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FOURTH ESTATE April 20, 2015 | Volume 2 Issue 22 George Mason University’s official student news outlet | @IVEstate

Reaching new heights Students find challenge and leisure atop campus buildings | page 8 (JOHANNAH TUBALADO/FOURTH ESTATE)







Crime Log April 13 2015-009481 / Shoplifting/Larceny Complainant (GMU) reported that an unknown subject took items without paying. Loss estimated $10. (27/Zamora) Starbucks / Inactive / 7:52 a.m.

April 14 2015-009608 / Hit and Run Complainant (GMU) reported damage to a vehicle. Offender unknown/fled scene. Damage estimated $1,000. (24/Lee) Lot K / Inactive / 10:48 a.m.

April 15 2015-009714 / Simple Assault Complainant (non-GMU) reported being pushed by a subject (GMU). Case referred to Office of Student Conduct. (38/Rourke) Johnson Center / Referred to OSC / 8:07 p.m.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram : @IVEstate Use the hashtag #IVphoto on snapshots of Mason for a chance to see it in a future issue!

New construction plans hope to alleviate Braddock Road traffic, which gives commuters headaches on a daily basis.


NOVA Congressman Urges Action on Climate Change Congressman Gerry Connolly, representing Virginia’s 11th District, spoke at Mason to discuss what he believes is the best solution to climate change: collective action.




Mason Atheists Gather on Easter Sunday The George Mason University Student Secular Alliance met for their first Young Atheist convention on Easter Sunday. The convention included panelists, food, presentations and even comedy on life without faith.


High Schools Allow Coding to Be On Par with Foreign Language High schools across the United States are considering allowing computer programming to satisfy foreign language requirements, in an effort to encourage students to pursue computer-related disciplines in the future.





Letter from the EIC

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It wouldn’t be my penultimate edition of Fourth Estate under my reign without me throwing my thoughts into the void. I’ll be back next week with something long and sentimental, but this will mostly just serve to toss out some stray thoughts about life and maybe I’ll just follow our lifestyle section’s feature of “Fourth Estate Recommends” online and give some shine to things I’ve been digging lately. Because my school life is ending and the dismal search for a job is in full swing, I’ve already been thinking about setting and meeting goals in my life when reality ruins my simple life. There was an interesting interaction I had this weekend when I went down to Blacksburg to visit some of my friends -- which to regular readers of this letter might be surprising that I have any friends to speak of. While not otherwise embarrassing myself in Blacksburg, I went on my first ever hike at the age of 22. Thank you to my parents for enabling my slothlike habits in my youth to never make a hike happen. We hiked the Appalachian Trail for nearly 7 miles round trip. I was told the ascent up this trail was equivalent to walking up 110 stories according to Apple’s Health app. It may surprise you, given the very handsome boy you see in the picture attached to this column, but I am in no physical condition to hike any sort of extended elevation or distance. After just the first hill, I already wanted to die and turn back. Of course, the hike ended up being a great time because of how beautiful it was and the sights from the peak of this trail. It was on the way back after mentally and physically exhausting myself that we ran into a fellow hiker. Now this was a long preamble to finally get to the interaction I mentioned, but I thought nothing much of this guy when I first saw him. He was adorned in almost peak caucasity attire -- as if he just stepped out from Dr. Yakub’s laboratory -- tank top and neon athletic shorts. We had seen other hikers and gave our casual ‘hellos,’ but

this guy led off with giving a fun fact about the oak tree we were looking at. Then he told us he had been hiking the Appalachian Trail since March 8 and had traveled 650 miles to that point. Then the rest of my weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about this undertaking. On one hand, it sounds great to just kind of throw caution to the wind and convince yourself that hiking from Georgia to New York is worth your time. What a story and adventure it must be to have the ability to do that. On the other hand, how? Why? Is he an insane person? Now I didn’t stop him in his path to interrogate him about his life, but I should have found out about the series of events in his life that led to that decision. It seemed like a weird flight of fancy to just go ahead and hike the length of that trail. Now I am at the point of my ability to question the worth of his journey. Was that decision to hike the trail any more irrational than people who go to a job every day that they hate? He is fulfilling a goal and probably realizing a dream, the more I think about it, the more I support him. Now that my appallingly bad musing on philosophy and life is done, I’m telling you what media I am consuming that, transitively, you should be too. One album to listen to that I’ve been listening to is American Football’s self-titled album. It’s a great album about being young, dumb and falling in and out of love. Then go watch ‘Furious 7’ which I already wrote a review of on our website, but The Rock bicep flexes out of a cast. Go watch it. Be back next week for one last run at this.


Hau Chu Editor-In-Chief

Ellen Glickman Print News Editor

Reem Nadeem Print News Editor

Sara Moniuszko Lifestyle Editor

Savannah Norton Print Lifestyle Editor

Amy Rose Photography Editor

Amy Podraza Asst. Photography Editor

Katie Morgan Design Editor

Walter Martinez Visual Editor

Jill Carter Copy Chief

Laura Baker Illustrator

Ryan Adams Distribution Manager

Kathryn Mangus Director

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







Student Government plans to solve Wi-Fi problems NATALIA KOLENKO | STAFF WRITER

This spring semester, IT Services and Student Government declared that they had a plan to improve Mason’s Wi-Fi, but so far enhancements are yet to be seen. On March 6, the Student Government University Services department made an announcement that they and the Network Engineering and Technology Department in IT Services would be simplifying Mason’s campus wireless network. “On March 8th, between 7-11 a.m., changes will be made to Mason’s Wireless Network! Mason ResNet [and] Mason ResNet Secure will be removed from the network options,” Student Government posted on their Facebook. Despite this effort to improve the Wi-Fi, some students like freshman Mariah Beck, a Government and International Politics major, say they have not noticed an improvement at all. “In my opinion, Mason’s Wi-Fi was better before the conversion,” Beck said. “Since the switch I have noticed the Wi-Fi is slower or is not always available. I’m rarely able to access it from my room or when I’m walking around on campus.” Students like freshman and Finance major Pooja Prabhudesai and freshman and Computer Science major Manil Trivedi agreed with Beck and said they have not noticed a difference in the Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi at Mason has long been a concern of students and faculty. As freshman and Business major Kristin Price points out, “When you google George Mason University the first reviews that come up are about the Wi-Fi.” Some students like freshman and Business major Kristin Price said they have even had issues with the Wi-Fi to the point that it has interfered with them turning in assignments. “I wasn’t able to turn in an assignment on time and didn’t get a grade for it because the professor doesn’t take late work,” Price said. Prabhudesai had a similar experience with turning in an assignment late because the Wi-Fi was not working.

“I was unable to turn in a paper due to the constant lag in the Wi-Fi and trying to find information to write the paper was also difficult as the Wi-Fi kept on disconnecting and connecting or not loading at all,” Prabhudesai said.

student services be adequately appropriated to reflect the continually evolving needs of current and future students. Additionally, we passed a bill allocating funds for the purchase of an outdoor wireless access point,” Das said via email.

Marilyn T. Smith, vice president for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, said she wants to apologize for the inconvenience the Wi-Fi has caused students.

Smith also said they have taken recent measures to better the Wi-Fi. She continued that she knows she and IT Services can’t guarantee there won’t be any more problems but they are hoping that with the recent changes there won’t be any more disruptions between now and the end of finals.

“I am aware that we have been experiencing interruptions in the Wi-Fi network over the past month or so. [IT Services] wants to apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, and we continue to work on it to get the best service for Mason that we can,” Smith said. Michael Sandler, director of Strategic Communications, added that some of the reasons the Wi-Fi has been so bad in the last month is not for the reasons many people expect. “One of the reasons why there has been some problems with the Wi-Fi is because [IT Services has] been taking steps to make the system more secure, and partly because of some of the incidents we’ve had over the last year,” Sandler said. Smith added that the recent disruptions have not been due to the simplification of the network on March 8, but rather for the reasons Sandler gave. Smith continued that the partnership between IT Services and Student Government will be a way to hopefully improve the Wi-Fi and she and Student Government are excited about the partnership. Tanny Das, the undersecretary of University Services for Information Technology, said that so far Student Government and IT Services have already started to implement new changes to improve the Wi-Fi. She continued that the two groups meet regularly to talk about the concerns students have and to try to find solutions to their concerns. “Last week, our student senate passed Resolution 32 ‘A Resolution to Support the Funding of Student Services at George Mason University,’ which recommended that the funding allotted to

“We’re taking additional measures and I have every confidence that we have the right group of people working on this. The students are doing a good job of putting pressure [on us], as they should be because they expect service and they should have those expectations,” Smith said. Despite their frustration, students still remain hopeful that the Wi-Fi will improve. “I feel like having hope in people is a big thing to push them towards success. So, a big part of me does believe that they will succeed. Realistically, they might need a lot more help, but it definitely is possible,” Prabhudesai said. Freshman and Computer Science major Roshan Mirajkar agreed with Prabhudesai but added that he wants to see IT Services put their words into action. “I am glad they have plans on making [the Wi-Fi] better but words are just words until they execute their plan. For now, I am looking at a positive outlook that they recognize their Wi-Fi doesn’t live up to the standards, and they are fixing it,” Mirajkar said. Smith wanted to let the students know that she hopes they will be patient with IT Services and thanked them for the patience they have already shown. w“I would ask them to be patient with us as we work out the issues and thank them for their patience,” Smith said. “To add to that, [I want to] tell them I’m really delighted about this partnerships with Student Government and I hope we can continue to work closely together.”


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Humanities courses begin expanding use of technology ROBERT WINSHIP | STAFF WRITER

As Mason adapts to the growing demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education, other departments are examining the role of technology as a tool of learning and teaching. Mason’s concern for STEM echoes a national demand. At the end of March, President Obama and the White House announced over $240 million in funding toward increasing the availability, capability and reach of STEM courses to students and especially underserved demographics. Though the initiative is funded by the private sector, it signifies an organized, top-down push for expanded and improved STEM education. STEM has become an educational buzzword as the U.S. grapples with a middling global performance. In February, the Pew Research Center reported the U.S. ranks 35th of 64 in global math scores, with Singapore in 1st. As for college students, the White House March press release stated “Sixty percent of students who arrive at college intending to major in STEM subjects switch to other subjects, often in their first year.”

Information compiled from

Mason has instituted an award-winning STEM accelerator program to increase the number of students within the College of Science and boost job-placement assistance for graduating students. Mason’s steps to improve STEM programs include distance education, where STEM courses are the majority of classes offered. However, other departments are utilizing technology and distanced learning to offer students convenient and modern outlets for learning. Even as Mason wrestles with national education concerns, it is the humanities department that is bucking trends. This summer at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, graduate students will have the opportunity to explore the developing link between distanced-learning, technology and history. The course, titled Teaching Hidden History is aimed at promoting technology as a means of creating new ways of learning. It also incorporates traditional teaching of history through artifacts. PhD student Celeste Sharp will teach the class alongside fellow PhD student Nate Sleeter. Sharp explained, “Basically this course grows out of a previous online course that we’ve done with teachers entitled Hidden in Plain Sight.” Sleeter demonstrated the type of learning in Hidden in Plain Sight, “[Students] see an object like a porcelain teacup and they’re asked to make a hypothesis about ‘how might this object fit into a larger history. They write down that hypothesis and they go through a series of resources.” Sleeter pointed out their thinking after the initial Hidden course,

“We decided if we want to encourage this active thinking about the past. It would be great to have a course where the people in the course could actually make one of these modules: figure out what object they want to use, what story they want to tell and then implement it into a website we’ve created.” Though focus on the sciences is aided by the advent of new technology, humanities courses have not embraced it as quickly. However, Sleeter is not convinced that history has nothing to offer to emerging trends in distance learning. “What humanities is good at is taking a lot of information and trying to find meaning out of it. So there is a really symbiotic relationship between the two that’s exciting to explore,” Sleeter said. “There’s a lot of people doing really exciting work in the digital humanities and digital history, but they’re probably in the minority as well. It’s not hard to imagine that people that get interested in history are the ones who aren’t going to look to technology first and say, ‘Oh, I can do this digitally,’ or, ‘Oh, I want to explore what’s possible in digital areas,’” Sleeter said. Teaching Hidden History is one of Mason’s available hybrid courses. These classes incorporate the convenience of online learning with face-to-face time. These classes rely on multimedia telepresence rooms. The purpose of hybrid courses is to foster self-motivated study online while “the in-person allows us to do a lot of instruction in terms of the technology” Sleeter said.


The course is being funded by 4-VA, an initiative that pulls Virginia schools together to explore “collaborative research.” So far 4-VA includes five schools: Mason, Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, James Madison and University of Virginia. Though this pilot course will only involve Mason and Virginia Tech, further courses could include other 4-VA schools. Working together across campuses can allow for a thematic focus. Sharpe pointed out, “For instance, there might be somebody at Virginia Tech who specializes in, say, the history of slavery. So you could do a version of this that’s focused thematically and contentwise on the history of slavery.” On the role of digital history at Mason, Professor Kelly Schrum, Director of Educational Projects for the Center of History and New Media, spoke optimistically, “It’s definitely a growing field, and I think here at Mason digital history has been central for a long time. So I think our doctoral students are at the cutting edge of what’s happening.” Digital history is only one way in which humanities and technology represent a mutually beneficial relationship. The course is developing the path for future exploration. Schrum concluded, “In a sense we’re helping to shape the field and to change it and to increasingly find new ways and promote new ways to think about how digital and technology and humanities work together…we’ve seen tremendous growth over the last twenty years ongoing.”






Braddock Road may be expanded, but not anytime soon RAQUEL DESOUZA | ASSISTANT ONLINE NEWS EDITOR

The Braddock District is proposing to expand a section of Braddock Road. The Braddock Road Multimodal study is proposing three projects, according to the study’s website. The first is to add an HOV lane in each direction from Burke Lake Road to Interstate 495. Second is to add a general purpose lane, which is a lane available for all vehicle use, from Guinea Road to Burke Lake Road. The third is to build a parking garage and bus stop transit center on Braddock Road near the Kings Park Shopping Center in Burke. From Guinea Road to Interstate 495, the expansion would cover about four miles. This stretch of Braddock Road “currently handles approximately 70,000 vehicle trips a day,” according to the multimodal study website. The road’s peak hours with 3,000 vehicles are from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., according to the March 4 task force meeting minutes. Information Systems and Operations Management major, Maria Beltran, commutes on Braddock Road to get to the Fairfax campus. “My commute is between 30-40 minutes, sometimes more depending on the traffic,” Beltran said in an email. “It will be great if Fairfax County can expand Braddock Road at least one more lane, since a lot of the students take this route to go to either NOVA [community college] or George Mason.” The Braddock District released an attitude survey to get commuter feedback on the multimodal study. It was first released in March and it will be open until the end of April. It has been released through newsletters and it’s also available on the Fairfax County and Braddock District websites. So far, there have been around 500 responses. “There’s been a lot of good comments that people have been sending in about issues and one thing that we’re seeing so far is a lot of good suggestions for spot improvements that we need to pick up along the way,” Braddock District Supervisor John Cook said. Respondents can answer questions about their daily commutes, their perspective on public transportation on Braddock Road, the likelihood of them using HOV and their willingness to pay to use High Occupancy Toll lanes. People also have a chance to write in any concerns they may have on the possible expansion. Respondents are identified by which Braddock Road intersection they live closest too. Cook said this question is included to see if there are any geographical differences on answers or concerns. An informal commuter parking survey was done in January 2015 to test the possibility of making the Kings Park transit center and the results were shared at the March 4 task force meeting. According to the meeting minutes, the survey was released to see the current parking demand because the remodeling of the shopping center’s


Giant food store could reduce the number of parking spaces.

this maintenance.

Cook said there are also talks of adding small parking lots, instead of adding a huge one. The Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Annandale is interested in giving some of their parking lot for commuters, according to the meeting minutes.

After the survey is closed, there will be a community meeting on June 9 when the consultant Rummel Klepper & Kahl of Fairfax, or RK&K Enginners, will evaluate the survey results and explain the design options and any issues.

The most recent Braddock Task Force meeting on the attitude study was in April 1. Members from the Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling have attended some of the meetings to give their feedback. FABB Chairman Bruce Wright wants cyclists in the area, especially from Mason, get involved with the process.

“What you would see is a recommended course of action and then that has to go through the formal process of VDOT approval and [Fairfax] County approval or disapproval, depending on what people think,” Cook said.

“Braddock road is a critical connection for cyclists in the area and it’s important that whatever happens there allows cyclists to safely, conveniently get to their points of destination,” Wright said. According to Wright, the current plan proposes for parallel side paths, but he does not think this design is safe enough for cyclists and pedestrians at Braddock’s busy intersections. “Enforcement of right-turn-on-red and just general road laws is terrible in this county. People think it’s their given right to turn right on a red light without stopping,” Wright said. “What that means is cyclists and pedestrians trying to cross the road even with a green pedestrian signal are often in danger of motorists who are not looking and pull in at the intersection without stopping.” Another concern FABB has is the county keeping up with maintenance of the trails. Wright said there are no dedicated funds for

The planning process will then be finished by May or June of 2015, according to Cook. If the design is approved, construction of Braddock Road will not start for about another six years. The construction would last about 18 months. This six-year gap between community input and construction is because making the engineering design, moving utilities such as lights, poles and wires, and finalizing funding takes years and there could be some delays. Cook said the majority of the funding for these projects would most likely come from local funding. Also an environmental analysis, such as potential tree loss due to the roadway expansion, would probably be needed. Another construction project with a closer start date Cook mentioned is intersection improvements starting this spring at Braddock Road and Route 123. Fourth Estate reached out to the Braddock District office to ask more about this project, but they have not yet commented.






Faculty members seek fossil fuel divestment REEM NADEEM & ELLEN GLICKMAN | PRINT NEWS EDITORS

A petition was released among faculty urging Mason to fully divest from fossil fuels. The petition contains a letter addressed to Mason president Ángel Cabrera and the George Mason University Foundation president Janet Bingham. According to the letter, the GMU Foundation approximately holds 2% of its assets in fossil fuels and fully divesting may be financially advantageous to the university. The petition was created by Dr. Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication, in collaboration with other professors. As of publication, the petition contained 56 signatures, including three students. If Mason divests, it would become the first college in Virginia to do so, and the divestment would total approximately $1.2 million. Some faculty signed the petition with the immediate future in mind. According to English professor David Kuebrich, this petition is especially timely because of the upcoming presidential election in the United States as well as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. However, Kuebrich recognizes long term implications as well. “I think that every human being right now has to somehow realize that our planet is facing the most important crisis - this is the most important human rights issue in history, and I want to do whatever I can to make sure that people today and future generations have a planet where they can live comfortably and thrive, and I think that’s what the petition is asking people to do,” Kuebrich said. Some signees are environmentally active outside of Mason and took the opportunity to bring that fight to the school. English professor Michelle LaFrance said she frequently volunteers with regional parks and local environmental causes such as cleaning trash from Lake Accotink. “We are destroying our planet and the only way that we can stop doing that is if we stop relying so heavily on fossil fuel, which means we need to invest in renewable energy sources,” LaFrance said. “So that’s why I signed it. We have to do it. I think we’re going to be very quickly out of options if we don’t make choices that change the course of our direct future very, very quickly.” While many professors signed the petition to support the environment, some signees were thinking financially. English teaching assistant Sean Pears said that though he is not environmentally active, he signed the petition for a variety of reasons. “I guess I would say that I think that a university like George Mason…it’s an organization that I think plans on the order of 10, 20, 30, 50 years and any organization, any institution that’s planning on that kind of time frame has a responsibility to think about the effects of climate change,” Pears said. “But also the way in which their financial portfolio is going to be affected by the inevitable consequences of climate change, both changes to our climate and to the physical world, but also inevitable policy changes that I think will happen even if in the near term they may or may not.” According to professor of Public Policy Jessica Heineman-Pieper, divesting from fossil fuel takes a stand against more than climate change as well. “I signed because I’m aware of the damage we’re doing to fossil fuel excavation exploitation, and I want to be part of resisting our energy paradigm,” Heineman-Pieper said. “I’m also aware of the human rights violations and other kinds of violence that most if not all of the engage in on the ground and areas where they find resources they want to exploit even if the population doesn’t want that.” University divestment is a cause activists are seeking across the

nation. Twenty U.S. colleges have committed to fossil fuel divestment, according to Fossil Free, a branch of that campaigns for divestment.

faculty. While they have not decided to divest from fossil fuels, Van Leunen said the Foundation has about $1.5 million of its assets in sustainable ventures.

Last May, Stanford University withdrew its entire investment in the coal industry. Fossil Free Stanford played a role in the final decision of the Stanford Advisory Panel of Investment Responsibility and Licensing. The university’s Statement on Investment Responsibility states the even though APIRL’s main responsibility is to maximize investment returns, they may consider a corporation’s possible “social injury” in their decision making.

“The foundation and its board are investment stewards of the foundation’s endowment and have a fiduciary responsibility to put the interests of the endowment beneficiaries first,” Van Leunen said via email. “…As investments stewards of the endowment, the foundation must balance the need for financial returns with competing objectives. The conversation regarding how this goal may be achieved is just beginning.”

“‘We believe this action provides leadership on a critical matter facing our world and is an appropriate application of the university’s investment responsibility policy,’” said Steven A. Denning, chairman of the Stanford Board of Trustees, in the press release on Stanford’s website.

Thomas Lovejoy, a Mason University Professor of environmental science and policy, signed the Mason petition, and said divestment is the moral move for the university.

Harvard University, which has the largest endowment of any U.S. college at $36 billion, chose not to divest, despite student protests. Drew Faust, the university’s president, cited academic and political reasons for not divesting.

“I see this as different from the pre-Apartheid South Africa disinvestment issue where there was actual question as to whether that could hurt the disadvantaged by affecting their employment,” Lovejoy said via email. “I believe that as an institution of learning and one seriously engaged in sustainability issues, it is incorrect and insincere to have investments in fossil fuels.”

In a Fossil Fuel Divestment Statement in 2013, posted on Harvard’s website, Faust wrote that divestment would undermine Harvard’s purpose as an academic institution.

Jagadish Shukla, director of Mason’s climate dynamics program, said other universities have a responsibility to take action against climate change.

“[W]e maintain a strong presumption against divesting investment assets for reasons unrelated to the endowment’s financial strength and its ability to advance our academic goals,” Faust wrote.

“Every academic institution that has an understanding of the climate problem should express their understanding through actions like this,” Shukla said.

She also said divestment is a political action, and as such, Harvard should not participate.

While divestment will undoubtedly have some financial impact, Shukla said non-monetary impacts would be of larger significance.

“Conceiving of the endowment not as an economic resource, but as a tool to inject the university into the political process or as a lever to exert economic pressure for social purposes, can entail serious risks to the independence of the academic enterprise. The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change,” Faust wrote.

“Withdrawing money definitely has a direct effect. The magnitude of that effect, I cannot tell you,” Shukla said. “But in addition to actual dollar numbers, it has another impact. It sends a message, a scientific message.”

Harvard’s president was also concerned about the possible hypocrisy concerned with divestment. “I also find a troubling inconsistency in the notion that, as an investor, we should boycott a whole class of companies at the same time that, as individuals and as a community, we are extensively relying on those companies’ products and services for so much of what we do every day,” she wrote.

Shukla said the economic impact of divestment was not his reason for signing. He said the message is what was most important to him. “I want to get a message to society and government that we here at George Mason, we understand climate science, and we’re very concerned about it,” Shukla said.

She encouraged other methods to combat climate change. “In the case of fossil fuel companies, we should think about how we might use our voice not to ostracize such companies but to encourage them to be a positive force both in meeting society’s long-term energy needs while addressing pressing environmental imperatives,” Faust wrote. Susan Van Leunen, director of finance for the GMU Foundation, said all investment decisions are made to benefit Mason students and





Seeking adventure from the heights of Mason HAMNA AHMAD | STAFF WRITER

Tall and lanky with a full head of hair, Robbie blends in with the thousands of students who walk across Mason’s campus everyday. On the roofs of Mason’s buildings, however, Robbie stands alone. Since he started at Mason in 2013, Robbie has climbed to the roofs of Fenwick Library, Robinson Halls, the Hub, East building, Merten Hall, Shenandoah Bus Building and the Patriot Center. “The JC is the only one I haven’t been able to crack,” Robbie said. “I think the only door to get up there is locked.” Robbie’s proclivity for climbing buildings is matched by his affinity for video games, which may be the very reason Robbie climbs in the first place. “You know how people say that video games encourage people to do violent stuff ? I don’t buy into that, but I think they might have a point with this climbing stuff,” he said. “One of my favorite game series is Assassin’s Creed, and one of the main things you do in that is just climb up stuff and think to get a better idea of where you are, so maybe that is bleeding into my life.” For Robbie, figuring out the paths to the roofs and spending time above campus is a mainly solitary activity. He said he typically looks around to find the route, checking doors and looking for openings. Once there, he said, he “just hangs out.” “I usually come by myself. It’s a nice place to get my thoughts out,” Robbie said. Although he enjoys his isolation, Robbie offered me a chance to tag along on one of his climbs. With his two friends, Lonnie and Mathias, we climbed up to the top of Fenwick Library. A panoramic snapshot of Mason life is visible from that height, a view exclusive only to the students who know how to get to it. Adult students participate in live action role play in front of SUB I, sorority sisters in coordinating outfits march to their next social event and a muddled, balding professor in a flapping overcoat chats on a cell phone outside of Robinson A. For Lonnie, the high altitude and accompanying view is something he was accustomed to even before coming to Mason. When he was younger, he frequently climbed the 7-11 convenience stores near his home. Now, Lonnie enjoys living life high above ground. As a regular practitioner of parkour, he aims to travel in the most efficient way possible in the face of what he calls “obstacles.” Originating in France, parkour is gaining

popularity and followers from America’s youth, the trend spurred mainly by videos posted to the Internet. Defined by the New Yorker’s Alec Wilkinson as a “quasi commando system of leaps, vaults, rolls and landings designed to help a person avoid or surmount whatever lies in his path,” parkour demands a high level of athleticism from its practitioners, many of whom can be seen flipping around the residence buildings or the Hub. Lonnie, dedicated to his sport, is lean, strong and up for the challenge. He is also cognizant of the risks that climbing roofs can pose, and chose to err on the side of caution when trying to do a backflip on Fenwick.



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“Sometimes, I do prefer roofs over ground, but there is a lot of danger to it. You have to be safe,” Lonnie said. The possibility for injury always exists when attempting to reach the roofs of Mason’s buildings, especially in construction zones like Fenwick Library. According to Robbie, one of the scariest climbs he has completed is the Patriot Center because of the extreme height and little room for failure. He recounted a story of a friend who sprained her ankle while climbing down the Hub. While aware of the physical trouble climbing puts them in, both Robbie and Lonnie do not exercise the same caution when it comes to disciplinary action. Although the university does not have clear language in its policies regarding students reaching the roofs of campus buildings, access to certain areas is restricted to authorized personnel only. Though he has never been stopped by the university’s administration or police force, Robbie said that the lack of clear rules or signs is what keeps him going. “That’s my excuse if someone ever comes up here. I’m going to be like, ‘Well, I didn’t know that was a rule.’ I don’t see any real reason why I can’t come up here,” Robbie said. Mathias, a more novice climber, is not daunted by the risk of physical injury or disciplinary action. He, like many people around the world, suffers from acrophobia. “I am very scared of heights,” Mathias said, laughing nervously. “As long as I am towards the center of the building and away from the edges, I’ll be fine. The edges are where I feel like I’m about to die.” Up on the roof, as an impending rainstorm created a stillness in the warm spring air, Mathias concluded that the experience was definitely greater than his apprehension. He was glad he agreed to climb Fenwick, choosing adventure over fear and seeing how beautiful a different point of view can be.

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“$26 away from $44k!! Come on #masonnation, let’s break $60k by our event on Saturday! @GMUrelay #gmu #gmurelay”

@DanaMeghan Dana

‘”We would like a football team and wifi, please.’ GMU: ‘We got the circus and Jesse McCartney instead. Deal with it.’”

@btcowlishaw Ben Cowlishaw (CLAIRE CECIL/FOURTH ESTATE)

April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month as well as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This week, Fourth Estate will feature a story online looking into these issues and their connection to the campus community.

Planning to be in Richmond this summer? “It’s such fun to watch the JC wake up in the morning. 8:30 vs 10:30 is a stark difference. #masonNation #patriotpride”

@bekschex Rebekah Stone

“Remembering our friends at #VirginiaTech today, the anniversary of the 2007 shootings in Blacksburg. @vtnews “

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Summer classes at VCU run May 18 through August 7. Visit for course listings and registration information. or contact the Summer Studies Office at

Register for a VCU Summer course and get some credit for your summer vacation.


Follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @IVEstate Use the hashtag #IVphoto on snapshots of Mason for a chance to see your photo in a future issue!












Furry friends on campus her for a few years led to frequent high heart rates and low blood pressure, often resulting in her losing consciousness. Zido helps to prevent situations like this by sensing Simmons’ blood pressure and heart rate spikes or decreases. When Simmons’ heart rate reaches a certain level, Zido will “alert” her to the situation. She then will sit or lay down, to reduce her heart rate to a more normal level. Zido will do the same for her blood pressure. He can also help her by picking things up, pulling her slightly when she walks to reduce the work her heart has to do, and providing peace of mind for her safety. Zido even works while he sleeps. In the event that he is sleeping while Simmons is in need of an alert, Zido can still sense it and has even woken up Simmons’ in the middle of the night to alert her. Zido wears a harness that is clearly marked with signs asking that individuals do not pet him. Petting a service animal while they are wearing their harnesses which is used to signal to the dog that he/ she is working, can distract and confuse them. “He’s constantly working. If you pet him, if you talk to him, if you distract him in any way. And petting is not the only way to distract a dog, if you talk to him, he’s going to get distracted. If that happens, he could miss an alert for me because it’ll take him a little bit to get back in sync with what he is doing,” Simmons said. Zido and Simmons live on campus in a single dorm on campus with a suite mate. Zido is allowed, by law, to go anywhere Simmons goes. From the car, to public transportation, to class and meetings. When Zido attends Simmons’ classes or meetings, he has a special blanket that he lays on. This signifies to Zido that this is “his spot.” Simmons said that housing, the office of disability services, and her professors have all been extremely accommodating and helpful. Many professors have enjoyed the extra excitement Zido brings to class, with one professor calling him the best student she has ever had.

Courtney Simmons and Zido pose for a Halloween picture during training. TAYLOR WICHTENDAHL | STAFF WRITER

Mason is home to many four legged creatures that live in the residence halls, just like its students. However, many of our students have no idea they are there. Some students have fish, which per university policy are permitted to live in the residence halls as long as they are in a tank ten gallons or less. All other “pets” are prohibited, said Associate Director of Housing Services, Melissa Garza Thierry. There’s two classes of students who have animals living with them on campus. The first would be students who have pets living with them against Housing and Residence Life regulations. While the student interviewed wishes to remain anonymous, she was willing to speak about her cat on campus. This freshman had a cat named Mila on campus. “Animals have been known to bring down stress levels and relieve anxiety. This is exactly what my little Mila did for me,” she said. There are options for students who feel like this anonymous freshman. If you are documented with office of disability services, you may be able to have an emotional support animal on campus. “ESAs can be just about any domesticated animal including dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, mini pigs, etc.,” said Karen Andrews, Associate director of the Office of disability services. Emotional support animals are designed to provide comfort and companionship for the students they live with on campus. They must be vaccinated in ordinance with state laws and are not permitted to go into


classes or university buildings on campus, aside from the residence hall in which they live. Another class of animals allowed on campus are service dogs. These animals are not considered “pets” by housing, as they serve a significant purpose. Service animals protect, assist, and ensure the success of their owners every day here at Mason. Courtney Simmons, a junior majoring in Communications, has a service dog named Zido on campus. Zido and Simmons are currently living together on campus for their first semester. While Zido was trained for the first two and a half years of his life on how to be a service dog, he still had to go through further training to tailor his abilities to Simmons’ needs. Simmons then spent three weeks in Pennsylvania where the organization, Canine Partners for Life, that paired her with Zido is based. Following their graduation on Nov. 2 of last year, Simmons was able to take Zido home. Once she began her spring semester at Mason, Zido joined her on campus. Simmons’ need for Zido became more urgent after a cardiac condition that affected

Simmons and Zido interact in a way that shows Zido’s true personality. He is able to help Simmons but can have an attitude sometimes. At the end of the day, Zido is just a dog. “He is an incredibly-well trained dog, but he is not a robot. He is still a dog. There are days where he is just kind of like, ‘no, I don’t really feel like working today.’ Or he will give me this look like, ‘no, I’ve seen you pick that up, I know you can do it,’” Simmons said, “So he’s snarky but with enough treats and praise, he’ll do pretty much anything.” From service animals, emotional support animals, to pets; these furry friends can offer an array of benefits to students and leave a footprint on campus life.






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The day began with a dull trudge to the cue bus and a slow crawl to the Vienna Metro. The slow hum of the track only hampered by the clamor of commuters, tourists, beer nuts, Capital’s fans and cherry blossom enthusiasts; waiting to be packed like sardines in a tin can. The only respite from the stale air of the metro underground being the warm spring sun on the other end of that tunnel; that promised land that was the beer festival was in our grasp, but far from in our sight. The city was bustling with activity in perceived symmetry in the blocks that (COURTESY OF CONNOR SMITH) surrounded the Navel Yard metro station, leaving my cohorts and falling Connor Smith with a Cherry blossom fest drink in his right in step with the coordinated pageant hand and a D.C. Beer Fest drink in left. of drunkards we thought would soon I am with a group of close friends, and two of become our best drinking companions. The us don’t have tickets’ so I figured I could find a reality was far flung from that happy thought. As way to fanegal my way in,” Harman said. “He we arrived and cued patiently to enter the calam- directed me to a coordinator and I approached itous gathering in the parking lot of National’s her, knowing that she gets asked this a lot, if she park we felt as though we had finally reached our could let two of my friends in. Cutting straight destination. Unfortunately met with the chas- to the chase she asked, ‘Do you have cash, eighty tisement and scorn, we were banished from the bucks for the both of them.’ She brought us past cherry blossom beer festival happily located just the check in, past security and in one minute next door to the D.C. beer festival held within the had stamps on our hands. We walked in, and it park. This may seem like the mistake any drunk wasn’t until later that we received a phone call whether, amateur or highly functioning would from the rest of our group saying we were at the make, but after speaking with several Mason wrong festival. I looked down at my cup, saw it students, the issues surrounding the proximity said Cherry Blossom Festival, and got the hell out of the two festivals seemed an all too common of dodge.” theme. These are just two of the multitude of D.C. Beer “They could have handled that better, because festival-goers who were left waiting, wanting for after you get off the metro the first thing you the districts best micro brews. One line turned see is the cherry blossom one, and so even is you to another as the walking wounded of the ticket are going to the other one, you see that and you snafu ate precious time better spent sampling are like… oh my god I’m here!” said McKenzie, Pilsners, Porters, and pale ales for those holding a Senior at George Mason who intended on tickets to the festival’s early session. Once finally attending the beer festival, “There wasn’t a inside, the selection was absolutely stunning. whole line going into the park from the metro. It With booths from local favorites like Wild Wolf, wasn’t until later that we heard people say ‘This DuClaw, Devil’s Backbone,Port City, Alewerks, is not the D.C. Beer Festival!’” McKenzie’s was and Hardywood, as well as perennial award not the only tale of lost time and faulty tickets. winning breweries like Victory, Evo, Lagunitas, Sam Harman’s experience is one of greased and Goose Island. It was a phenomenal experipalms, intrigue and swashbuckling. As he arrived ence, and perfect way to usher in a new spring at the entrance to the Cherry Blossom celebra- season. The only issue anyone could take with tion his logical assumption was that he too had the D.C. Beer festival was finding its thanks to finally reached the D.C. Beer Festival after the the wonderful people in charge of scheduling at arduous metro ride. National’s Park. “I approached a security officer and said, ‘hey






Short and sweet The ten-minute play festival ASHER ACKMAN | STAFF WRITER

For the ninth year in a row, Mason will be hosting its annual Ten-Minute Play Festival. For those of you who might not know, a ten minute play is just what it sounds like, “a play that runs for ten minutes from start to finish,” says Brianna St. Clair, the stage director for this year’s ten minute play festival. There will be eight plays in total this year. The Lost, by Nerissa Heart, is being directed by Jessica Dubish. The Lost is a play about The Lost Boys of Neverland in their world and the new girl who invades it. Heart, a senior theatre major, says that the play “partially sprang from needing ten pages for a playwriting class assignment and partially from my love of reading and creating theories about preexisting stories.” Nerd Love, by Katie Lewis, is being directed by Nathan Vasquez. Nerd Love is about a pair of nerds who are on dates with people who are non-nerds. Things are naturally a little awkward at first, but the couples find they have a lot more in common than they seemed to at first. Lewis, a graduate from George Mason University, says that she “was inspired by the play Check Please by Jonathan Rand. It was one of the few plays I had acted in at high school, and I loved the concept. Also, I’m a major nerd, and I believe nerd love is the sweetest and truest love there is.” The Happy Meal, by Zachary Wilcox, is being directed by Matt Succi. This kinda sorta (not really) true story is about an unfortunate McDonalds employee, an unsuspecting off duty cop, and a young girl who just wants her “Adventure Time” toy. When she gets a baggie of heroin through the drive-through window, this crazy world devolves into chaos. Wilcox, a senior Theater major, says that this play came about from “an assignment that required us to write a short scene based upon some sort of news article. I found the news article about the real “Heroin McDonalds” which was absolutely hilariously written . Some of my dialogue was even adapted directly from the parody article. I wrote a very early draft of this play for the assignment and I’ve been slowly working on it ever since!” The Bone Crane, by John “Waffles” Morgan, is being directed by Alex Galloway. Years after a tragedy befalls Kelsey, she is forced to relive the strange events that transpired in the home of a local veterinarian alongside her best friend, Dog. “As a life-long lover of cosmic horror (especially the works of H.P. Lovecraft), when I am


scared, I want to find out why and express it as best as I can. Which is what the main inspiration for The Bone Crane is, the strange absurdity of a universe that frightens me to my very core whenever I forget for a minute to be in awe of its intricate beauty,” said Morgan, a sophomore Theater major and Game Design minor. Arachnophobia, by Leanda Hinegardner, is being directed by Ben Ribler. In it, two spiders discuss their love lives. They also talk about their penises. “Arachnophobia was inspired by my own encounter with a spider. In short, I tried to squish it – it ran away. That night, as I lay awake thinking about the eight-legged menace, I came up with this play,” said Hinegardner, a sophomore Theater major and English minor. She Always Comes Home, by Janice Majewski, is being directed by Emily Gruver. This is a play about presence, loss and holding on; perhaps for too long. A mother, whose daughter has been missing for fifteen years, holds on to the past, but at what cost? “She Always Comes Home came about from an assignment in Heather McDonald’s playwriting course last semester. It began as two photos--one of a dilapidated home in the countryside, raised and ready for removal; the other of a tattered child’s dress hanging alone on a clothesline. In trying to link these two images together, the world of the play necessarily became one in which not everything is there. From there the story became a haiku and eventually transformed into a ten page script,” said Majewski, pursuing a BFA in Poetry.

in almost any field, from work to relationships. The Masquerade is Over explores the dangers of ego and selfishness,” said Galloway, a senior Film and Video Studies major. Here’s Your Crown, by Andrew Reid, is being directed by Kathleen Barth. Here’s Your Crown follows the story of a father and his daughter through varying stages of their life. As a single father, he attempts to be a positive influence and beacon of hope for his daughter. This is a tale of memory and remembrance. “The inspiration for this play came from two places. The first being a song, Remember Us by The Hunts, which creates an atmosphere of longing. It is soft and contains a magical quality. The kind of song you’d hear in the backdrop during a montage of two people’s life story. The second being a friend, who recently lost a loved one. Listening to their stories and seeing the display of nostalgia struck a cord which ended up producing Here’s Your Crown,” said Reid, a senior Theater major. The Ten Minute Play Festival is at Theaterspace April 24 at 8 p.m. and April 25 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.


The Masquerade Is Over, by Alex Galloway, is being directed by Madison Landis. The Masquerade is Over tracks a couple’s relationship from their first meeting to their last. “Self-interest can be a dangerous thing. It can be a poison


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BDS is the only peace process for Israel and Palestine If there is one thing Israel has learned through its colonization of Palestine, it is the indestructibility of Palestine and the soul of its people. Today, millions of Palestinians within Occupied Palestine, and many millions more in solidarity internationally, are engaged in an international movement for Palestinian justice, the BDS Movement. BDS, or Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions, is a strategy for nonviolent resistance against Israeli aggression. A decade since its launch, the BDS movement has become Palestine’s “sword and shield” and most potent weapon against Zionism and colonialism. BDS addresses the underlying causes of the conflict, it does precisely what Israel’s “peace process” does not: recognize the full humanity of the Palestinian people and their undeniable right to the land of their ancestors. The strategy itself is simple, as it merely calls for boycotting, divesting from, and placing sanctions against any institution or company that is complicit in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. The demands of BDS are likewise simple, though no less profound, and they address the three main sources of grievances for Palestinians: the Right of Return for all Palestinian refugees as according to international law; ending the illegal occupation of all Arab lands, the dismantling of Israel’s notorious and internationally condemned apartheid wall, and ending the two-tiered system of rights within Israel that relegates all non-Jewish residents to second-class citizenship. Without these demands being met, the Palestinian people cannot adequately experience self-determination, and so the conflict will only continue, adding to the grief of all civilians involved. A peace process can only be successful if it is a balanced one, and this balance can only be ensured by adhering to the three BDS demands. How incredulous it is to argue that unbalanced negotiations are a just path to peace, as if an oppressed people have no right to self-determination without the consent of their oppressors. If any lasting peace is to be reached, where Jewish and Palestinian peoples can coexist in mutual recognition of humanity as they did before the Zionist project, then the underlying causes of the conflict must be resolved. It is precisely for this reason that the BDS Movement stands today as the only legitimate peace process. The contemporary “peace process” is simply the latest chapter of Zionist colonialism in Palestine. Scarcely twenty years later, the Oslo Accords haunt us, reminding us that human rights are not up for grabs or compromise, and that no smallscale “cooperation” between the oppressor and the oppressed can end the conflict for the very simple reason that it does not address the root

causes, and merely entrenches the power disparity of settler-colonialism. But this is precisely what is being demanded of Palestinians today: stop being angry at your oppression, stop resisting occupation, stop demanding your inalienable human rights. This is why Palestinians roll their eyes at the mention of the “peace process,” because they understand what Israel means when it speaks of “peace.” If by “peace” one means the superficial absence of tension, then certainly Israel could be considered “peaceful.” It has been continuously whitewashing its settler-colonial history and erasing the narrative of the indigenous Palestinian people for the better part of a century now, so certainly a “peace” that maintains ZionistIsraeli domination and militaristic oppression of Palestinians is high on Israel’s agenda. But a true peace, one that is founded on social justice and equality, would indeed be the end of Israel as we know it, the very “existential crisis” its war criminal Prime Ministers have warned the world of. It seems mind-boggling that respecting human rights presents a lethal danger to Israel, as if the existence of Israel as a “Jewish State” trumps basic Palestinian dignity; but recall that the very inception of the Zionist state required the brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestine of its indigenous populations, and the mass-slaughter of Palestinian civilians, and it becomes clear what sort of “peace” Israel purportedly desires. Equality for all people, Jewish and Palestinian alike, is the “existential threat” that we are told Israel suffers. As the years go by, it becomes more and more apparent that Israel’s definition of “peace” inherently entails perpetuating the misery of Palestinians. Indeed, it seems the longer the “peace process” progresses, the more Palestinians suffer. One is forced to wonder as to how serious Israel is about “peace” as it continues its illegal settlements construction in the West Bank on land seized from its people homes emptied of their residents and then bulldozed. BDS then represents an opportunity for the world to stand on the right side of history. Its momentum is undeniable, and its effects are disastrous to Zionist apartheid. It is the only true peace process that currently exists, and everyday more and more people realize that if respecting human rights and international law is a threat to Israel’s existence, then perhaps Israel’s existence is the problem. MOHAMMAD ABOU-GHAZALA / GLOBAL AFFAIRS MAJOR



When passion meets reality

Mason is known to stress the value of innovation, in fact “innovation” is the name of one of our building’s just a walk down the Johnson Center’s back entrance way. But are we living up to the name? Are we really crafting intellectuals to innovate, or are we creating individuals to stagnate into our society? Mason is where I had made the decision to study History. Initially I had thought economics, political science, or medicine. But the truth of the matter was that I hadn’t the slightest motivation to pursue any of the majors but History. History is what motivates me; I’m passionate about it. Doing it as a hobby all my life got me into thinking how great it’ll be to do it as a contribution to society. But as I approach the end of my Senior year, reality starts to set in. I’m now faced with debt, and a struggling parent who’d soon be dependent on me. I now ask myself, could I make a decent living through a degree in history? Should I transition to law; a field I’m somewhat interested in. Would that be compromising my ambition to do history professionally? Law is the path I’ve now decided to pursue after close reconciliation of two major factors, income and interest. I owe it to the system in play that really gives people of my context no choice. My mother immigrated here in the 90’s and since then she’s raised both my brother and I with very little means. That thought of not coming from a secured background and having--in a sense-to look after my mom, sort of hinders me from pursuing what I love over pursuing something that promises a successful living. Am I doing just to society with this decision I‘ve made, I‘d ask myself, or am I just contributing to an already inefficient run system. Today, superficial intentions are what make up the engines behind companies, organizations, and administrations. Often times we see and/or are treated as a dollar sign when serviced by our society. It seems as if people are only working for money and so can’t see past their customers as being just a dollar sign. What has our society become besides a mining field where people just take without any harvest? Reassurance of making ends meet is now the concern when deciding upon a major--which mind you, was never the intention for an education

in the first place. Schools were established so that society’s working class could further contribute more intellectually, whether civically or mechanically. There’re many who I’ve seen that wanted to first study something in the humanities, then didn’t due to hindrance of not being able to find a good enough paying job. Constant fear of not getting a good return on your investment seem to be the problem. School has become almost like the stock market exchange, you spend money on a share (degree) with high expectations of selling them (landing a six figure) with profitable returns. Is it a bad thing to be concerned with making a decent living? Of course not, but when it gets in the way of not fulfilling one’s given potential, then obviously there’s a problem we need to confront within our institutions. English Professor Donald Gallehr believes one should chase their innate ability but also admittedly expressed how that could be challenging due to our present system of economics. “Nobody wants to be a professor anymore because it don’t pay all that well… there’s a new administrative position opening up in our department which only pays 40k. For some, that’s barely enough to live in the area, let alone raise a family, not to mention the commute one may have to make regularly to get here.”Professor Gallehr has been teaching for a very long time, and from his experience he’s barely been able to make ends meet, “I just always managed to find a way. “We shouldn’t treat our educators this way, it’s horrible. It needs to change.” Of course we’d all like to live in a utopic world where we’d pursue something we’re totally passionate about, but security is a reality we must come to terms with. My take-away from this is to find a balance between both income and interest. In this way, we can hope to be somewhat invested in what we do, while also making a decent living. Our system needs a tune up, but it’s up to the innovators to make that happen. And for innovators, we’d need people doing what they’re passionate about. Having complete passion at work just isn’t feasible at the moment for majority of people, but eventually, as we keep meeting reality halfway, we’d eventually get there. AMEEN OMAR / HISTORY MAJOR




Censorship is not diversity A persistent reality for any living language is that its words so often become perverted from their original meaning.

In the present day, the major terrorist faction committing rampant atrocities in both Syria and Iraq calls itself the Islamic State and is comprised of self-described Muslims.









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But believing that films, documentaries, or other forms of media must be censored if they appear to advance these negative depictions is disturbing.




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A case in point for Mason would be a recent petition signed by over 240 students that called for the JC cinema to not air the movie American Sniper.

It is effectively saying that one cannot criticize a given group solely because one might fan the flames of generalization.


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Championed by a group of student organizations collectively calling themselves the Muslim Student Alliance, the petition opposed the viewing of the critically acclaimed war film about Iraq War veteran and sniper Chris Kyle.

By that reasoning, maybe this Muslim Alliance should immediately call on Mason students to halt all criticism of Israeli foreign policy lest they foment anti-Semitism on campus.

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Even in the modern day of literary orthodoxy via dictionaries online and offline, words can change their meaning, or have their proper meaning frequently distorted. On America’s campuses, one word that gets used far too often outside of its actual meaning has to be the word “diversity.” Meaning “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.” according to MerriamWebster, on many occasions people invoke the word diversity to justify a lack of diversity.

“This is a film that perpetuates misleading and negative stereotypes about the Muslim community that many organizations on campus work hard to dispel. Not only this, but it romanticizes war and glorifies the idea of violence,” read the petition in part. “As thinking humans, we should recognize the issues of morality presented when such a film is shown on campus and sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement whose mission is to ‘embrace diversity.’” In the name of diversity, the Muslim Student Alliance wants to curb a diversity of thought and artistic expression due to them being offended. Indeed, the Alliance and those who signed their petition seem unaware that the film itself is meant to be critical of war and violence. Clint Eastwood, director of American Sniper, recently explained to students at a California academic institute that both he and the film are antiwar. “It has a great indication of the stresses [veterans] are under. And I think that all adds up to kind of an anti-war [message],” he explained. Eastwood also noted that while the film “glorifies” the sniping by Kyle, he still showed the main character with “some regrets in there. And that’s just the way it is. I think [it is] anti.” Irony abounds that while trying to censor a different perspective in the name of diversity, the petition was going after a different perspective that was not all that different. The question, left undetailed in the petition text, was how exactly American Sniper stereotyped Muslims. Was it because the antagonists were Muslim? Newsflash: the terrorists that coalition troops battled in Iraq were virtually all Muslim.

Bashing a film set in that particular time and place for having the terrorists be Muslim would be like bashing a film about the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal for having all the pedophiles be priests. Only a tiny minority of Muslims are terrorists and only a tiny minority of Catholic priests have sexually abused minors.

After all, Mason has had to fight the perception leveled by many across the blogosphere that we are anti-Semitic due to the vivid presence of pro-Palestinian groups. But such a move, even if desirable for pro-Israel students, would again be counterproductive to the very exchange of ideas that should be at the heart of a diverse campus. Diversity will not be protected by removing from campus every expression a single ideological entity finds despicable. To its credit, JC cinema did not cave in and the movie was shown as planned, airing earlier this month and getting mostly positive acclaim. People who did not like the film were not forced to watch it. People who did like the film or wanted to see it could do so. Student organizations who dislike the film’s message could always hold events critiquing it and students who wanted to take them to task could always attend said meetings. That sounds more in keeping with that much misused and much distorted word, that word held sacrosanct in public American education. The word diversity. MICHAEL GRYBOSKI / COLUMNIST






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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

Profile for Student Media George Mason University

April 20, 2015  

Volume 2, Issue 22

April 20, 2015  

Volume 2, Issue 22

Profile for osmgmu