




By Evie Lacroix // Illustration by Jessica Dodman

It’s the unruly students in the corner of a classroom, the ones who tell fart jokes instead of math answers. Who disobey and talk back to adults. These are the students that teachers rarely know what to do with. They are the ones that will probably be suspended, if they haven't been already. In black and brown communities, and in low-income communities especially, these students are disproportionately suspended and expelled from the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) and the District of Columbia Public Charter Schools (PCSB). “Students have a misconception and they feel unwelcome, and eventually this spirals out of control to the point where we see students in jail,” said District Councilman David Grosso, chairman of the Education Council. Out of a total enrollment of 77,605 students, there were 18,950 suspensions and expulsions in the 2011-2012 school year alone, according to a 2013 study by DC Lawyers for Youth (DCLY). Of these suspensions, 70 percent occurred in Wards 7 and 8, where over 90 percent of the population identified as black (non-Hispanic) on the 2010 census. At this rate, black students are 5.86 times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. High rates of suspensions and expulsions are main factors of what is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” “The school-to-prison pipeline consists of those policies and practices that pushes youth out of schools and into the criminal or juvenile justice system,” said David

In the DCLY study, researchers found that 35 percent of suspensions occurred in middle schools. Jefferson Middle School in Ward 6, which had the highest suspension rate, had 382 unique suspensions of 129 students, or 72 percent of its population (some students were suspended more than once). Of the 14 middle schools in the District, only Alice Deal Middle School in Ward 3 suspended less than 20 percent of its population—out of 1,013 students, 74 were temporarily removed for a total of 147 unique suspensions. DCPS elementary and high schools suspend at a much lower rate than middle schools. High schools suspend an average 22.5 percent of their students, whereas elementary schools suspend an average 5.2 percent of their students, according to the study. Even in charter schools, middle and high school-aged students are also more likely to be suspended than elementary students. The highest suspension rate for a charter school is at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Ward 7. Out of the 210 students, 67 percent, or 140 students were suspended 442 unique times. While charter schools suspend fewer students compared to public schools, they were responsible for 98 percent of all student expulsions in the District for the 2011-2012 school year. Out of 230 total expulsions in the District, charter schools expelled 227 students. Because charter schools do not have to disclose the reason for suspensions or expulsions, explanations come only from public school data. “We have seen students suspended for food fights, being disruptive in class,” Okonkwo said. The DCPS student handbook breaks down negative student behavior into a five-tier system. The least harmful actions are considered Tier 1 offenses, such as dress code violations, not having required class materials or running through the building. Tier 5 lists the most harmful actions, such as drug distribution, the possession of a weapon or fighting resulting in injury. Most reported suspensions are Tier 3 violations, which acts as a catch-all tier with 28 possible offenses, from surfing inappropriate websites on school computers to drug and alcohol use. For offenses in Tiers 1 and 2, school administrations are not able to use off-campus suspensions as punishment. For Tier 3 transgressions, it is up to the administration’s discretion; only Tiers 4 and 5 require off-campus suspensions or expulsion as punishment.




Okonkwo said that persistent suspensions and expulsions affect the schools and the communities but, most importantly, the students. “In terms of how youth think about themselves, there is an effect,” he said. “If you are in a place where kids are being taken out of school for any number of things, there is no stable environment to let them feel protected and safe. When that happens, it is not a place that they want to go to.”

"We decided that no matter how good the attorneys were at representing young people, if they went back to the same communities or went back to a system that wasn't better off than when they left it, we weren't having good outcomes for young people."

HUGS, NOT THE HAND For Okonkwo, DCLY is one of the answers to unfair treatment of disadvantaged students in the District. In 2007, he, along with nine other graduates of Georgetown University’s Juvenile Justice Clinic, opened DCLY with the goal of making “the DC juvenile justice system the best and smallest for students.” In other words, their mission is to create a juvenile system in the District that keeps students from cyclically moving within the justice system, and streamlining the system so only those who need it use it. “We decided that no matter how good the attorneys were at representing young people, if they went back to the same communities or went back to a system that wasn't better off than when they left it, we weren't having good outcomes for young people," Okonkwo said. “We wanted to start an organization that really worked on reform for DC’s juvenile justice system so it is one that is rehabilitative, not punitive.” DCLY created the Every Student Every Day Coalition to help combat the school-to-prison pipeline. The Coalition unites researchers, DCPS service providers, advocacy groups and individuals who, according to their website, are working to organize and engage communities where school disengagement is a problem, to “educate them about systematic trends and empower them to advocate for reform through a variety of channels.”


As a result of these staggering suspension and expulsion figures, Grosso has worked extensively to correct the school-to-prison pipeline. “Especially in the African American community, there is a real understanding in the neighborhoods that the school-to-prison pipeline is real and that we have to do everything we can do remove it and dismantle it,” Grosso said. “And the way to do this is by these real deliberate steps on how we change the paradigm of discipline and making school welcoming. We should be giving kids hugs and not the hand.” When he was first elected in 2013, Grosso introduced the Pre-K Student Discipline Amendment Act of 2015. The bill, which passed unanimously, prohibits the suspensions and expulsions of pre-kindergarten students in all District schools unless the student does or threatens to physically harm another student, not in self-defense. “When I did this, people came to me really upset, especially teachers, because they did not have the tools they needed to not suspend and expel,” Grosso said. “There has not been a strong emphasis on teachers getting the tools and training for students out of control.” He has since implemented a task force investigating the intersectionality of why students are being suspended and expelled and the mental health problems they are facing.

Its work has had positive effects in the community. Over the past five years, the juvenile justice system shrunk by 30 percent, becoming more streamlined. As activists and coalition builders advocate for the District to implement more community-based programming, more services have been added for young people, reducing recidivism.

“The reality is that we are all learning this together,” Grosso said. “We are coming to the realization that mental health services and adversity care in these schools are the way to handle these situations.”

“Ideally we want to be able to get rid of almost all secured detention for young people, and have them at home in their communities getting services from local service providers, where their families can take part in their rehabilitation,” Okonkwo said.

Christina Henderson, the Education Committee Director, has spearheaded the task force. She has been meeting with different organizations that work in schools to see how they can work together to aid schools more effectively.



“There is a hodgepodge of things happening in schools, and these different organizations hadn't really come together to have conversations,” Henderson said. She is working with the Wendt Center, Turnaround for Children, Children’s Law Center, inSite solutions and the Rand Center to come up with a five-step solution to aid in the mental health and trauma intersections of the school-to-prison pipeline. The coalition is currently talking about what can be done within the limits of next year’s DCPS school budget while looking at the schools they operate in to see if there is overlap. They also want to obtain and utilize districtwide data on toxic stress and trauma that students currently face. Ideally, this assessment would coincide with hearing and vision screenings, in an attempt to normalize mental health stigmas that are predominant in many communities.



handful of restaurants have begun testing out a “no-tipping” policy as part of a growing trend across the United States. On Nov. 11, Joe’s Crab Shack became the first major chain restaurant to eliminate tips, testing the policy at 18 of its locations, raising menu prices and enacting higher, fixed wages to make up for it. The move comes after Danny Meyer, founder of the “finecasual” hamburger chain Shake Shack, decided in October to get rid of gratuities in his Union Square Hospitality Group’s restaurants, including the Museum of Modern Art’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, The Modern, and 12 other full-service establishments. He too chose to raise menu prices instead of incorporating a flat service charge (another alternative to replacing tips). — Andrea Lin

“Students, if you really dig down in their issues, they have adversity in their lives, they are dealing with trauma, with depression or other mental issues, they are dealing with poverty on a daily basis,” Grosso said. “These things are important to recognize. Once you identify that these things are happening, how do we put the resources in these schools to get them in a better position to learn?” The coalition hopes to pilot a feeder pattern program throughout DCPS that aids in screening and treating mental health from pre-kindergarten through high school, ensuring all aspects of students’ mental health are addressed. “DC provides a very interesting opportunity because we are big, but we are also small, and there is a lot of focus on us because we are the nation’s capitol so we feel like if we are able to accomplish here, it will be very easy for other places to make the case for why they need the aid,” Henderson said. In the end, Grosso believes that building better communities and a better city requires breaking the cyclic nature of the school-to-prison pipeline.



hat do Justin Bieber, Wiz Khalifa and a pilgrim zipping around Mecca have in common? They’re all using hoverboards, the hottest new toy since the Segway. Actually, the hoverboards of 2015 basically are Segways, albeit without handlebars. The gadgets, which can support up to 220 pounds, require a rider to lean backward and forward to change speeds, according to Quartz. But are they worth spending $500? Probably not, if riders want to go faster than 10 mph, actually expect to fly or are particularly concerned about spontaneous combustion. That’s right—several house fires in London have been linked to the boards’ faulty charging terminals, according to Wired. This holiday season, it’s probably safer for parents to just get that darned pony. — Jess Anderson

“If you don't have a warm nurturing environment in school where everyone has a fair shot of making it, and everyone is in the best position to succeed, then what happens is that students end up in trouble and fall through the cracks.”

Evie Lacroix is a sophomore studying journalism and political science. She is a staff editor for AWOL.





NATHIFA GREENE By Paloma Losada // Photo by Andrea Lin

Nathifa Greene spends her days pondering the biggest questions of our time, tugging at the intersections of race, feminism and habit in her quest to understand the psychology of knowledge. A western philosophy professor at AU, Greene discusses Trinidad, strip malls and what makes us human. 29

BREAKING CHAINS Your biography states that you lived in Venezuela, Brazil and Trinidad, attending college in the United States and living in Belgium for your post-college years. Living in three nations in your childhood must have given you a global perspective and an awareness for other cultures that many children don’t have. Is that true? If so, how did that affect you? I think that going to international schools growing up meant that I was lucky enough to be exposed to cultures from all around the world in an intimate way, like friends and family and going to birthday parties at different homes. I was really lucky in that way to have a sense of what regular people are like or what cultural traditions are like from actual contact with people, not just reading about it or watching it on TV. And I will say that in being from Trinidad, I’m also very fortunate because Trinidad is a very diverse and kind of "crossroads" island. We just celebrated Diwali, and we celebrate Eid every year. We have Afro, Indo, Syrian, Lebanese and Chinese cultures in a tiny island and that makes us very intimately acquainted with other countries.

Your research interests are feminism, philosophy of race and moral psychology. What led you to those interests? I think the psychology of knowledge is really fascinating, so I’m always curious to try and figure out why people think the way that they do. And having become a philosopher, I’m very aware that the best argument doesn’t always persuade. So how can that be, even in the face of a well-reasoned argument, [that] people don’t necessarily go with the best, most thoughtful idea? Noticing that makes me interested in the psychology of knowledge. And the moral piece of moral psychology probably ties into the ethical questions that feminist theory and philosophy of race have at their core—questions about humanity and values and things that we take for granted.

I feel that those three subjects intersect. How so? For me, in my research, they intersect because I think a lot about habit—habit or the habits that we develop—and how we can act habitually, almost automatically. That’s the main subject for my research right now. And so I think about the ways that our habits can compel us to act in certain ways. We have these epistemic or mental habits and cultural habits as well that get us to places without realizing it. And focusing on habit helps me to see or think about issues in different subjects at the same time, and I kind of like that because I like the interdisciplinary variety that I get.

Where has your past research taken you, whether that be a physical country or a state of understanding? Most recently, my past research has taken me to think about music a lot. I think about how expertise in music is like a framework for our moral expertise. If we think about habit as "becoming good at something," the way that we develop habits in music and the ability to do something else depends on a foundation of habit. I think a lot about musical expertise also in part because I’ve long wanted to play the piano, and I’m not very good at it. I think about people who can improvise really well. Improvisation is a skill that depends on a foundation of habit. My research has also taken me physically to Long Island, which is where I got my Ph.D., and the suburbs. The American suburbs are an interesting place—they are strange. The strip mall after strip mall where all the Targets are the same—it’s very different. Plus the practices of American segregation make the landscape—the social landscape, the visual landscape—of American cities and suburbs very different. Amer-

ica is the only place that I’ve been in where you will see entire single enclaves of just one group. I’m used to places where people would be divided by class, and there would be more diversity in that because the difference would be the amount of money people had, not necessarily their physical features or ethnicities. So the wealthy neighborhoods and the poor neighborhoods would always be mixed, especially in places like Latin America and the Caribbean.

Your current research is about habits. How exactly do you research that? I admit as a philosopher, I’m doing theoretical work. So the empirical work comes from social sciences, cognitive science, observing how habits function, what habits are like. There’s a long history of discussion of habit in philosophy, from Aristotle to thinkers in the 17th century. So there’s a few thousand years of Western philosophy—not to mention Eastern philosophy, where habit is an important issue in Buddhist philosophy and yoga philosophy as well. There’s a contemporary wave of interest in habit through implicit bias research where scholars, many of whom are in feminism, are thinking about how we habitually stereotype other people, or how we habitually act in ways that counter to the beliefs we profess. So even though we might believe in equality, we might act in ways that treat people unequally because of implicit bias.

You teach Western Philosophy 100. You must get a lot of underclassmen; therefore it might be their first time ever in a philosophy class. How does being exposed to philosophical thought change a young person? I think it is a saving grace. I think philosophy is a discipline that helps us to handle difficult problems in a way that is flexible; it’s like a tool that we can use for lots of different kinds of problems, and it helps us have those conversations that people say we never should have. They say you should never talk about politics and religion, but that’s all philosophers talk about, and we can because we have some guidelines. It helps students take on difficult conversations instead of avoiding them. Granted, you might not want to put on your philosophy hat at the Thanksgiving table unless your family is also buying into this set of shared values that we develop in philosophy class, but at least in school or on campus, as a discipline, philosophy can help us tolerate difficult conversations. I think it’s a discipline that builds our capacity for ambiguity, and even though it’s uncomfortable and icky to deal with subjects that are painful, philosophy is the subject that helps us hang in there.

Why did you choose Western philosophy over all other schools of thought? I think probably because I’m owning up to being a product of the West, for better or for worse. Even though I’ve been exposed to Indo, Caribbean, Indian and African cultures from my travels and my background, I don’t know that I’ve been immersed enough to claim that I’m a product of a non-Western environment. Of course I could have studied it, but I think I chose Western philosophy because I’m in this interesting position of being Western for better or for worse, but not necessarily because my ancestors chose to, so I have this ‘outside’ at the same time that there is no outside.

Paloma Losada is a freshman studying political science. WWW.AWOLAU.ORG » FALL 2015