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FOURTH ESTATE April 13, 2015 | Volume 2 Issue 21 George Mason University’s official student news outlet | @IVEstate

Elephant in the Room Questions surround use of animal performers by circus | page 6-7 (AMY PODRAZA/FOURTH ESTATE)







Crime Log April 6 2015-008786 / Credit Card/ Automatic Teller Machine Fraud / Theft from Building Complainant (GMU) reported the theft of property and fraudulent charges to a credit card. Estimated loss $215. Case referred to Criminal Investigations Division. (38/Rourke) Tidewater Hall / Pending / 5:23 p.m.

April 8 2015-009011 / Harassment by Computer Complainant (GMU) reported receiving a derogatory e-mail from an unknown person. Case referred to Criminal Investigations Division. (52/Moses) Fairfax Campus / Pending / 5:03 p.m.

April 9 2015-009115 / Simple Assault Complainant (non-GMU) reported being physically assaulted during a basketball game by an unknown subject. No injuries were reported. (41/Rapoli) Freedom Center (Prince William) / Pending / 7:27 p.m.


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Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) urged the community to take action to combat climate change rather than debate its existence.


Ex-student sues Mason for sexual assault expulsion According to an Associated Press report, an ex-student says he and his former girlfriend participated in sadomasochistic role play. The student is suing the school for wrongful expulsion.




Bhatia & Zaidi win president and vice president election Khushboo Bhatia and Ali Zaidi won the student body presidential election on Monday, April 6 with the platform of #ProgressForMason and #ProgressForStudents.


Students and faculty receive updates about export compliance The Provost’s Office sent an email about university policies on export controls and economic sanctions.






Confederate flag: hatred or heritage? ROBERT WINSHIP | STAFF WRITER

A new debate over an old symbol has reentered the national spotlight. On March 23, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Walker v. Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. over the placement of a Confederate flag on Texas license plates. The case began less than a month before the 150th anniversary of the Confederate surrender in Appomattox, Va. Though Northern Virginia is known for its diversity, confederate flags are still seen occasionally and many No.Va. residents have polarized opinions on the flag. “My mom lives in a very rural southern Virginia area, I’ve only been there like twice, but each time we drive down there there’s like a confederate flag hanging somewhere, and I just think it’s really sad that, I mean, these people - they lost,” said junior English major Abigail Casas. “It just represents bad morals so if you’re going to get a license plate that represents kind of those same ideals, you’re for slavery pretty much - why would you want that license plate?” This debate over symbols is not new to Mason. Especially on a diverse campus, opinions are shades of gray, not black and white. Senior Dylan Bates, of the Dialogue and Difference Project, has hosted several events, including “The Power of Words and Images,” on campus that seeks to discuss hot-button issues, similar to the debate over the flag. “Changing a symbol’s power is incredibly difficult, especially when a symbol can be used in a variety of ways by a variety of people,” Bates said. One way to address differences in viewpoint

is to engage in dialogue, according to Bates. The trajectory of a dialogue will depend on the intentions and positions of dissenting groups.

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“That’s 101 on conflict resolution in general is understand someone’s purpose, someone’s reasoning and moving forward from that,” Bates said. He also pointed out that sometimes it is more important to identify those that are not engaging in a dialogue to determine a course of action. It is not a dialogue, in other words, if only one side is speaking. Sons of Confederate Veterans had submitted a design to the Texas DMV to “raise money… for the state of Texas to keep up monuments” according to R. James George arguing on behalf of the SCV. The Sons of Confederate Veterans began in Richmond, Va. in 1896 and according to their website “continues to serve as a historical, patriotic, and non-political organization dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved.” The state of Texas defended its decision to revoke the specialty plate, while the SCV appealed


to overturn the initial ruling. The hearing centered mainly on whether the information printed on Texas state license plates constitutes “government speech.” The justices were divided over whether a person could reasonably infer that the license plates, bearing the state’s name, were government-endorsed speech, privately endorsed speech or a form of “hybrid-speech.” Symbols of the Confederacy often draw negative attention from many who say the flag is a symbol of slavery and institutional racism. At the same times, others claim the flag represents the sacrifice of Southern soldiers during the Civil War, a sacrifice, which should be remembered in its own right. While overt symbols of hate, like the swastika, are all but forbidden in public places, the symbol of a seceded South has maintained a complicated livelihood. The Texas government has denied several license plates, such as those supporting the Pro-Life campaign and one Texas DPS Trooper’s Foundation Plate. The hearing explored reasons an approval board might reject a license plate; these extend beyond the threat of offense, though the specific grounds for disapproval were not made clear. While this debate is taking place over Texas, many of the contested license plates are available to many students at Mason and any licensed Virginia driver. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, “Virginia offers more than 200 unique plates for our citizens” including “Tobacco Heritage,” “Choose Life” and even a Jimmy Buffet –themed “Parrotheads” plate. The Sons of the Confederacy is not the only Virginia plate that connects to the Confederacy; a General Robert E. Lee set is also available. The Supreme Court is set to decide on the case by June.





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David Carroll Associate Director Fourth Estate is printed each Monday for George Mason University and its surrounding Fairfax community. The editors of Fourth Estate have exclusive authority over the content that is published. There are no outside parties that play a role in the newspaper’s content, and should there be a question or complaint regarding this policy, the Editor-inChief should be notified at the email provided. Fourth Estate is a free publication, limit one copy per person. Additional copies are 25 cents payable to the Office of Student Media. Mail Fourth Estate George Mason University Mail stop 2C5 4400 University Drive Fairfax, Va. 22030 Phone 703-993-2950






Real Food Challenge releases “real” results NATALIA KOLENKO | STAFF WRITER

The Real Food Challenge at Mason has recently finished their calculations of how much of Southside’s food is considered “real” and the number might shock you. The Real Food Challenge is an organization that campaigns for local, fair-trade, ecological and humane food to be provided on college campuses all over the U.S. according to the Mason chapter’s Facebook. So far, the Mason RFC team has researched how much real food Southside offered and discovered the number was 5%. The foods from Southside that were accepted as real foods were local and organic tofu, mushrooms and milk, coming from Harrisburg Dairies in Harrisburg, Pa. The coffee offered at Southside, Ike’s, The Globe and in the convenience stores was fair-trade too, as well as some of the fruit. Ross said Mason Dining has also begun to serve micro-greens grown in the President’s Park Greenhouse in the dining halls. Senior and environmental and sustainability studies major Julie Ross decided to join the Real Food Challenge to become more involved with the food she ate on campus. “I wanted to become more involved in the food I ate on campus and in general through intern research and educating myself. The Real Food Challenge network provided the tools, resources, and connection to other schools to do this, which lead [me] to doing Real Food outreach and organizing as my passion grew,” Ross said. Their website said the RFC’s primary campaign goal is to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food towards local and community-based, fairtrade, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what they call “real food”—by 2020. “The overall goal is to increase our ‘real’ food purchasing, which means buying more local/community-based, ecologically sound, fair, and humane. In order to achieve this, a working group should be formed comprised of stakeholders in campus food to write a food policy that can guide us to shifting dollars to sources of real food,” said Caitlin Lundquist, Marketing Coordinator for Sodexo and Mason Dining. When the RFC came to campus in 2013, they received the cooperation of Mason Dining to get students involved with the food they are eating on campus.

“At Mason Dining, our partnership with RFC is part of an ongoing initiative to build relationships with students and involve them in our operations. In addition, Sodexo is committed to sustainability and has signed a formal Transparency agreement with Real Food Challenge that facilitates an open and cooperative relationship between students & dining,” Lundquist said. The Mason RFC team said their goal was to see Mason have 20% real food offered in Ike’s, the Globe and Southside by 2020. Ross said she thinks Mason Dining has gotten better with its variety since she’s been a freshman, but thinks there is still room for improvement.

Senate supports the participation of George Mason University in the Real Food Challenge.”

“Something that can amplify these creative changes is more labeling of the food ingredients. The ability to talk more precisely about what we eat can create stronger conversations towards what we’d like to eat,” Ross said.

Ross and Lundquist both agreed that students have become more involved with the food their universities are providing them and hope to get even more student and university involvement in the future.

Lundquist agreed with Ross, but added that there is not necessarily a problem with Mason’s food, but with the food system as a whole because it is not sustainable.

“This cause is increasingly important to students as the flexibility of anytime dining is focused on eating primarily in our dining halls. Mason should [also] take part in the Real Food Challenge as we can shift our purchasing towards food that increasingly supports student health, the local economy, and the environment,” Ross said.


“The true cost of the food we purchase—the exploitation of farmers and farm workers, animals, and the earth - is not included in the monetary price we pay for it. Partnering with the RFC is one way Mason Dining can help change these and other problems with food,” Lundquist said. In February 2013, Mason’s student government even supported the RFC by creating a resolution titled A Resolution to Support the Real Food Challenge. Submitted by Clerk Miller and Chairwoman Fleming, the resolution states, “the Student Senate of George Mason University recognizes that on campus sustainability efforts and awareness are important to both the university and the Fairfax community. Therefore be it resolved, that the George Mason University Student

The efforts to create a more sustainable dining culture are not only happening at Mason but on university campuses all over the country. “College students are increasingly concerned about the food they are eating and the landscape of the food system today,” Lundquist said. “The Real Food Challenge is a great example of how they are starting to act on this concern by asking University Dining Services around the nation to use their purchasing power to help build a more sustainable food system that is healthy, diverse, local, and does not destroy the land it requires.”

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Send in the clowns (and out the elephants) ANGELA WOOLSEY | STAFF WRITER

The circus is back in town. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus returned to the Patriot Center Wednesday, April 8 for its annual visit to Mason, an event that draws large crowds from the surrounding Fairfax area as well as the attention of animal rights activists. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents LEGENDS has 16 scheduled show times over the course of two weeks. Featuring a different theme each year, this year’s LEGENDS edition gives audiences the opportunity to “experience magnificent Asian elephants, a 20-acrobat troupe perched atop only a pair of bicycles and a never-before-seen, double-wide, high-flying trapeze act,” according to the event description on the Patriot Center website. “The circus is an American tradition that has long been embraced by the local community,” Patriot Center General Manager Barry Geisler said. “It’s a great show for people who are ages four to 90.” Not everyone at Mason has embraced the circus, however. Since the Ringling Bros. first came to Mason in 2001 as part of their yearly tour circuit, their performances have been accompanied by protestors from both student groups like Animal Rights Collective and national organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Ariel Koris and Kelly Harty, both seniors at Mason, organized a group of students to protest the circus for its treatment of the animals it uses in its performances. “When the circus comes to Mason, seeing a lot of people go to it and how much money they make off of it and how much the campus brings in from that,” Koris said. “It’s just kind of sad to us that it’s coming at the expense of animal cruelty.” Koris and Harty said they started organizing the protest after watching the documentary An Apology to Elephants, a 2013 film depicting the physically and psychologically abusive conditions in which many captive circus and zoo elephants live. After reaching out to friends by creating a Facebook event page, which now has more than 100 people listed as ‘going’, they spoke to other students in their classes to gauge on-campus interest in a protest. “Nobody would want the circus here once they found out what abuse was happening to the animals,” Harty said. Their main protest took place April 8, but they plan on having other ones, possibly once a week or on Thursdays when a lot of people tend to be on campus.

Koris and Harty are not the first to protest the circus’s presence at Mason. ARC, a student organization “dedicated to raising awareness animal rights on [Mason’s] campus and within the surrounding community,” was founded in 2009 by students looking to protest the Ringling Bros. circus, according to ARC’s Facebook page. Though the group no longer appears to be active and is not listed in university life’s CollegiateLink database, it led protests against the circus from 2009 through 2014. ARC’s protests received official recognition in 2011 when the Mason student senate passed a resolution backing their efforts. The senate cited documented cases of unsanitary feeding conditions, lack of proper veterinary care and general mistreatment of the animals as reasons why it supported the protests. Ringling Bros. has long been criticized for its use and treatment of animal performers, particularly its elephants. Photographic and video evidence as well as the testimony of former Ringling employees collected by organizations like PETA suggest that its animals are often chained up and confined to concrete-floor cages or box cars and trained using whips and bull-hooks, pointed metal sticks that resemble fire pokers. These conditions lead to health complications, like foot diseases and chronic pain, and have resulted in the deaths of more than 30 elephants since 1992, according to the

website Ringling Beats Animals. Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and other traveling programs like Disney on Ice, paid a $270,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2011 for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. According to the USDA, the settlement was the largest ever assessed against an exhibitor in U.S. history. “The bottom line is that this is completely unnecessary,” Dan Mathews, PETA’s senior vice president of media campaigns, said. “There are circuses out there that exist without using animals. The stuff that humans do in the circus is great. We don’t need to force animals to do these stupid tricks to turn a profit.” Mathews worked on a Ringling protest last year at Mason that was led by students but backed by PETA, which provided materials like posters, leaflets and coloring books. PETA is picketing outside the Patriot Center again this year with 15 protests planned. Despite the opposition, Geisler says that Mason has never reconsidered hosting the Ringling Bros. circus since it started in 2001. “We usually attract between 50,000 and 60,000 people over two weeks,” Geisler said. “The number of people who oppose the (AMY PODRAZA/FOURTH ESTATE)



circus, by their presence, is about five. So, the number of people who attend far outnumber the people who oppose.” According to Mathews, the turnout for PETA’s protests last year at Mason ranged from 15 to 40 people. He argues that the constant presence of protestors – whether an individual show attracts five people as it does in many smaller cities or the thousands that protest in large cities like Los Angeles or New York City – has been enough to put pressure on Ringling Bros to change. “It’s really something to see, just so many people coming together to speak up for a common cause,” Mathews said. “It sends a message to Ringling.” Ringling Bros. announced March 5 that its 13 remaining elephants will retire by 2018. Though Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said the decision was the result of internal family discussions rather than due to pressure from animal rights groups, he also said in a Chicago Tribune article that legislation recently passed in many cities and counties banning wild animal performances or the use of bull-hooks for training elephants has made it more difficult for the circus to schedule tours. “There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” Feld Entertainment Executive Vice President Alana Feld told the Chicago Tribune. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring our elephants.” Koris and Harty said that they found the news that the elephant act will be retired welcome but wish Ringling would end it now instead of in three years and stop using other animals like lions, tigers and camels. “When a human messes up in the circus, they don’t get hit behind the ear with a bull hook,” Koris said. “An animal does, and they don’t have a voice to say no. We need to be their voice.” Some activists also argue that the Center for Elephant Conservation, the central Florida facility owned by Ringling Bros. where the remaining elephants will join 29 already-retired elephants, is inadequate as an alternative to their current environment. Senior Michelle Bennett says that her animal rights and ecofeminism class, which she took as part of her social justice minor, watched video footage of the Center for Elephant Conservation that showed trainers still using bull-hooks. The video also showed elephants being kept in individual pens rather than having space to roam freely. “It looks really great on the surface, but when you really examine it, it’s not so good,” Bennett said. Taught through Mason’s New Century College by Paul Gorski, Bennett’s class is also planning to protest the circus as part of a class assignment. The original assignment was not specifically focused on the circus and simply instructed students to work in groups to design campaigns addressing animal rights issues, according to Gorski. However, the students decided to collaborate as one large group to address the circus’s visit. Students in the class have planned to protest at four different performances. While attendance at the physical protest, which will include face-painting as well as posters and signs, is optional, they are also developing a petition for students to sign and flyers that will be distributed as part of an educational campaign. “We just want to educate the public and give them the opportunity to see the realities of what goes on for the animals that are being used as entertainment,” Bennett said. Animal rights concerns are not the only reason why some students dislike the annual circus visit to Mason. Like other major events on campus, the circus frequently prompts complaints about traffic and parking availability. According to parking director Josh Cantor, the circus is Mason’s most heavily-attended event. Because it has several shows over the




course of two weeks, the circus can be more disruptive for people commuting to campus for classes than, for example, a performance at the Concert Hall, which generally has events on Friday and the weekend. In addition, portions of some parking lots are always blocked off to provide space for the circus to set up.

visiting the circus with her family when she was young.

“Given the nature of what [the circus] deals with, they have very specific needs,” Cantor said. “I can’t just stick elephants out in West campus and expect them to get back to the Patriot Center, but we need make sure we also meet the needs of everyday operations.”

Senior Hossein Karkehabadi went to the circus once in California, though he says that he does not plan on seeing it at Mason.

Mason’s parking and transportation services sends out a campuswide email every year to alert students, faculty and staff of the circus’s arrival. Sent April 2, the email said that circus tents and fencing will take up space in lots A and L starting Saturday, April 4. Lot K will also be used for staging on Monday, April 6. Drivers arriving to campus after 10:00 a.m. are advised to “head directly to the back of lot K, Mason Global Center, the PV lot and the Field House parking lots (M, O and P).” In addition, lot H will be available to all general permit holders between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. The circus will completely vacate all parking lots by Tuesday, Apr. 21. Cantor says that, because parking services’ communication methods have improved, he sees fewer parking complaints than he did when he first arrived 10 years ago. “We certainly understand the concerns and frustrations involved in anything that goes on,” Cantor said. “Our job is to try to communicate and make sure people know what’s going on and hopefully minimize the impact to their everyday routine.” Despite the animal rights controversy and parking complaints, Ringling still appeals to many people in part because it has been around for nearly a century. “It’s something that seems to be passed down through the family,” Bennett said. “It’s really geared toward having something for children to see and having something for the adults as well, so I think they market it really well. They just don’t do a good job of showing the whole picture.” She suggested Cirque de Soleil, which uses only human performers, as a possible alternative attraction that the Patriot Center could host. Junior Page Fedors, who acquired tickets for one of this year’s performances with a friend, says she has a lot of nostalgia from

“I enjoyed it, especially the ICEEs that our parents got us,” Fedors said. “I remember the elephant cup, with the big snowball in it. Good memories. Not to mention, those people work so hard, and it’s really kind of cool to see the fruits of their training.”

“It was a spectacle,” he said. “I don’t see it as being anything too harmful. People are just trying to have fun. If you could make how they treat the animals more humane, of course, it would be better.”


IV news Task force leads charge against sexual assault at Mason GMUFOURTHESTATE.COM @IVESTATE


the opportunity to help suggest ways in which we could better outreach to students and connect with them, make them aware of different programs and policies that exist or will exist in the future.” Over the past year, the problem of sexual violence in colleges vaulted into the national spotlight, due to a string of high-profile incidents like the 2012 University of Virginia gang-rape covered in a controversial article by Rolling Stone.


Months of dedication and research came to fruition March 26, when Mason president Ángel Cabrera released a report outlining the university’s strategy for tackling campus sexual assault. The report, emailed to all students, consists of recommendations compiled by the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence that Cabrera formed in August 2014. It represents a comprehensive review of Mason offices, policies and programs related to sexual violence. “Our responsibility is to provide a safe environment where every student can be at ease and focus on learning,” Cabrera said. “You cannot be a well-being university when half of your population or more than half your population has a potential threat. That’s something you have to deal with.” Measures proposed in the report encompass, among other things, the formation of a new website and mandatory training for specified faculty, staff and student constituencies. The whole process will be overseen and evaluated by a Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Leadership Committee. To co-chair the task force, Cabrera appointed University Life Vice President Rose Pascarell and Kim Eby, associate provost and a women and gender studies professor. “I knew Rose had the expertise and passion for the subject, she knows about it, she’s worked on it for a long time,” Cabrera said. “It was a no-brainer. We also wanted to have someone from the academic side of the house so the faculty is well-represented [and] this is not just something the administration is doing. A perfect duo.” Other members included Mary Ann Sprouse, the director of Wellness, Alcohol, Violence Education Services, and Angela Hattery, director of women and gender studies. They were invited based on their knowledge of and work in the field. Phil Abbruscato, president of Student Government, was the lone student representative. “It was a great experience sitting on the task force as a student,” Abbruscato said. “It gave me

Even President Barack Obama designated it a top priority: on Jan. 22, 2014, he authorized the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, and later, he helped launch the “It’s on Us” campaign to raise awareness. “I think the social pressure that the White House task force created is making it almost impossible for schools not to do something about it, which is great,” Cabrera said. According to WAVES, there were 77 reports of sexual assault and interpersonal violence at Mason in 2014, a 35 percent increase over the year before. The Office of Student Conduct and the University Police also collect reports, though their numbers are typically lower because many sexual assault victims choose not to file formal complaints or contact law enforcement. “Many victims feel like if they report, it’s almost like you’re going to be victimized twice because all of a sudden, you’re going to be questioned,” Cabrera said. “Sometimes people are going to call into question whether it really happened to you, you might be accused again, or you might not even see consequences at all and you’re exposing yourself.” When drafting its recommendations, the task force pursued three overarching goals: strengthen campus culture, increase victim reports and design a system for defining and measuring progress. The finished four-page report lists eight objectives scheduled to be carried out by the start of the fall 2015 semester, along with several others expected to require more time. Of the short-term goals, the Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Leadership Committee represents the highest priority. Besides providing general supervision, it will determine staffing and resources and set a timeline. Many task force members will stay to serve on the committee. Other short-term recommendations involve arranging a full-time Title IX coordinator position and delineating the duties of Campus Security Authorities and Responsible Employees. In addition, a campus climate survey, currently in its pilot phase, will be used to assess the incidence of sexual violence at Mason. “Surveys are not perfect,” Cabrera said. “But at

least… you start getting a better sense of what’s going on. If you do it every year, you can tell whether you’re improving or not.”

education and training; programs and services; curriculum; outreach and communication; and assessment.

Hattery and Sprouse, who spearheaded the survey development, studied several national questionnaires and shared information with other schools in the state, such as Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University. There has been considerable talk of using standard questions to measure common areas of interest.

Among potential policy changes are a shift of sexual assault investigation duties from the Office of Student Conduct to Compliance, Diversity and Ethics, and the introduction of a post-hearing assessment so participants can comment on the fairness and efficiency of the conduct process.

For the most part, though, the task force aims to create a survey specific to Mason, in order to properly address the needs of particular communities, including LGBT, international and disabled students. “Mason has such a diverse student population,” University Life Vice President Rose Pascarell said. “We want to make sure we’re asking questions that make sense for everybody, covering topics that make sense for everybody.” If the pilot survey is successful, an official one will be administered annually, beginning in the 2016 academic year. The new website, another short-term goal, will integrate information on all protocols and resources related to sexual assault at Mason, similar to the Not Alone site created in conjunction with the White House task force. “Much of the information that will go on this site already exists, but there’s not one spot,” Pascarell said. “It’ll be easy access, student-friendly, staff-friendly, faculty-friendly, kind of a one-stop shop for all the information we have.” The long-term recommendations are organized in six categories: policies and procedures;

Pascarell is especially excited about introducing a program modeled after You Have Options, which began in Ashland, Ore. as a joint program with Southern Oregon University and the Ashland Police Department that promotes victim-centered interviewing techniques in law enforcement agencies. “One of the reasons victims don’t come forward society-wide is because they don’t tend to trust the way they’re going to be treated by law enforcement,” Pascarell said. “I actually believe [a You Have Options program] could be a game-changer on a college campus, where you’re really working collaboratively with the police… not as here’s the police and here’s victim services and here’s the educators, where everything’s kind of working toward the same goal.” Training initiatives entail not only revising and expanding wide-ranging programs like the Emerge ally training conducted by WAVES but also fostering programs targeted at groups deemed uniquely at-risk of experiencing sexual assault or unlikely to seek support. “We chose populations that we know are present on our campus and we know nationally have a much more difficult time with disclosure,” Pascarell said. “If you’re in a same-sex relationship and you’re a victim of sexual violence,

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[it’s] much harder to make that move. If you’re an undocumented student and worried about your status, much harder to make that disclosure. If you’re a man who’s been assaulted by a woman, much harder to make that disclosure.” In terms of curriculum, the most dramatic proposal is the incorporation of bystander intervention and healthy relationship teachings into courses and orientations for first-year, transfer and graduate students. The task force convened seven times between September and February, devising inventories of Mason’s procedures, programs and resources as well as practices used by colleges across the country. While they did some assignments and readings on their own, most of the work consisted of group discussions during the meetings. “The biggest challenges were deciding where to put the priorities,” Angela Hattery, director of women and gender studies, said. “At the end of it, we had to decide what things we thought could be implemented immediately, what things would be implemented in the first year and what things were longer-term. And of course, there was disagreement about how urgent something is.” One point of contention, for example, hinged on whether students should be required to take a women and gender studies course to gain an in-depth understanding of the roots of sexual violence. “Going to events and stuff can be really impactful,” Hattery said, “but I think to really educate and influence and shift attitudes, you kind of need more than one program.” Other members, however, viewed the idea as too narrow or impractical.


Student opinions were taken into account through Abbruscato’s input, a Patriots in Action roundtable in November and an open town hall forum hosted in February. “It was a good conversation,” said Student Government PresidentElect Kushboo Bhatia, who attended the town hall. “I think everyone was on the same page about moving forward and really building a community that stands up against sexual assault and interpersonal violence and really tries to respect one another.”


Before sending the final copy for Cabrera’s approval, Pascarell and Eby drafted a report, which the task force spent two meetings collectively dissecting. “We literally went through it line by line,” Hattery said. “It was very intensive work.” In the end, members believe the task force accomplished what it intended and are satisfied with the final product. “We want to stop sexual assault from happening, and when it does happen, we want to be able to provide as much support and resources to the victim as possible so they can continue to be a college student and get their degree,” said Mary Ann Sprouse, director of WAVES. “I think the recommendations kind of all work on each other to create this culture of safety and inclusion.”

“[Women and gender studies is] going to be asked to do more, and we want to,” Hattery said. “The question is, will we get the support or not? And I think that’s going to be an issue for almost every office that’s affected.”

The task force looks to enrich Mason’s curriculum primarily by providing teaching and research grants that would enable faculty from a range of disciplines to explore subjects related to sexual violence and gender dynamics in their courses.

at George Mason, it’s a wonderful thing,” White said. “But at the same time, I think some of the methods can be very superficial, because it’s very easy for individuals to say they’re investing in a cause and a movement without actually examining their own behavior, the behavior of others around them, and how they’re

The task force also consulted experts outside Mason. Most notably, Cabrera’s participation in the statewide Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence created by Gov. Terry McAuliffe provided an opportunity to collaborate with officials and educators throughout Virginia.

Less certain is the impending implementation process, as programs are expanded and departments expected to shoulder increased responsibilities despite limited budgets and resources.

“We live in the context we live in,” Cabrera said. “To think that just through a small intervention, you’re going to change Western contemporary values on sexuality or whatever, that’s a monumental task, and if we set that as the goal, my view is we’re probably bound to fail... What we can do is create a culture in this organization that makes anything close to sexual violence absolutely unacceptable.”

Kellie White, a junior art history major who serves as president of Mason’s Feminist Student Organization, expresses concern about whether the recommendations will translate smoothly from paper to practice.

implicated in that themselves and it’s a larger system that’s driving this.” As implementation begins, Pascarell welcomes student perspectives and involvement. The Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence Leadership Committee will contain at least two or three student representatives. “Part of this process will be continually collecting feedback,” Pascarell said. “The thing about this issue is, if there’s anything that’s changing quickly, it’s what we’re learning about how to combat sexual violence. So, these recommendations make sense right now, but I assume they will continue to shift and evolve.” Mason has pre-existing available resources for students who need or want them, including a 24-hour crisis hotline. WAVES offers bystander intervention workshops as well as free, confidential victims’ services. Cabrera is optimistic that the work of the task force and others in the Mason community will lead to a shift in campus culture and attitudes. He credits Pascarell and other university experts for helping him understand the urgency of the situation. “This is what they explained to me – and this is not their opinions, this is the data: the statistics are pretty ugly,” he said. “According to some estimates, as many as 1 in 5 women at any college will suffer some form of sexual violence or assault. Honestly, some people like to argue there is 1 in 5, 1 in 6, whatever. I don’t care about the five, the six, the seven, I care about the one.”

“I completely and utterly support the pledge to end sexual assault



We are proud to announce the launch of Tapingo at George Mason University! Tapingo is the easiest way to order your food on the go for pick-up on campus. The Tapingo app lets you customize your meal and order in advance so it's ready when you need it. To get started, simply register your Mason ID Card or credit card to order. Then hang out, pick-up and enjoy. Tapingo is the perfect solution whether you are on your way to class, short on time, or simply enjoy the convenience.












#GMU “All mason students can attend @MasonStudentGov meetings to listen in, and speak their mind! We should be doing this more! #gmu”

@RogerLeBlancJr Roger LeBlanc Jr.

“Our campus has a new name: George Mason University Science and Technology Campus. #mason”


LGBTQ resources held a drag show in celebration of Pride Week.

“Congratulations to the @ GMU_Drumline for advancing to semifinals at WGI. Doin’ @ GeorgeMasonU proud! @DocNix12”

@ellenwags Lauren Wagner

Wow! Proud of @ZTAFraternity @ ZTAgmu sister @kbhatia94 for being elected the next Student Body President at @GeorgeMasonU !! #rockstar

@gfrimmaudo Gabrielle Rimmaudo


“Movie Review: Furious 7” Furious 7 might not be the best of the Fast and Furious franchise, but its action doesn’t disappoint. Really how many movies are you going to see where cars drop from an airplane?


“Mason: The Myth, the Legend” Like any school, Mason has a number of myths. Popular stories include George’s lucky toe and the haunted Mason pond, but what is the story behind the legend?


“Project Nur: Shining a New Light” The new club, Project Nur, wants to bring social equality and justice to Mason.












Navigating rape culture at Mason


A story in Rolling Stone embroiled the University of Virginia in a national controversy. Sexual assault allegations against students, including a star athlete, raised questions about how colleges and police handle reports of sexual violence. A student at Oregon’s Reed College was dismissed from a class discussion over his “disruptive” remarks about rape. A Mason student has sued the university for expelling him after an ex-girlfriend filed a sexual assault report against him. Individually, these recent news stories appear to be isolated incidents, but taken together, they reflect an ongoing, nationwide conversation about sexual assault on college campuses and how university administrations and law enforcement should address this problem.

“That’s not to place any blame on any individual who consumes alcohol and is then sexually assaulted,” White said. “Individuals who do commit sexual assault use that as an excuse to damage others and violate their bodies.”

discrimination in education and has been established as the basis by which universities and colleges can investigate reports of sexual violence.

Further complicating attempts to measure the scope of the problem of sexual violence on college campuses is the fact that schools sometimes underreport crime statistics to federal officials.

Mason’s Title IX coordinator is responsible for facilitating investigations and disciplinary procedures, which are carried out by the Office of Student Conduct for complaints against students and by Compliance, Diversity and Ethics for complaints against faculty and staff.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, only one-third of (AMY PODRAZA / FOURTH ESTATE) schools are fully compliant with the Clery Act, which requires that all colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs publicly disclose on-campus crime statistics. A February 2015 study published in the American Psychological Association journal “Psychology, Public Policy and Law” showed a pattern of colleges and universities underreporting on-campus sexual assaults. Researchers analyzed the number of assaults reported by universities with on-campus housing and more than ten-thousand students that underwent U.S. Department of Education audits for Clery Act violations.

The term ‘rape culture’ was coined by feminists in the 1970s to describe a society that normalizes sexual violence, according to a 2014 Buzzfeed article about the subject.

Reported numbers of sexual assaults rose on average by forty-four percent during the audits from previously reported levels, the APA study found. After the audits ended, numbers returned to pre-audit levels, suggesting that “some schools provided a more accurate picture of sexual assaults on campus only when they were under federal scrutiny”, according to a press release summarizing the study on the APA website.

“Rape culture is the pervasiveness of sexual assault and lack of respect for individuals’ bodily autonomy,” said Kellie White, president of Mason’s Feminist Student Organization and a staff member at the women and gender studies center.

Mason President Ángel Cabrera released a report on March 26 with recommendations on how to end sexual violence on campus compiled by Mason’s Task Force on Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than ninty percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

According to the task force’s report, Mason’s Wellness, Alcohol, Violence and Education Services reported seventy-seven sexual assault and interpersonal violence cases in the 2014 calendar year, up from fifty-seven cases in 2013 and sixty-two cases in 2012. Because WAVES is not obligated to report complaints, its numbers are higher than those reported to the University Police, which saw thirty-six cases in 2014 compared to thirty-three in 2013 and eight in 2012, which was before the police were required to report dating violence and stalking cases in addition to sexual assault.

A report published December 2014 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics said that eighty percent of the rape and sexual assault incidents that take place against students go unreported to the police. Titled “Rape and Sexual Assault Among College-Age Females, 1995-2013”, the report said that this number was significantly higher than the sixty-seven percent of incidents involving non-students, even though the rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for non-students. White says that alcohol abuse among both of-age and underage students possibly contributes to sexual violence on college campuses. According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol, at least fifty percent of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is investigating a record-high one-hundred and six schools suspected of violating Title IX due to their handling of sexual violence cases, according to a April 6, 2015 Huffington Post article. The list of schools under investigation includes U.Va., James Madison University, the College of William & Mary and American University.

However, many students never report their assault or use the confidential services provided by WAVES, Student Health Services and Counseling and Psychological Services, which are the only offices exempted from the mandatory reporting policy. Describing an uncomfortable experience she had had with a faculty member last semester, a freshman who wished to remain anonymous said she initially did not want to go to any administrators and instead chose to keep a journal of her encounters with the faculty member. “It was a small class and everybody joked with each other,” she said. “A lot of his jokes, I was like, okay, it’s a joke so take it that way.” However, during a class movie screening for an extra credit assignment, the faculty member sat next to her and put his arm around her. “That was incredibly inappropriate,” the anonymous freshman said. “I completely shut down, because I didn’t know how to interact with that.” Another incident occurred later during an optional assignment involving clothes for the class when the faculty member insisted on helping her put on her outfit. “It was in public and everything, but still, I’m like no, this isn’t cool,” she said. She decided to report these incidents to WAVES after learning that another student had had similar experiences with the same faculty member. She asked WAVES to keep a file on the faculty member, who still works at Mason, and to keep students’ end-of-semester evaluations on record. Vicki Kirsch, a department of social work professor at Mason who specializes in trauma recovery, says that it’s important for anyone who experiences sexual violence or any other kind of trauma to tell someone, whether it’s a trusted friend or a university service like WAVES or CAPS. While all individuals react to trauma differently, those who do not share their experience as soon as possible are more likely to get post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to its website, WAVES defines sexual assault as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient,” ranging from rape to groping and voyeurism.

“What happens during trauma is there’s a mind-body separation,” Kirsch said. “By putting words on that experience with someone who’s attending to you and listening, the chance of healing, which is bringing the mind-body together again, is much greater.”

Mason has a mandatory reporting policy, meaning that all university employees are required to report sexual misconduct and harassment to Mason’s Title IX coordinator in the Office of Compliance, Diversity and Ethics.

Kirsch says that college can be a good time and place to help people deal with trauma because of the availability of medical and psychological services that students can access as result of paying tuition.

Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sex- and gender-based

WAVES, for instance, offers psychological, medical, legal and



judicial support and emergency housing assistance to survivors of sexual violence as well as information about sexual assault, harassment, stalking and interpersonal violence to both survivors and the general student population. It also hosts regular events like ‘Sexual Chocolate’, an informative session about safe sex during Welcome Week, and ‘Turn Off the Violence’, a week dedicated to raising awareness about sexual and dating/partner violence. The Task Force on Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence recommended that Mason form a program giving sexual assault survivors greater control over the reporting process. It also suggested that the university implement educational and training programs focused on such issues as informed consent and bystander intervention for faculty and staff as well as target student populations like fraternities and sororities, student athletes and student employees. It recommended that the university develop specific educational programs for LGBTQ , international and undocumented students, saying that these groups may be at particular risk for victimization and are less likely to report or seek help. “Education is really important,” Kirsch said. “It’s not these survivors’ responsibility to teach other people. It’s everyone’s responsibility.” Educating students should start as soon as possible, according to Kirsch, who says that freshmen are especially vulnerable with many attacks occurring in the first week or month of school. However, combating sexual assault can be challenging, because rape culture encompasses more than just physical acts. White says that on college campuses, rape culture often appears in the form of casual jokes about rape or sexual assault and through the pervasiveness of media that contains a lot of violence and objectifies individuals’, especially women’s, bodies. “Pop culture is very much alive and well on the campus, which means rape culture is alive and well,” White said. The anonymous freshman says that, while she thinks Mason has a relatively safe campus, she has had some awkward or confrontational experiences at parties, such as when she declines men who ask if she wants to dance. “They always get very angry,” she said, “or they say something like, ‘Then, why are you here?’ as if the only reason I can be there is to have sex when I’m just there for fun with my friends.” Conversations about difficult topics like sexual assault can also create conflict between a university’s need to provide a safe environment for all students, including trauma survivors, and the desire to promote open discussions that allow students to express their own opinions. Reed College, a small, liberal arts school in Portland, Ore., attracted some attention this past March after a humanities professor removed a student named Jeremiah True for making

lifestyle comments about sexual assault that made his classmates uncomfortable. True’s argument that rape culture doesn’t exist and that statistics related to the number of sexual assaults in colleges are over-inflated upset other students to the point where they had difficulties concentrating in other classes, according to a March 19th Buzzfeed article.



Weak wifi circulating campus

Because Mason is a public institution rather than a private one, it operates differently from a school like Reed College. In addition to being subject to local, state and federal laws, Mason has its own speech code. Outlined in the 2014-15 Code of Student Conduct, Mason’s statement on the freedom of expression says that “through active participation in an intellectually and culturally diverse learning community, students will be better prepared to deal with the issues they will face in a rapidly changing and diverse society.” It also states that “the right to free speech and expression does not include unlawful activity or activity which endangers or threatens to endanger the safety or well-being of any member of the community.” Beth Jannery, the director of Mason’s journalism program, says that all teachers get a faculty handbook that explains the university’s policies. “I am one hundred percent an advocate for transparency,” Jannery said, adding that there can be a fine line between wanting to make classrooms feel safe and wanting to intellectually challenge students. “I would much rather have these difficult conversations weighing all sides, considering all sides of a topic rather than sweeping something under the carpet.” White says that, although new policies and programs like the ones recommended by the task force report have the potential to create change, students can help by paying attention to aspects of rape culture in their everyday lives, even if it seems innocuous. “Change doesn’t start with huge events or rallies,” White said. “It starts with a few people realizing, ‘Hey, this is not okay and this is how we’re going to fix it.’ That starts with the next time your friend makes a rape joke, tell him that’s completely unacceptable…[Challenge] ideas of what it means to be proper, the idea that if a woman wears a short skirt, is out in public and has had a drink, she deserves to be sexually assaulted. Just challenging that in the people around you, even when it’s hard, even when it’s uncomfortable, you can see the change it makes around you.”


One of the most popular social media trends for Mason is the terrible wifi. The connections to the various wireless networks has always been known to be inconsistent, although for about a month now, it has gotten noticeably progressively worse. The Wireless Technology Services released a statement on Feb. 25, 2015 informing the campus of the changes about to be made starting on March 8. They decided to compile all of the wireless networks into only three options, MASON-SECURE, MASON and eduroam. They also recommended that everyone switch over to MASON-SECURE or MASON for an easier transition, including a visual piece to the statement in the form of a diagram to show how wifi would work around campus after the change. Since this switch, the occasional wi-fi complaint here and there has turned into the topic of choice among Mason students. “It’s really frustrating. Almost everything we need to access for school is over the internet. I do need to be able to check my email and get on Blackboard if I want to get anything done,” Sophomore Kelly Silva said. This statement rings especially true among students when they are trying to do their homework and have to stop in the middle, because the wi-fi was disconnected. Tweets from Mason students are abundant on this subject matter, especially around the late afternoon and night time when many people are operating on crunch time with assignments. Sophomore, Christian Reid, tweeted on March 24 and even went as far as to tag both President Angel Cabrera and the University’s twitter handles in his irate message: “Yo I can’t get on MasonLive or on Blackboard but I sure can tweet! Come on now, I’ve got IT homework to do!”

places, like being able to afford eye scanners in the dining halls, but not appearing to be able to manage to procure sufficient wifi. Another joke was directed at Mason’s Student Government with a promise to vote for whichever candidate promised to fix the wifi issues. Daniel Burke, an IT support worker on campus replied with a tweet of his own, directed to those complaining: “As someone who works IT behind the scenes at Mason it’s hilarious to see people ask for better wifi, as if it’s something to turn up.” A screenshotted email from the Support Center to a student government representative was put on social media as well for students still inquiring about this issue. In this email a link was given ( where ITS Alerts are listed for situations, like planned outages. According to the Support Center, there is an ITS Alerts ListServ, but people are only added to it by request due to the University’s email polices. All it takes is an email to itualert@ and a person can get notifications about the service breaking when an outage is recognized. Even though this information was put out there for everyone to see, and a public statement was made by the Support Team themselves, people are still having significant problems with the internet. It has become a known fact from those on-campus during the peak hours of the afternoon that the wi-fi is bound to be unreliable. Certain areas are known to be worse than others, and the Johnson Center takes the number one spot with flying colors as the worst place to go when trying to connect to the internet. With the combination of only two wireless network options available now and the large amount of students using the wi-fi at once; a person’s chances of being able to log into their email successfully in the JC at 2 p.m. are very low.

Reid isn’t the only fed up student making their voice heard over social media platforms.

The Engineering Building and Innovation Hall are also rumored to be the “not-hot” spots for internet connectivity. As one hashtag by a student stated, “#InnovationIsJustABuilding”.

There have been comments made about how the school is putting their money in the wrong

Senior, Gladydcine Ibáñez-Alers said it best, “GMU wifi? It’s like my boyfriend. Non-existant!”






Cherry Blossom Fever

Plan A


World Became an Urban Planner and learn how to: Gain the expertise needed to: } Analyze and apply data to real-world projects } Develop policies focused on sustainable living best practices } Advance sustainable development across disciplines and sectors Choose your concentration: } Climate Change Management and Policy } Sustainable Landscapes


Freshmen roomates, Ashley Whimpey and Mary Freeman pose for a selfie at the festival.

Convenient evening classes in Arlington, VA.


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For more information and to RSVP, please visit or call 703-299-0199. The George Washington University is an equal opportunity/ affirmative action institution certified to operate in Va by SCHEV.


Interested in participating in research about diet? (COURTESY OF MAI NGUYEN)

Mai Nguyen explores the cherry blossoms.


Have you resided in South or Southeast Asia in the past 5 years? OR Only resided in the USA in the past 5 years? We need your help! The Global Perspectives on Diet and Health Study is looking at how people’s current diet and gut health are related to where they have lived and the characteristics of those places. The study welcomes eligible participants. To be eligible for the study, you need to be at least 18 years of age, not currently pregnant or breastfeeding, not have taken antibiotics in the prior 3 months, and not have gastrointestinal disease. If you chose to be part of this study, you will be asked to complete a written questionnaire, two types of records of what you eat, complete an in-person interview of your residential history, have your weight measured, and provide a fecal sample. At the completion of the study, you will be provided with $30 as a thank you. Your participation is important to us, and you will be making an important contribution to scholarly research. Please contact Cara Frankenfeld, PhD with questions and to sign up for this important study at or 703-993-1911


Fourth Estate’s design editor, Katie Morgan, had a particularly special Cherry Blossom Festival when Dustin Bizub, her boyfriend of three years, proposed at the Tidal Basin.




A letter of appreciation Dear Editor-in Chief, The purpose of this letter is to invite your Fourth Estate readers to seek support in their own lives and to personally thank those who made the 5th annual NoFearInLove 6-mile Race on Feb. 28th possible. My hope is that this story will give the Mason audience the courage to forge ahead, even if failure seems imminent. “Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Meade These powerful words have given me stamina to continue with the NoFearInLove Race, despite all obstacles to the contrary. Let me give you some background. I have had to change the location of this event, not once, twice, but five times. This is not easy because you have to get various permissions/permits, which can take up to three months or more. Along the way, I had two race committees who failed miserably. And lastly, the freezing cold temperatures/snow forecasts threatened to cancel the event altogether. With these looming obstacles, along with companies that withdrew their sponsorships and low race registrations, the situation was a bit overwhelming to say the least. However, in the last two weeks, I met a super-talented group of possibility-oriented, minded students at Mason, who believed in this vision of promoting healthy relationships in 16-24 year olds and got on board because I had the courage to be honest about what I needed. And in 14 days, together, we put on a very professionally coordinated and executed race that participants enjoyed and were changed by; which was nothing less than a miracle. Many of the participants left with prizes and gifts, and with a much better understanding of what a healthy relationship entails. With that said, I would like to thank the dynamic, race committee for their tremendous effort to make this year’s race an amazing success, which included: Roxana Kazemi, Suzy Hewitt, (team Dictation GMU) Jennifer O’Neill, Alex Krupp, Liz Charity, Samantha Singh, Hannah

Chang, (Southside cube & race course) Jordan Beauregard, (President Chi Psi Fraternity/the brothers that made Nofearinlove Race their philanthropic cause) Kara Shaylene, Danielle Shipp, Savannah Norbeck, (team NOVA & race promo I/II) Rodney Lee, (editor race promo I) Marina Finelli, (volunteer coordinator), Aileen Boone (coordinated prizes), Jade Thomas, (Facebook event) Chelsea Ferguson, Jasmine Jackson, (team GMU Student Nurses’ Association) and for all of the other volunteers who tirelessly marketed and contributed. Many thanks to our corporate sponsors: Lisa Sevilla, Anne Nicotera, (GMU Communication Department for advertising) Greg Simmons from First Savings Mortgage Corporation, University Theaters, Heart and Soul Yoga, The Litchfield Group, Aileen Boone- Melaleuca the Wellness Company (t-shirts), and Covenant Relationship Coaching. I would also like to acknowledge WGMU Radio’s Rodger Smith and his super talented staff, Lois Durant from Mason Dining, (fruit donation) and the following Fairfax businesses, organizations, and people for their generous support: Shoppers, Reston T-shirts and Graphics, The Greene Turtle, Bollywood Bistro, University Mall Giant, Auld Shebeen, Main Street Deli, Noodles & Company, Pot Belly Sandwich Shop, ACE Hardware, Comfort and Joy Spa, Red Hot and Blue Restaurant, Chick-fil-A, (cookies) Golfsmith, Mary Beth Quick, Valerie Flowe, Lisa Eidelkind, Mary Ann Panarelli, (team Community of Solutions) Monica Cameron, (Woodson PTSO) Janice Myers, (South County PTSO) Shanelle Jones, John Patterson, (lead runner) Jay Wind, (fabulous timer) Dolores Peck, and Sussan Yekt (Dlife.TV).



Does Autism Speak for all?

On April 2, the world observed Autism Awareness Day. “Light it up Blue” posters and t-shirts advocating for Autism Speaks were everywhere in and around Southside, presumably to show support for the issue. I was happy to see the solidarity: as a society, we need more understanding and awareness of the autism spectrum. But I was also saddened by the choice of organization. Autism Speaks does not truly speak for those affected by autism. Let’s start with the structure, itself. There is not a single person with autism occupying a senior leadership position within the organization. Their only board member affected by autism, John Elder Robison, resigned in protest after Autism Speaks’ 2013 call to action. It’s not hard to see why; Autism Speaks co-founder Suzanne Wright’s words at that Washington summit paint a dehumanizing, pitiable picture of the “autism crisis.” “These families are not living”, she states, citing the strains children with autism place on their parents. She draws comparisons between the three million children affected by autism in America and those children that are gravely ill or missing. Is this the kind of dialogue that we want regarding AS people in America? That they’re broken, damaged, sick? That’s certainly the idea propagated by Autism Speaks’ fear-mongering 2009 video, “I am autism,” which gravely tells us that autism “knows where you live” and “works faster than pediatric AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined.” The issues with Autism Speaks don’t stop there. The organization has a long and sordid history with anti-vaccination groups, both directly and indirectly supporting the ridiculous, scientifically-disproven assertion that vaccines cause autism

and silencing statements to the contrary within the group. Autism Speaks has also endorsed a number of dangerous “cures” that have come from this movement, including bleach enemas and chelation. Autism Speaks’ allocation of funds is also questionable. According to a 2010 tax exemption form, 44% of its budget went towards research - mostly of causation and “prevention,” i.e. the idea of prenatal screening - and another 48% went towards advertising, fundraising, and administrative costs. Only about 4% of the budget went towards family services that invest money in communities to improve the lives of people affected by autism and families. Its executives are also paid more than in any other autism advocacy group, with some salaries surpassing $400,000 a year. Autism Speaks is wrong, not only in its actions, but in its message. Autism is not an epidemic, it is not a disease. Our focus should be on understanding and fostering acceptance of people on the autism spectrum, not silencing their voices in a hellbent race towards a “cure.” Autism Speaks is right in that we need more infrastructure supporting those affected by autism, more action as a society. But this is not the way to do it. Our money would be better spent on autism-inclusive organizations like the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (whose 2014 joint letter to Autism Speaks is a good read for anyone wondering about my sources on this matter). In the movement to improve awareness and health for those affected by autism everywhere, we cannot afford to support a group that undermines their agency and stereotypes the autism spectrum. We can and should do better. RUSSELL CHARLES / BIOLOGY MAJOR

I appreciate all of you for your investment of time, talent, and resources, and for all the lessons I learned this year working with you. Most respectfully,



Fourth Estate is looking to fill paid staff positions for fall 2015. We are also willing to provide internship credit for anyone interested in becoming a member of our editorial staff. We are also always looking for volunteers across all sections -- news, lifestyle, opinion and sports -- as well as on our visual team with opportunities in photography and digital art. For more information, visit our website under the ‘Work at Fourth Estate’ tab.

Master’s Degrees That Matter Accelerated Master’s programs for George Mason undergraduates:

• Master of Public Administration • Master of Public Policy • International Commerce and Policy • Political Science • Biodefense

Mason’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs also offers Master’s degrees in:

• International Security • Peace Operations • Organization Development and Knowledge Management • Transportation Policy, Operations, and Logistics • Health and Medical Policy

April 13, 2015  

Volume 2, Issue 21

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