The Eagle April 2019

Page 1

the EAGLE April 2019



Lessons learned

Students, administrators grapple with growing pains of AUx, p. 6


theEAGLE April 2019


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Index NEWS 3 Leaders demand further action on food insecurity 4 Organizers create civics program for local students Group hopes to reignite movement for workers rights 5 New building offers big opportunities for STEM programs 6 AUx faces obstacles during first year as mandatory course

LIFE 8 Campus dining options likely to shift as university considers new providers 10 Sine Institute fellow offers seminars on Latinx art 11 Fitness center offers weights classes for women; Environmental filmmaking center illustrates impact of clmate change

SPORTS 12 Athletics department considers selling alochol at games after students express overwhelimg support in election

OPINION 15 Column: Stop using Wonk Cat as tool to raise money; Column: University needs more resources for students struggling with addiction 16 Column: Editor-in-chief bids farewell after four years; Staff Ed: AU should change its alcohol policy to boost game attendance

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Opening a new chapter in university’s fight against food insecurity Student leaders call for more steps beyond on-campus pantry by Nazli Togrul Staff Writer

This academic year saw a renewed focus on campus food, with student protests against the cost of AU’s proposed meal plans in February and the University’s decision to potentially cut ties with current provider Aramark. But for Tony Hollinger, the director of militaryaffiliated student support and special initiatives in the Office of Campus Life, addressing students’ food needs has been a priority for years. Hollinger runs AU’s food pantry, also known as The Market, which opened in fall 2017. While The Market is intended to combat food insecurity at the University by providing free non-perishable and fresh foods to students, some students say that AU must do more to address student needs. “The food pantry is one of the most important projects I’ve ever worked on because it is focused on helping students in an area of need that impacts their daily well-being, their academic performance and again, their overall health,” Hollinger said in a 2017 interview. While senior Elena Vernikos believes that The Market is a good step, there is still a lot that can be done about food insecurity on AU’s campus, she said. “There has to be some dialogue put into place by the University to talk about this issue,” Vernikos said. “I think that when we have something that’s mandated, whether it be through class or student participation on campus where we have to talk about these issues, I think that can help a lot more people than we realize.” Vernikos created the “Free Food AU” Facebook page, which has over 1,000 followers and posts about wherever there is free food offered on campus. She started the group after she experienced food insecurity and didn’t see many resources at the University. While staying on campus during Thanksgiving break her freshman year, Vernikos said she could not find anything to eat as the Terrace Dining Room and other food options were closed. “The way the University has closures with the food options on campus during breaks is extremely harmful

to a lot of kids who have to stay,” Vernikos said. Nickolaus Mack, a senior in the School of International Service, as well as The Eagle’s managing opinion editor, created the organization Campus Swipes to increase dialogue about food insecurity on campus. Mack is involved in projects such as introducing a “basic needs clause” to professors’ syllabi that addresses food and housing insecurity on campus and directs students to campus resources, such as the Academic Support and Access Center. “A food pantry isn’t a one-and-done solution and I think that everyone recognizes that,” Mack said. How the pantry works In its current setup, students can request access to the Market through an online form and are able to swipe their AU ID card to enter the space, which is located in the lower level of Letts Hall. It is open from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. In a recent interview, Hollinger said The Market has achieved a good balance of being available to students who need it, but also being discreet. The number of students who requested access has increased from 191 students as of May 2018 to 429 as of March 2019, according to data collected by AU. “The focus has remained the same, which is just to have a place where students can come with relative anonymity and find things that they need at their own selection,” Hollinger said. “It’s still based on trust and honesty and the student users being mindful of the other students’ needs as well as their own.” But Jared Bedell, the president of AU’s Residence Hall Association, said most students who need The Market’s resources are not aware of it. “I think one of the largest issues is the lack of knowledge of the food pantry,” Bedell said. “I think that they tried really hard to make it discreet, which was very considerate, but at the same time one of the negatives is that no one knows where it is.” Vernikos said she has noticed that many of the items in the pantry can be unhealthy, as they are pre-prepared. “Even though these students are hungry, that

doesn’t mean they deserve to eat really unhealthy food,” Vernikos said. “That can contribute negatively to your academic performance. If you’re not eating the right thing, then you’re not going to be able to perform the best that you can.” Hollinger has never received a note from a student saying they could not find something they needed, but he has received requests for certain dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free options. While the main source of donations for The Market comes from Capital Area Food Bank (AU spends a minimum of $750 annually to be a part of the organization’s Pantry Food Program), Hollinger estimates the Office of Campus Life spends an extra $100 on items once or twice per month. “Once those demands are identified, then of course we can make sure we put those things there and normally they are used pretty quickly afterwards,” Hollinger said. The high cost but low quality of food that students can access goes beyond what the pantry could solve, Bedell said. “I think that combines for a perfect storm for students who can’t afford to go off campus and buy their own groceries and can’t really eat much on campus with the meal plan,” Bedell said. He said that RHA is working to suggest ideas to the new food provider, such as EagleBucks being accepted at other grocery stores besides Whole Foods. Other ideas include providing more EagleBucks to students who identify as food insecure. Vernikos said the efforts of people who are working towards solving food insecurity on campus should not go unnoticed. “But, at the same time, for a university with the endowment that American University has, for a university with such a high tuition like AU, there is no excuse for us to not have a fully stocked pantry with [healthy] food for students,” Vernikos said. Note: Nickolaus Mack, who is included in this article, is the managing editor of opinion for The Eagle. He was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.



theEAGLE April 2019

Student organizers to launch ‘Civics in the Capitol’ education program Group is pairing up with D.C. charter schools to offer government classes by Vincenza Belletti Staff Writer

After hearing about a program that places Harvard students into local classrooms to teach young people about the importance of civics, sophomore Ksenia Novikova had one question: “Why doesn’t every school have this?” Now, Novikova has taken steps to start Civics in the Capitol, an education program for D.C. charter schools taught by AU students. Her program is projected to start by this fall. “I think that especially being in D.C. there are so many things to talk to the kids about that there’s definitely room for more programs like this in D.C,” Novikova said. The idea started as part of Novikova’s individual social action project for the School of Public Affairs Leadership program. Organizers of the Harvard CIVICS program shared their model and curriculum with her as a starting point for her own project. Civics in the Capitol is partnering with five seventh and eighth grade classrooms in Meridian Public Charter School in Columbia Heights and three different campuses of the Friendship Public Charter Schools. The program’s curriculum team is working closely with the


Student organizers for Civics in the Capitol hold a meeting to discuss the project on April 8, 2019.

schools to get input on what the students should get out of it and will adjust based on students’ prior education, Novikova said. Freshman Robin Miller, the head of the program’s curriculum team, said the focus of the curriculum will be on teaching students that their voice in government matters. “We want students to learn that in our democracy, they have a vote and they have a voice that they can use to have an impact on the way our country functions,” Miller said. “We want to equip them with the knowledge of what rights they have in our society and how our society interacts with politics.” Currently, Civics in the Capitol is in the process of selecting their student teachers for next year. Sophomore Michaila Peters, the leader of the outreach team for Civics in the Capitol, said that the application process was competitive because they are seeking students who have a passion for promoting civic engagement. “It provides an opportunity to engage in our community directly and work towards a cause we share as a student body,” Peters said. The teacher selection process is important because Novikova stresses that student teachers must join the program with the right intentions. “We want people who are passionate about civics

and teaching, but most importantly [who have]the right perspective going in,” she said. The leaders plan to connect with the communities they will be going into. They will have town hall meetings with parents in order to better understand the students and adapt to their needs. “Our aim is to not have a savior complex, so it’s very important to me and the team that we address that and make sure people come into the classroom with the right mindset,” Novikova said. After the program at AU gains more traction, Novikova said she would be very interested in partnering with other local universities to help start their own versions of it. The students behind Civics in the Capitol are passionate about reaching young people and breaking their “cynicism” around government, Miller added. “I’m incredibly frustrated with the amount of cynicism when it comes to the discussion of politics in our society,” Miller said. “I believe that a civics education is the best way to ensure that students believe in the fundamentals of our democracy and are then empowered to have a voice in government.”

The Works AU aims to spark advocacy through information Group aims to spearhead renewed workers’ rights advocacy among AU students by Asher Weinstein

Student Government Beat Reporter

A new workers’ rights organization at AU launched in January with the goal of spreading awareness of workers’ rights activism taking place across Washington and at AU. The Works AU, founded and led by Residence Hall Association chief of staff Tom Lebert, seeks to promote workers’ rights activism by AU students by directing them to events around the city. “One of the things that I wanted to alleviate was activists on campus not knowing about [protests and events, and] not having an open platform for this type of information,” Lebert said. “I wanted to create that.” The Works AU primarily operates through its social media accounts and newsletter, through which it recaps the latest legislative trends and shares links to local activist events. While based at AU, Lebert said that given the intangibility of some of the groups’ actions, his group’s focus is on the broad issue of workers’ rights and even includes national legislation. AU students have a long history of workers’ rights activism, with the Student Worker Alliance leading numerous efforts to protect Aramark workers on AU’s campus under alum Carlos Mark Vera’s leadership.

Vera was able to mobilize students around the #ExploitedWonk campaign, culminating in an April 2016 rally outside Letts and Anderson Halls. But, following Vera’s graduation, the movement has not been as prominent in student life. The Student Worker Alliance, which did not respond to a request for comment, has not been active on social media since early 2018, leaving the University without a dedicated student group for workers’ rights. The controversial firing of Aramark employee Anthony Randolph in September, reported on by The Eagle, brought renewed interest toward workers’ rights. Randolph was later reinstated to his position at AU. “I think one of the issues that we have is that there wasn't like a very coordinated campaign to protect Anthony's rights,” said sophomore Sam Sherwood, one of The Works AU’s original team members. “We might not have had as big of an impact as we could have had if we had a more coordinated organization.” Sherwood said he believes that the group, despite its broader focus, could help develop an interest in workers’ rights on campus.The issue re-emerged during the recent Student Government executive board elections, when candidates spoke about the importance of rehiring workers under a new food provider and preserving their pensions.

To further student interest in the cause, The Works AU recently held its first event on campus in coordination with AU College Democrats on April 8, at which about 30 attendees were invited to write letters to their representatives about three workers’ rights-related bills related to family medical leave and the gender pay gap. “The idea for an event like this came about during the government shutdown,” Lebert said. “One of the first things that we got involved with was sharing action and events protesting the government shutdown.” While attendees were eager to write their letters, awareness of the organization remains low. “I'm very passionate about AU College Democrats,” said freshman Katia Portela at the event, who said she had not heard of the group until that evening. “I am particularly passionate about workers’ rights after Anthony Randolph.” His Lebert said that for now, his group is focused on local D.C. activism. “We’re just trying to boost these unions and local workers’ rights groups and get the word out to students,” he said.


theEAGLE April 2019

Hall of Science offers STEM programs chance to grow, diversify

Internal data shows that students, faculty do not think departments are “representative” by Evan Margiotta Staff Wrtier

As the University continues to make progress on the construction of the new Hall of Science, AU’s STEM community is looking forward to the benefits of a new space on campus. Along with the completion of the new building, AU’s plan to expand its STEM program will also include hiring more faculty, according to biology professor Meg Bentley. While 78 percent of STEM faculty at AU are white and 59 percent are male, Bentley said the hiring process will give the University the opportunity to increase faculty diversity. “Students need to see someone who looks like them in the front of the classroom,” Bentley said. The STEM community is not waiting for the new building to begin discussions on improving their representation. At the end of March, STEM students and faculty held a summit to discuss inclusive excellence and underrepresentation in the STEM community at AU. At the summit, Bentley, along with Kathryn Walters-Conte, who directs the professional sciences master’s program in biotechnology, presented data on the demographics of STEM students and faculty as well as students’ experiences with programs at AU. According to their findings, only 18.8 percent of faculty and 27.9 percent of students think there is sufficient “representation” within the STEM student body. Their survey

It will be nice to actually have a single building where we can all meet, share ideas and maybe even help each other out in our research and studies. -Jorge Goyco, sophomore



also found that only 12.5 percent of faculty and 23 percent of students think there is sufficient representation among the STEM faculty at AU. Some underrepresented students say that finding community is already hard enough in a STEM program that feels overshadowed by the University’s focus on political science and international relations. Jorge Goyco, a sophomore biochemistry major, said it is often difficult for young STEM students to find other people in their major. “You can find any kid that’s an SIS major and be friends with them, and you can find any political science major to be friends with, because this is a school that is very much in that nature,” Goyco said. “STEM majors don’t have that same look.” To help give his classmates that sense of community, Goyco co-founded the Underrepresented Students in STEM club. As the club’s president, he is working to bring awareness to events and projects of STEM students that might otherwise go unnoticed by the student body. Building that community, Goyco said, also required drawing greater attention to the research of STEM students and faculty. Most people on campus are not award of faculty and student research ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to the behavioral effects of cancer in mice. “These amazing opportunities that we have all over the University, no one knows about them,” Goyco said. “Nobody knows that we are a pretty advanced research school.” Goyco also said that the Hall of Science could potentially be a space that brings together work from the various STEM majors. “It will be nice to actually have a single building where we can all meet, share ideas and maybe even help each other out in our research and studies,” Goyco said. Currently, many of the different STEM departments are scattered across campus. In some cases, they are utilizing older buildings that face problems with accessibility. Goyco pointed out that Hurst Hall, where many STEM classes meet, does not have any elevators, preventing students with limited mobility access from accessing classrooms or faculty offices. The Hall of Science will provide new facilities for biology, chemistry, environmental science and neuroscience departments. The building will feature state-of-the-art research laboratories, as well as a new lecture hall to take the place of the old lecture


space in Kreeger. As life science students like Goyco await the building’s completion, physics, math, statistics and computer science students already know the benefits of finally having a designated space on campus. The Don Myers Technology and Innovation Building, which opened in 2017, has provided those departments with a space for research and collaboration. Mercy Griffith, a senior majoring in mathematics and secondary education, said that the building has been invaluable for her academic experience. “I don't think the importance of just having your own place where you can go to your classes, and talk to your professors, and see your friends, and work together can be understated,” Griffith said. “It has transformed the math department.” Beyond just the physical space to pursue their work, Griffith said she appreciated AU bringing greater awareness to the STEM program. “You feel like your work matters, you feel like you mean something to the University,” Griffith said. “The statement that I’m going to build a space for you to pursue your work, it was a really cool feeling.” Faculty in the math department also benefited from the move to Don Myers. Michael Limarzi, a professor in the department of mathematics and statistics and sponsor of the Not Math club, said that because the math department had been so spread out, he moved through four offices in only seven years of teaching at the University. Those logistical problems made it difficult for students who became interested in the STEM program to learn about the different offerings and resources on campus, Limarzi said. “Just knowing that everyone's in the same place gives you a reason to go to the building and hang out in the building, because you know, no matter what classes you're taking, your professor’s going to be there,” Limarzi said. Limarzi and Griffith are optimistic that the Hall of Science will deliver similar benefits for the science department. “The new building offers to the chemistry and life science departments what Don Myers gave to our program,” Griffith said. But more than just new labs and grants, STEM students said they hope the new Hall of Science will give the community a chance to get to know the work of AU’s STEM programs. Jai Jacobs, a junior math major, said she wishes more people would learn about the research and achievements of STEM students and faculty. She hopes the university community can work to “close the gap between STEM and non-STEM students.” “As much as this is about math, it’s not really about math,” Limarzi said. “It’s about the community of people who study math.”


theEAGLE April 2019

In its first full year, AUx confronts questions of identity and community Freshman transition course has been target of petition, student criticism Staff Writer

When junior Yazan Hanouneh came to AU in the fall of 2016, he realized he was missing something from his transition from high school to college. When friends told him about the pilot course of AU Experience, or AUx, for first-year students, he knew he wanted to be part of it. “The goal seemed to kind of fill in the gaps of what I was missing in college and provided me with an opportunity to do something for the AU community to help bring that goal to fruition,” Hanouneh said. While it was already too late for him to join the class as a student, he eventually became a peer facilitator, helping freshmen adapt to college by serving as a mentor inside and outside of the classroom. Hanouneh, now the director of the Kennedy Political Union, is not the only one who has voiced concern that first-year students need guidance when adjusting to AU’s campus. Administrators and faculty members said the AUx course is important in teaching students skills that will be crucial in a changing world. “All the classes students will take later in their college career, definitely in grad school, law school and especially in the workforce will require depth of thought and analytical skills to build expertise and make important decisions,” Aja Simpson Zulfiqar, an AUx instructor, said. “Honing those skills now can really help and prepare students for the future, no matter what they do.” While faculty and officials involved in the program are optimistic about what it can achieve, the implementation of AUx has come with growing pains and student criticism in the year since it became mandatory for all first-year students. “I think the intention is there to be a good transition class, but I think the purpose of the class is to be a transition class for kids who haven’t experienced diversity, who are new to living in a city or who are new to attempting to navigate their own privilege,” freshman Emma Lovato said. “While there have been tidbits that I’ve found helpful or insightful, this class is kind of just a waste of my time.” The history and curriculum of AUx AUx was fully implemented this year with the ushering in of the new AU Core Curriculum. The full-year course is broken into AUx 1 and AUx 2. This is meant to help students transition from high school to college while discussing topics such as structural inequalities, race and

MAY 2015 Proposal for pre-pilot course approved


freedom of expression. Fanta Aw, the University’s vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, said AUx was created as part of the Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) initiative, which sets out to analyze student support resources and uses that analysis to devise a new model for supporting students. Administrators had also been on the receiving end of outrage and criticism from students of color about AU’s campus climate for years after a series of racist incidents targeted black students and other minority groups. Several student leaders pushed for more educational programs surrounding race and identity at AU. “We had done a lot of listening and a lot of data gathering from students about what their lived experiences were on campus,” Aw said. “[It helped in] understanding how do we help students come for the intellectual sort of endeavor but also for the social development as well.”


by Kelsey Carolan


While there have been tidbits that I’ve found helpful or insightful, this class is kind of just a waste of my time. -Emma Lovato, freshman

Before the University enrolled all first-year students in the course, AUx went through a two year pilot phase starting in the fall of 2016. Through the pilot program, first-year students could opt into taking the class. “From 2015 to the present, each semester has gone under some revision in some small or large part based on feedback received and what is working for the campus community and different groups,” said Stef Woods, the faculty director of AUx 1. AUx 1, which is taught during the fall semester, helps students physically and mentally transition to college, while AUx 2, taught in the spring, focuses on creating

SEPTEMBER 2015 Pre-pilot course launched

FALL 2015

MARCH 2016 AUx pilot #1 approved


according to The Office of Undergraduate Education and Academic Student Services

a space for civil discourse about structural inequalities. The curriculum creators agreed that learning about campus resources is the most valuable topic addressed in AUx 1 for students. The resources discussed include the Counseling Center, the Academic Support and Access Center and more. “Over eight semesters at AU, statistically either [students] will be using these resources or they will be recommending them to their closest friends on campus,” Woods said. Topics such as freedom of expression, diversity and privilege are further expanded upon when students enter AUx 2. Jessica Waters, the dean of undergraduate education, said students are encouraged to immerse themselves fully into the sometimes uncomfortable conversations. “I think students come with wildly different lived experiences,” Waters said. “They come with wildly different exposure to the academic study of things like power, privilege, race and inequality.” Amanda Taylor, AU’s assistant vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion and a council member for AUx 2, said both courses are “planting the seeds” for skills and knowledge that not only need to be successful on a college campus but also in the world. Izzi Stern, the AUx program director, added that as a result of AUx 2, students have an increased awareness of diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. “In particular, I’m thinking about the campus involvement assignment we had in AUx 1 and the range of programs, events and lectures that students went to for that one assignment,” Stern said. “This assignment took students outside of their comfort zone. They got to engage with new individuals on campus, meet new peers and experience something new.” Petition to change or end AUx earned over 200 signatures While administrators and instructors maintain that AUx plays an important role in informing students about campus life, some freshmen say the course is not necessary and causes more stress during their first academic year at AU. Some students took to social media to speak about their concerns about the course. The conversation came to a head last fall when a petition titled “Students Against AUx” was shared on social media, with over 200 students signing the petition in hopes that AU would reconsider some of the course requirements.

FALL 2016 AUx pilot #1 implemented

FALL 2016 AUx1


Faculty sen unanimousl AU Core (in



theEAGLE April 2019

Students cite issues with grades, isolation in class Students who had positive AUx experiences, like freshman Samantha Pulido, said they were pleased to learn more about terms and ideas they were unfamiliar with. Pulido was excited to learn more about the meaning behind “intersectionality,” a term she didn’t hear growing up. “I love the content it teaches,” Pulido said. “I think it is valuable in that it educates us on different aspects of society that we should be aware of because we are going to be entering society.” However, Pulido still heard complaints from friends that instructors often guided class discussions toward one opinion. While faculty members said AUx is designed to be a safe space for students to engage in conversations about controversial and pertinent issues, students who have views that don’t align with the content being assigned and discussed said they feel alienated. Freshman Lilly Rosenfield, who described herself as a Republican from Texas, said she experienced this feeling in class. She believes the course is graded with the “bias” of instructors and worried that her opinions might affect the grades she received. “I don’t feel comfortable enough to talk about my political identity in front of a classroom where everyone else has the opposite beliefs because I know they’re going to judge me,” Rosenfield said. “But because I don’t say

Y 2017

nate ly approves

ncluding AUx)

NG 2017

anything because I don’t want to be offensive, that means I don’t contribute to the class, and my not contributing to class affects my grade.” Several students of color said they also feel isolated and feel like they need to educate their peers. Lovato said AUx is only designed for students who did not have any experiences in diverse settings. “Personally, my experience as a student who is a minority, as a student who identifies as queer, I think that a lot of the experience leans on my desire to share my lived experiences,” Lovato said. “For students who don’t want to do that and for students who don’t want to feel responsible for educating their peers on their lived experience, I think that it was not a class that was designed for them.” In freshman Victor Ciaccia’s experience, AUx did not promote a candid or engaging discussion, he said. Instead, students are highly criticized if they don’t agree with the views of the instructors, Ciaccia said. “You say something even mildly off course from what they’re preaching and if not the instructor, the peer facilitator or other students will absolutely cannibalize you and no one will really do anything to stop them,” Ciaccia said. Taylor said that the point of the course is not teaching students how or what to be in the world. She said by acquiring new skills, students will be able to engage in more intellectual conversations about complex issues. Aw added that students with opposing or unpopular views are not “less than” other students.


“It takes up time we could be using to take classes that are necessary for our major or classes that peak our interests,” the petition’s anonymous creator wrote. “This class should be a pass/fail at the very least and should not have to meet every week.” Hanouneh said he believed the petition was shortsighted because the students who made it ignored the needs of underprivileged students who didn’t have the resources or support when transitioning to AU. Only about 10 percent of AU students identify as the first in their family to attend college, according to the University’s website. Lovato believed the petition to end the course was an overreaction by some students. “I did have some unpleasant experiences in AUx 1, and personally, I didn’t find it too valuable for me,” Lovato said. “I can see, however, where the instructors were trying to go with it.” Simpson Zulfiqar said it could be difficult to manage a class of students who felt like the course was not valuable to them. “I don’t know if that had to do with expectations of what that class was going to look like versus what happened or just because it is a required class,” Simpson Zulfiqar said. “I think there are a lot of students who had an issue with the material and that sort of thing, so we did try to talk about that.” Many administrators said they support students who want to have a voice in their own education. After all, some said, that is part of what AUx is teaching them. “I think one of the things we have to understand and that we have to practice is that as educators, we want students to have voices,” Aw said.


[Students] come with wildly different exposure to the academic study of things like power, privilege, race and inequality -Jessica Waters, dean of undergraduate education

“It doesn’t mean that it is not valid,” Aw said. “In order for someone else to figure that out, you first have to listen, you have to hear it, and that is a skill.” How AUx may change next year

Waters and other key officials charged with developing the AUx curriculum said feedback is extremely important when it comes to tweaking the course for next year’s incoming class. A group of administrators and faculty has been formed to look at what can be changed, Waters said.


Stern said one of the biggest pieces of feedback they received from students was that some felt as though AUx 1 was very repetitive, since some of the content was covered during Eagle Summit, a pre-freshman year seminar on campus life, and Welcome Week. Freshman Dennis Marinovsky said he believed much of the information provided in weekly sessions is already readily available to students. He said the information can be found online and is unnecessary to teach in a classroom. “To address this, we have been looking at what material is repetitive, in what ways is it repetitive, and whether or not it is intentional on our part to repeat some of this information,” Stern said. “Sometimes it is a necessary part of learning to have information repeated, but sometimes it is not needed.” Waters said the group is also looking at the way the course is graded. Throughout the past year, many students said the course should be pass/fail because it is not fair to grade them on adjusting to a new environment or their level of comfort of sharing their lived experiences in a classroom setting. Ciaccia, who said he would’ve had a 4.0 GPA in his first semester if not for his grade in his AUx class, shares that view. “I think what they ask you to write about in the papers, which are the only really graded things in the course, seems strange,” Ciaccia said. “How are those even graded? The quality of the experience? How well it is actually written?” Looking forward to next year, administrators said they encourage students to voice their opinions on how to improve the course. “I think it is really important that we are all partners in this,” Taylor said. “We are all learning together and it is really important that we are co-collaborators and we are an organization about learning.”

AUGUST 2018 University-wide AUx2 Council established FALL 2017 AUx pilot #2 implemented

FALL 2017 AUx1

JANUARY 2018 President Burwell’s Plan for Inclusive Excellence launched

SPRING 2018 AUx2

FALL 2018 AUx full rollout implementation

FALL 2018 AUx1

JANUARY 2019 President Burwell’s Strategic Plan announced

SPRING 2019 AUx2

Change is on the horizon for AU’s dining scene University likely to consider bids from large companies with mixed histories by Kelly McDonnell and Dan Papscun

Staff Writer and Student Government Beat Reporter

As AU begins to accept proposals from new dining vendors in the next few months, students could be facing major changes when it comes to campus food options this fall. Its current vendor, Aramark, could be replaced as soon as next semester. The company has provided custodial and food services on campus since 2013, and some of its dining proposals and actions toward workers have resulted in protests from students. Most recently, in February, students and parents challenged an AU Dining proposal that would have increased the sophomore plan requirement by $1,000 each semester. Students are advocating for longer dining hours, improved rights for workers, higher quality food and more small businesses on campus, said Tom Lebert,


the chief of staff for the Residence Hall Association and a student representative on the Dining Advisory Committee, which is made up of faculty, students and staff and oversees the vendor selection process. “There have been major failings... by our current dining provider,” Lebert said. “I think that any new dining service provider will be able to do better on those basics…[and] things that should be expected from any dining program.” It is possible many of the individual vendors on campus, such as Starbucks and POD, will change under a new provider, according to Lebert. The University will consider bids from several providers, which could include both small distributors and large companies like Aramark, Sodexo and Bon Appétit. While Charles Smith, the executive director of Auxiliary Services, said in an email that all bidding companies will be treated equally, it is unlikely that Aramark will be re-chosen as the

campus’s food provider, a source who has been closely communicating with administrators told The Eagle. “Our main goal is to improve campus experience,” Lebert said. “We want students to come here because of the dining program.” How student input is included in the vendor selection process AU is still workshopping a Request For Proposal, or RFP, as of mid-April, Smith said. Once the RFP is released, vendors will bid on the food service contract and attempt to fulfill AU’s priorities. The process is expected to take approximately 10 weeks, said Mark Story, who served as the University’s director of communications until last month. The process will take place in early summer, with the goal of having a new provider operating by this fall, Story said. A new dining vendor could mean that Terrace Dining Room menus

and infrastructure will experience an “overhaul,” Lebert said. He added that the new vendor will also decide whether or not it will transition current employees to new long-term positions. The various franchise locations on campus, including Starbucks, Subway, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Freshii, Elevation Burger, Global Fresh and Pi & Fry may be changed because their contracts are run by Aramark, said Parker Butler, a freshman who serves as a student representative on the dining committee. Eagle’s Nest POD and Bleecker Street will almost definitely be replaced if a new vendor takes control of the university’s dining contract, Butler said, because POD is an Aramark-specific dining location. Smith said any changes are still being discussed, but he plans to concentrate on student input on which locations are added or removed from campus. One thing that won’t change next semester are meal plans, which will retain the same pricing for two years after the new contract begins in the fall, Lebert said. “What's most important is that we match up students’ priorities with priorities of our dining service provider,” Lebert said. On March 25, the Residence Hall Association hosted a discussion forum allowing students to share their priorities for a new provider. Both Student Government and RHA opened surveys to students after the forum to gauge student opinion beyond those who had attended the event. The RHA survey garnered 117 responses while the SG survey earned 70. Most students were concerned about current food quality, short operating hours and the lack of small businesses on campus. Tom Gera — who owns the only non-Aramark businesses on campus, including Megabytes Cafe, Asian Flavors, MudBox Cafe, American Cafe and Argo Tea — is currently suing the University for lost revenue after AU ordered Megabytes closed due to rodent issues. Workers’ rights and the possible inclusion of student workers in TDR and other locations across campus were other areas that students addressed, Lebert said. Perhaps the most agreed-upon issue was the need for 24-hour dining options, he added.

“[The discussion] was about what was feasible, what was important and where tradeoffs might have to exist,” Lebert said. Priorities that the Dining committee have included, Smith said, are food preparation methods that support “strong nutrition and a healthy lifestyle” as well as offerings that address special diet needs such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Halal and Kosher. Customer service and expanded hours of service that include “options for students taking evening classes and latenight service for resident students” are also among the committee’s priorities,” Smith said. Smith added that the University does not yet know which companies will bid on AU’s contract. “While we don’t know yet which specific vendors might decide to bid once the RFP is released, I can tell you that our team has reached out directly to a number of dining service companies, ranging from regional to national providers,” Smith wrote in an email.

Aramark’s plans to bid on AU’s contract in March. AU isn’t the only partner school at which students have campaigned against Aramark. The company has faced intense criticism for its treatment of workers and its ties to the prison industry. Aramark provides dining services to over 500 correctional facilities, and criticism regarding their poor food quality and employee misconduct has led to hunger strikes in prisons across the country, according to a PBS report from January 2017. Aramark responded to PBS, saying that inmates’ claims of poor food quality were “sabotage” by the inmates themselves. Students at New York University and the University of Chicago protested the company due to its ties to private prisons, with the latter’s protests causing the university to switch its food service to Bon Appétit. Butler University and Florida State University students protested after bugs were found in dining hall food, and they

“Do you think there is an adequate number of healthy dining options on campus?”


answered “no” 9% answered “maybe” 9% answered “yes” according to Residence Hall Association’s “Food for Thought” survey

“attracting and retaining quality students,” “improving sustainability on and around campus” and “increasing efficiencies and reducing costs on campus.” AU’s Washington College of Law switched from Aramark dining services to Sodexo in early 2019. The school has experienced different hours of operation, lower costs and an increased level of sustainability under Sodexo, Robert Campe, the associate dean for finance, administration and strategic planning at WCL, said in a January interview. Still, students have protested Sodexo at some schools across the country. At the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, students protested rising food and meal plan costs in 2018, to which the company responded that higher costs were necessary to maintain a high quality dining experience. Forbes praised the university for its dining quality in January. Ithaca College in New York partnered with Sodexo for 20 years until a student was hospitalized due to crosscontaminated food poisoning, and the

owned by Compass Group, a food service company that has a stake in Trinity Services Group, which works in private prisons. Compass “disposed of its interests in Trinity Services Group” in 2014, according to Bonnie Powell, the director of communications for Bon Appétit. She did not respond to questions about Bon Appétit’s interest in bidding on AU’s food contract. “Bon Appétit has never done any business with prisons,” Powell wrote in an email to The Eagle. “A subsidiary of Compass provides food service to a very small number of prisons in Canada. This is a tiny percentage of Compass’s business — and zero percent of Bon Appétit’s.” Shaping a new future for AU Dining Besides partnering with corporations, AU has made progress with sourcing food locally with the Farm-to-Table program, introduced in fall 2018, according to AU’s dining website. AU owns the Airlie

“Do you feel that most of the food served on campus tastes good?”


answered “no” 26% answered “maybe” 5% answered “yes” according to Residence Hall Association’s “Food for Thought” survey


AU’s history with Aramark AU students, like other students across the country, have strongly opposed Aramark operations on campus. Since the University began its contract with the company in 2013, AU students have voiced their concerns with their dining experience. In a 2016 Eagle article, students urged the University to provide more glutenfree,vegan and vegetarian options to campus. Students have called for better treatment of employees, better food and better sustainability practices, according to previous Eagle reports. In October, students protested the removal of Aramark worker Anthony Randolph, who was released from his job for unpaid parking tickets. Students held signs outside of Katzen Arts Center that said Aramark is “pro prison privatization,” “union-busting” and “anti-education,” in protest to Randolph’s treatment. Randolph was later reinstated to his position. Karen Cutler, Aramark’s vice president of communications and public affairs, did not respond to a request for comment on

expressed concerns that the company reduces food quality and sustainability while increasing costs for students and lowering employee wages. Both schools have since signed contracts with new vendors. Not all universities have had negative experiences with Aramark. Several Georgetown University students supported the school’s 10-year contract extension in 2016 as a way to expand dining hall operating hours and improve food quality. How likely bidders Sodexo and Bon Appetit have fared at other schools Two potential bidders on AU’s dining contract, Sodexo and Bon Appétit, have previous and current relationships with the University. Sodexo was AU’s dining vendor from 1998 to 2000, and it recently took over Aramark’s contract for catering and food service at AU’s Washington College of Law in January. Bon Appetit served as AU’s main dining provider from 2005 to 2013. Sodexo, which operates in 80 different countries across 30,000 sites, said on its website that its goals for universities are

school decided to switch providers, according to The Ithacan, the college’s student newspaper. The company has also faced criticism for accusations of employees inhumanely treating a female prisoner at a prison in the United Kingdom in 2013 and accusations that employees conducted illegal strip-searches of four inmates at a British prison in 2017. Heidi Bullman, Sodexo’s public relations specialist, said by email that she couldn’t provide “on the record comments about bids/contracts” when asked if Sodexo will bid on the RFP. Bon Appétit has also faced controversies at AU and across the country. The company was critiqued by students in 2013 for firing an AU employee of 28 years, Tracy Lewis, for selling Girl Scout cookies for her daughter while working. But some employees appreciated their benefits under Bon Appétit. Contracted employees in 2013, like Anthony Randolph, told The Eagle that they had “flexibility” and “voice” under the company’s leadership. However, in 2017, students at Oberlin College protested the school’s contract with Bon Appétit because the company is

Center, a plot of 300 acres in Virginia. The University uses the property’s 20 acres of farmland to deliver 45,000 pounds of vegetables to TDR. However, Lebert said dining and administrative officials have completely ruled out the possibility of AU managing its own food service. The University will have a new contract with a food service vendor by next fall, regardless of which vendor is chosen. Story said that administrators will make their decision with President Sylvia Burwell’s goals of student retention and satisfaction at the forefront. Future providers have the opportunity to provide students with the dining experience they have been campaigning for, student advocates say. “Everything's on the table” in terms of student priorities and new dining options, Butler said. “We’ll be [utilizing] student feedback… as a sort of filter for the new provider,” Butler said. “[That feedback] will be useful in terms of holding them accountable through the contract negotiation process.” and



Playwright brings artistic experience to Sine Institute seminars Karen Zacarías has spent her career championing Latinx narratives by Isabella Goodman Staff Writer

On her days off, Karen Zacarías spends most of her time with her kids, reading and walking her dogs. On days when she’s working, she is in rehearsals for her latest play, writing and rewriting and staying up all night talking with producers and directors. “There are very on days and there are days where I’m in my sweats,” Zacarías said. “Too much of either one is hard.” Most recently, though, Zacarías has been hard at work as one of six inaugural fellows for AU's Sine Institute of Policy and Politics. A D.C. based playwright, Zacarías has written around 20 plays and is known as one of the most produced playwrights in the United States. “I don’t know the answers, I’m not telling the audience what I think to be true,” Zacarías said about her plays. “What I’m hoping is that we get to explore a question together and that we can come up with different answers.” The Sine Institute launched in September as part of a university initiative to “uncover new policy solutions and problem-solving methods” with experts in politics, journalism, government, nonprofits and more, according to the institute’s website. As a fellow, Zacarías taught various seminars throughout the spring semester, from late February to mid-April. The sessions have touched on everything from finding inspiration to constructing a narrative. “Being the Sine Institute’s inaugural artist fellow was a wonderful surprise,” Zacarías said. “The idea of whose story is being told and what narrative we’re following is really at the center of American politics. I thought it was an inspired choice for the Sine Institute to have one of the fellows be an artist.” Vicky Wilkins, the dean of the School of Public Affairs, said that having a broad range of voices from different professions is the key to making better policies. “We really wanted to bring voices from all sectors, including the arts, so that we’d have the opportunity to learn from experiences in each sector to try and propel policy forward,” Wilkins said. “I think all of those things are a part of what an institute of [higher education] should be doing. All these things we’ve been up to go to the DNA of what we are as the School of Public Affairs.” Zacarías’ award-winning plays include “The Book Club,” “Just Like Us,” “Legacy of Light” and “Native Gardens.” While there’s a wide range of themes present in her work, most of the plays aim to understand the human condition. “I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was also very interested in global affairs,” Zacarías said. “My father’s from Mexico, my mother’s from Denmark, my grandfather’s from Lebanon, so I came from an international family. The ideas of borders and bridges [were] always really interesting to me.” Zacarías studied international relations at Stanford University in 1991 and received an MFA in creative writing from Boston University in 1995. After graduation, Zacarías started D.C.’s Young Playwrights Theater with a goal to bring arts education to young people in the District. “Every kid deserves to have access to the arts, and of course it’s in public schools and underserved communities where it gets cut first,” Zacarías said. “But it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” Giving a voice to overlooked groups has always been Zacarías’ mission. In 2012, she helped found the Latinx Theatre Commons, which was created as a way for the Latinx theater community to come together and make change within their industry. The commons has three main goals: to create plays, have get-togethers and to create scholarship. In a world where people are constantly inundated with news, media and information, Zacarías said she sees theater as a space where human connection can thrive. “Theater is more relevant than it’s ever been,” she said. “The idea of being alive in a room with other people and experiencing it is becoming a much more unique and vital component. It’s nourishing people in a way that they took for granted before.” One of her most recent seminars, “Breaking the Wall: The Power of Latinx Narrative,” was held on April 4. For an hour and a half, Zacarías facilitated a conversation on “taking on an art form and trying to use it in a political way.” Students and faculty came together to listen and discuss their own experiences with their identities. Senior Julia Harris, a theater arts and psychology major who attended the seminar, called it “an empowering thing.” Two local high school students, Ally Cruz-Flores from School Without Walls and Vanessa Ramon-Ibarra from Woodrow Wilson High School were also in attendance and left the event feeling motivated. “I’m leaving this room thinking, ‘I’m gonna go home and fix something,’’’ Ramon-

Sine Institute Fellow and Playwright Karen Zacharias.


Ibarra said. Cruz-Flores agreed, saying, “this wasn’t just about empowerment for Latinos, it was about empowerment in who you are.” While Zacarías has done a lot of work to promote diversity in the theater community, she said there’s still more work to be done. “There are really interesting people coming up behind me, and I hope they get their voices heard,” Zacarías said. “I hope I get to continue to share my stories and let other people come in and share their stories too. There’s a hunger for this, there’s a desire to hear stories from a different point of view.”


theEAGLE April 2019

‘Women on Weights’ empowers women to reclaim the gym Fitness program builds female students’ confidence in weight room by Clare Mulroy Staff Writer

Ifedayo Balogun, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, didn’t feel confident in the weight room at first. She said that she felt intimidated by confident gym-goers who knew exactly how to navigate the room. That changed after she joined AU’s Women on Weights program, which helped her navigate the weight room with a set routine that suited her workout style. Now, she said, intimidation doesn’t hold her back. “There’s so many people in such a small, confined space,” Balogun said. “When you go in there and you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s very intimidating, especially with people who do know what they’re doing.” The Women on Weights program was designed in 2016 to help women gain confidence in the weight room. Sessions were held on Feb. 27, March 6 and March 20 in the Cassell Gym for the spring 2019 semester and taught AU faculty and students the basics of weightlifting. The first session began with a tour of the facilities and an in-depth look into the benefits of weightlifting. Participants learned about the varying intensity levels of weight training, the basics of form and use of machines. For Emily Derbyshire, an AU alum, gym employee and participant in Women on Weights, the most valuable part of the opening session was learning what was fact and what was fiction when it comes to weightlifting. “We talked about debunking the myth of becoming super bulky,” Derbyshire said. “I think that scares a lot of women away from weightlifting, but it really is important for your health.” The second session reviewed the squat, bench and deadlift — three of the most important “powerlifting movements” according to Kline. The last session ended the program with a programming lesson, where women learned how to create their own, unique weightlifting

routine. Kline said she wanted the participants to gain the confidence to tackle the weight room on their own. “I hope they can...go right up to a machine or a dumbbell or barbell and just start lifting without hesitation,” she said. Jenna Archer-Barone, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, started the program after a friend suggested it. A softball player of 14 years, Archer-Barone is no stranger to weight training, but she wanted to get back into it while at college. “This program is important because it gives women the ability to know what they’re doing and feel confident and comfortable in a male-dominated area,” Archer-

Barone said. Research finds that women have lower testosterone levels and rarely “bulk up” like men who weight train do. The program encourages women to move past this myth and push themselves, Kline said. “They think if they lift heavy they’re going to bulk up, get big and then, unfortunately, people are afraid they’re going to look masculine,” Kline said. “But I think weightlifting now is turning the tables—what does ‘looking like a woman’ mean? Why do we have to be put into this box?”


Ph.D. student Meghan Flannery perfects her workout routine in the final session of Women on Weights.

Center provides resources for students, faculty to produce impactful environmental films by Delilah Harvey Staff Writer

In the wake of looming global environmental challenges, AU is providing students and faculty with the resources to create and share important environmental messages through a powerful medium: film. The Center for Environmental Filmmaking (CEF) brings together diverse and inclusive media-makers that are committed to sharing powerful stories that drive engagement in critical environmental issues, according to the center’s site. “There is no doubt that climate change is wreaking havoc on our earth, threatening the health of our planet and endangering lives, particularly in poorer communities,” said Maggie Stogner, executive director for the Center of Environmental Filmmaking, in an interview. “The ultimate challenge is engaging and motivating policymakers and citizens to take urgent action now.” The center connects students with environmental leaders, scientists and other inspirational storytellers. When it comes to environmental films in particular, filmmakers need to balance feeling the urgency of the issue and leading viewers to a place of hope and action, Stogner said. “Compelling visual storytelling — film, digital media

[and] virtual and augmented reality — can immerse audiences in a subject, create an emotional connection and make people really care,” Stogner said. “Some films enlighten, others deepen our commitment and motivate us to action, and the best will stay with us for years to come,” Stogner said. In March, the center hosted a week of events in collaboration with the D.C. Environmental Film Festival. Events included the world premiere of professor Larry Engel’s film “Who Speaks for Nature?”, as well as Bernardo Ruiz’s “Harvest Season” and the U.S. premiere of Alison Reid’s “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes.” On March 23, the center hosted the “Diversity and Impact Filmmaker Panel,” which provided insight into the power of environmental films. Scientist and National Geographic correspondent Mireya Mayor, environmental film producer Vanina Harel and filmmakers Byron Hurt and Kalyanee Mam discussed their work as well as the challenges they face in their fields. Harel’s short documentary “Vey nou Lagon” follows a Mauritian traditional artisanal fisherman and his family. It tells the story of the Mauritian lagoons and the declining state of the ocean as a result of climate change. During the panel, she explained how screening her film in a local community near the film site fascinated the children who watched it. Filmmaking is her way of “bring[ing] the ocean to them,” she said. “They were like, ‘I’ve never seen this [ocean] before,

it’s so colorful, it’s so beautiful,’” Harel said. “I realized that our ocean today is so degraded and people don’t really have access to the pristine places that are left, so they don’t really have that connection with the ocean.” Mam discussed her environmental and social documentary, “A River Changes Course,” which follows three Cambodian families as rapid development impacts their surrounding environment, forcing them to face hard choices and struggle to maintain traditional ways of life. “We’ve really lost our way,” Mam said. “We’ve lost not only our land, but our connection to each other. And we’ve lost a perspective of our land that we used to have, and that perspective is a consideration of our land as something sacred...and we view it now as just a commodity.” The success of the film festival precedes the future opportunities for the center. It has a “Classroom in the Wild” 4-day program in June, where members will head to the remote island of Isla de la Mona in Puerto Rico, and create films about science and wildlife. The center continues to expand its partnerships around the world by working with nonprofits, NGOs, and media companies to provide learning opportunities for students. “It takes communities to effect change,” Stogner said.




Alcohol at AU games? A conversation is brewing Passage of referendum opens possibility of university selling alcohol to students Managing Editor of Sports and Staff Writer

Alcohol and games. It’s hard to think of a duo that American sports fans love more. This spring’s Student Government elections proved just that. Of the 1,944 AU students who voted in the March election, 81 percent voted to pass a referendum to open a discussion with the University about alcohol sales at oncampus athletics games, in hopes that it would boost attendance and foster school spirit among current students and alumni. “Students oftentimes go off-campus to sporting events because on-campus sporting events are not permitted to allow the full sports experience, which includes the sale of alcoholic beverages,” the referendum stated. “As other peer institutions transition towards allowing such sales, the AU athletics department has an opportunity to gain the similar benefits and provide the best game day experience possible for its students and alumni.” The referendum began as a conversation on how to increase attendance, according to outgoing SG Vice President Leela Najafi, who originally proposed the idea. When AU students attend home games at Bender Arena, they are often met with empty seats and a population of either undergraduate attendees or eager parents from the away team. One obvious demographic is missing: alumni. Proponents of the referendum hope that a new alcohol policy could change that. Alumni attendance at games is crucial

to the athletic department because of the financial support and community that they build, said Andrew Smith, AU’s associate athletic director. “Our initiative is always to get fans in the seats and make money,” Smith said. “We’re always thinking of ideas, and that’s how this came up.” An Eagle review of attendance numbers at men’s basketball games – the highest attended sport at AU by a wide margin – for the past four seasons found that the median number of fans


by Kimberly Cataudella and Clare Mulroy

“Last semester, I held some events with athletics and had conversations with them,” Najafi said. “I personally saw that it was something we were lacking in comparison to other sports experiences.” The board committee encouraged Najafi to present the idea to the SG Senate to see if it would garner student interest and be put on the ballot in March. With the referendum’s passage, it became clear that selling alcohol at games attracted support from students and, perhaps, some more bodies to Bender.

This is not a change that we would take lightly, so we need to do our homework. -Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence

this season was 738. The most-attended home game of the 2018-19 season had 1,330 fans in attendance, which was when AU played the University of Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 22. Last season, the men’s basketball team’s median attendance figure was 544, roughly three quarters of the figure from 2018-19. George Washington University, in comparison, had a median of 2,325 fans in attendance at men’s basketball games this past season. To address this issue, Najafi brought her idea to the attention of the Board of Trustees’ Athletics Committee at a meeting on Feb. 28. They discussed a course of action that may encourage more alumni to return to their alma mater for home games: selling alcohol.


How other D.C.-area schools handle alcohol at sporting events The referendum began as a conversation about increasing attendance at home games and opened into a larger discussion seeking student opinion, Najafi said. Much of the initial dialogue referenced other universities who currently sell alcohol at sports games. The University of Maryland sells beer at the XFINITY Center concession stands during men’s and women’s basketball games, and they place limits on the amount purchased: one beer per person per transaction. Each drink is $8. Georgetown University's men’s basketball team plays at Capital One

Arena, which independently sells alcohol to fans of age. George Washington University, whose median attendance at men’s basketball games this season was more than three times AU’s attendance, occasionally offers alcohol to students through various events. But rather than seeing a bump in fan engagement, an Eagle analysis of attendance data showed that game attendance has been steadily declining since the 2015-2016 season – even though GW’s athletic department began its alcohol-included initiative in 2017. The department’s Wine Down Fridays include “an open bar with a selection of wines for fans of age” before specific Friday games in the Colonials Club, the Smith Center’s hospitality room. This event began during the 2017-18 athletic year, according to Brian Sereno, GW’s associate athletic director for communications. Fans have to purchase a ticket to attend Wine Down Fridays before they occur, and alcohol is not allowed to leave the Club, Sereno said in an email. Infrequent tailgates include free food and alcoholic drinks for fans of age as well. In the last few years, the number of colleges selling alcohol at athletic events has been steadily on the rise. In the 2018 season, 52 NCAA-affiliated schools opened the sale of alcohol at on – or off – campus events. “Working in college athletics, we follow what’s going on,” Smith said. “We just know that it’s a trend and it’s being discussed at a lot of schools, but there’s obviously a lot that goes into it.” Students, officials weigh how selling alcohol at AU would affect attendance


theEAGLE April 2019


challenges and overcome them as other schools have done.” Traci Callandrillo, the assistant vice president of campus life, referred The Eagle to Yoo-Jin Kang, who is the coordinator for alcohol and other drugs initiatives in AU’s Health Promotion and Advocacy Center. Kang, who spoke to The Eagle in October about AU’s intense alcohol culture, said that HPAC was not consulted during the formation of the referendum and was unaware of its passage until contacted by a reporter. “We would love to be involved in future conversations about this referendum and plan to reach out to Student Government to discuss potential collaboration,” Kang wrote in an email. “We don't fully know the context as to how this referendum came to be and who else was involved so I think it would be great for our team to learn about that as well!” Fanta Aw, the vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, said she


The sale of alcohol on campus isn’t a new idea. Since 2016, AU itself has been a “damp” campus, meaning that students over the age of 21 can possess alcohol in residence halls, The Eagle previously reported. In addition, many campus venues – including SIS Founders Room, Constitutional Hall, Mary Graydon Center 200 and Katzen Arts Center – allow alcohol provided by a licensed vendor. Additionally, the Bender Arena Skybox currently provides beer and wine service through catering for guests watching from the luxury seating. Skybox tickets are available for alumni and organizations of graduate students, but because of AU’s current alcohol policy, the athletics department does not offer them for undergraduate groups, Smith said. “If the University policy is changed, the athletic department will have a thorough conversation on whether or not to maintain our current policy or open it up to a wider audience,” Smith said in an April 4 email following the passage of the referendum. The current policy on alcohol is still upheld by the athletics department, Smith said. “It’s not an athletics department policy, [and] we obviously abide by everything the University has,” Smith said. “We just want to have a seat at that table to have that conversation if the University is willing to consider the possibilities.” With student voice proving the desire for the sale of alcohol at games, the University is now considering the referendum. On Najafi’s part, the next step is reaching out to alumni, who were cited in University President Sylvia Burwell’s five-year strategic plan as crucial to AU’s future. “From here forward, it’s up to the Office of Campus Life to actually take the steps forward to make it possible,” Najafi said. “They’re going to have to do their risk assessment, and they’re going to have to find ways to meet those


Freshman guard Jacob Boonyasith goes in for a layup during a Feb. 2, 2019 game against Holy Cross. Men's basketball has the highest attendance of any AU sport.

Alcohol is expensive in D.C., and if alcohol was sold at a reasonable price, people could watch AU sports instead of going out to sports bars. -Hanah Lee, senior

had met with the students proposing the change and appreciated their initiative and efforts. She cautioned against adopting the new policy too quickly, however, saying that a comprehensive examination of the pros and cons would be conducted by administrators. “This is not a change that we would take lightly, so we need to do our homework,” Aw said in a phone interview. “If the goal is increasing school spirit, then we need to think holistically about improving school


spirit through athletics, and whether alcohol is so central to the solution.” Aw also wondered how much of an impact the sale of alcohol would have on attendance – most students who live on campus aren’t yet 21 and therefore can’t take advantage of the opportunity, she said. The athletics and risk management offices will be consulted, she said, along with important University stakeholders. Najafi thinks that overcoming these challenges could lead to beneficial sponsorship opportunity and increased alumni engagement. Schools like Ohio State University began selling alcohol at games and saw a massive decrease in alcohol-related incidents when students were able to moderately drink beer in the stands, rather than tailgating before. While tailgates are not a major concern at AU, the other beneficial outcomes seen at Ohio State strike close to home. “This could create a stream of revenue that could go toward what students need,” Najafi said. “[Ohio State] used that stream of revenue to meet their needs, [such as] hiring and training police officers. They allocated $50,000 toward researching the effects of alcohol consumption.” Opinions are mixed about how the sale of alcohol would affect attendance. AU Blue Crew, a student-led group within the athletics department charged with increasing fan engagement, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Blue Crew sponsors

“District Days” – which feature free pizza, drinks, T-shirts and occasional special items like smoothies and burritos – with the hope that they can boost attendance at games. The Screamin’ Eagles Pep Band declined to comment, stating that “it feels like a conflict of interest to talk about attendance at [the athletic department’s] games.” Some students, like 21-year-old senior Miriam Starobin, do not believe that bringing alcohol into Bender will affect student attendance. Starobin said that AU “doesn’t have school spirit,” with internships and jobs dominating students’ free time, but she herself would be more interested in going to a game. “As a non-sports person, sports is way more fun with alcohol,” Starobin said. “I think $7 is a reasonable price for a drink, and it might get students to come.” On the other hand, 22-year-old senior Hanah Lee thinks that selling alcohol to fans could directly increase attendance at games. She said she would pay roughly $5 for a drink in Bender. “Alcohol is expensive in D.C., and if alcohol was sold at a reasonable price, people could watch AU sports instead of going out to sports bars,” Lee said. With the referendum’s passing and vocal student approval, Smith said that he intends to be in communication with the University to initiate the first steps with on-campus alcohol sales. “There has already been initial correspondence between our offices,” Smith wrote in an April 4 email. “However, there will be a more detailed look this summer.” Dan Papscun contributed reporting to this story.

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Even if you’ve already started college you can still join the leadership training courses of Army ROTC. You could earn a full tuition scholarship. Contact Mr. Ray at 202-687-7094 or email

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Let Wonk Cat be a cat, not a fundraising tool AU’s financial situation seeks to co-opt community love for stray cat

by Lauren Patetta Staff Columnist

Officially, AU’s mascot is the infamous Clawed Z. Eagle. However, everyone on campus knows that the unofficial mascot has become the Wonk Cat, a black and white tuxedo cat who lives outside of the McKinley building. Since her first appearance on campus, Wonk Cat has been the recipient of an outpouring of student love, a source of memes and even a way for students to connect with their community. Since then, it’s not far off to say that Wonk Cat has become a local celebrity. She has her own Twitter account. One

student made a documentary about her. She was voted Cutest Cat by a Washingtonian poll last month. She has an article written about her in the Washington Post. So it was a bit odd when students got an email from someone claiming to be “Wonk Cat,” asking for them to donate money to the University that many can barely afford. AU has an endowment of about $642 million, which, compared to similar universities, is tiny. (George Washington University’s endowment is about $1.7 billion). As a result, AU is overwhelmingly reliant upon student tuition fees, often needing to go to greater lengths to support itself financially by raising costs (even though its students pay an exorbitant amount of money to attend). But does this financial situation justify co-opting innocent love for a cute animal and turning it into a financial instrument to raise money? It’s a somewhat tragic statement about higher education when a wealthy university feels the pressure to monetize

everything, even a simple, stray cat. Just as upsetting is the fact that AU would not need to go to such extreme lengths if they addressed the issues facing students and alumni, the issues that incline them not to donate. There’s no inherent harm in using the Wonk Cat in promotional material. She’s cute, she’s part of the community and she provides a much-needed source of school spirit. However, it is simply irritating to simultaneously use the community’s love for the cat as a way to solicit students for more money, especially amidst protests on budget transparency and tuition hikes. College is getting more and more unaffordable by the year, and students are right to be angry about it. It only makes them feel more overlooked and aggravated to see something they love exploited for profit. One of the main issues is that AU is using the Wonk Cat as a Band-Aid, a way to cover up the real pain students and alumni feel about the University. BandAids are great; they help to heal wounds. However, it’d be better to address the

root cause of those wounds in the first place, especially when some injuries simply can’t be healed with a Band-Aid. I’m not against the Wonk Cat. I have been known to stop and pet her on many occasions. I also get why AU is doing this. They’re trying to appeal to us with the things we enjoy. Students, for the most part, love Wonk Cat. It’s nice to see pictures of fluffy animals, especially during finals. However, I’d love it more if AU actually decided to address our concerns, if they didn’t feel the incessant need to take basic sources of joy and turn them into capitalist, financial instruments. The best way for AU administrators to be “relevant” with the student body is to take student issues seriously by not forcing them through unending bureaucratic hoops to get their problems addressed. Let’s leave Wonk Cat out of it. Lauren Patetta is a sophomore in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle.

AU needs to do more for students struggling with drug addiction AWOL’s podcast sheds needed light on resources, challenges

by Riya Kohli

Staff Columnist

AU is currently being led by the previous Secretary of Health and Human Services, yet the University does not pay enough attention to its students who experience substance abuse and addiction. Given our intense party culture and that our rates of substance abuse are higher than the national average, it is imperative that AU administrators take significant strides in providing for its students who are struggling with addiction. Over the course of the last two semesters, AWOL created a second installation of their “Ripped from the Wall” multimedia project. The podcast, entitled “Addiction at AU,” is a three-part series that was an exploratory venture into the realities of drug addiction on our campus. While the prevalence of

drugs on college campuses might seem inevitable, the podcast discusses what makes the AU community unique in regard to addiction. Pritma Irizarry, the director of the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center who is featured on the podcast, characterizes AU as a “perfect storm of risk factors,” further compounded by a historical failing on the part of the University to address substance abuse. We’re part of a university that is fighting for inclusivity and acceptance, but where is that fight when it comes to addiction? As emphasized in the podcast, addiction is a very real mental illness and treating it as if it were simply a matter of willpower to quit is dehumanizing and wrong. This portrayal creates shame around the subject and prevents those affected from seeking help. Taking this unfortunate reality into account, the fact that AU does not have a streamlined way for students to seek help is disappointing. The first episode of the podcast detailed the journey of a student seeking more information on what the University is prepared to do when helping those struggling with addiction. She was sent from department to department without receiving any real answers. Additionally, the Counseling Center feels inaccessible to many students who struggle with drug and alcohol issues because going

to get help for something with legal ambiguities is complicated. Another contributing factor is that AU doesn’t talk about drug addiction accurately or enough. AUxI, the first semester of the transition course for freshmen, attempts to provide some information about the signs of addiction. For example, an activity sheet described marijuana as causing depression, anxiety, poor academic performance and criminal activity. Professor David Kearns, who has a PhD in psychology and was featured in the podcast, disputed these claims. He said that no causal relationship has been scientifically established for any of these effects. Additionally, AU is unclear on the specifics of its alcohol and drug policies. This creates confusion and misconceptions throughout the student body, leaving students unsure of where exactly to get help and whether they will face disciplinary consequences for doing so. By failing students in this respect, AU administration is effectively strengthening the stigma around addiction and substance abuse. While the Health Promotion and Advocacy Center offers free 30-minute “wellness consults” to help students determine an action plan for their needs, not enough

students know about these, nor are these enough to address the problem. It’s one thing to punish students for bringing drug paraphernalia on to campus, but to not provide enough resources for those who are dealing with an illness is another immense disservice entirely. It delegitimizes the very real health implications those students contend with. AWOL’s podcast brings much needed attention to a rampant issue with effects that are often pushed aside or ignored. The fact that efforts to help students aren’t already in place reveals a staggering disconnect between the needs of students and the priorities of the administration. It opens up a conversation that the student body needs to participate in and the administration has a duty to listen to. University President Sylvia Burwell’s participation in the project was a start. But as a community, we should be doing everything we can to support those who are struggling with drug addiction. Riya Kohli is a freshman in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle.


theEAGLE April 2019

Letter from the editor: After four years, it’s time to say goodbye

by Haley Samsel Editor-in-Chief

As the editor-in-chief of The Eagle, you learn how to handle just about anything. You can jump from writing a breaking news story to responding to anxious emails from reporters and readers to meeting with your team of editors about the next print edition. And that’s just in one day. One thing I never quite learned, though, was how to write about myself, or do any sort of deep reflection about what the past four years have meant to me. Even as I write this, in early April, my thoughts are consumed by all of the things still left to do before I graduate. But, as my friends and family keep reminding me, it’s time to say goodbye. My life at AU has been inseparable from my life at The Eagle — they began simultaneously and will end the same way. I was an editor by midway through my freshman year, already steeped in a campus that I was just getting to know. I’ve spent more hours in our MGC 252 office than I’ve spent awake in my

apartment this year. I have given my life over to this publication, prioritizing it over pretty much everything else, including (close your eyes, grandparents) my academics. But the question remains: Why? What has made me want to stay in this job, even when I could barely bring myself to open my email inbox? The first answer is the importance of The Eagle’s role on this campus. There has never been a day when I haven’t felt the weight of the work we do, and the impact that our journalism can have. This year alone, we’ve put together an incredible multimedia project about AU’s tuition crisis, launched our first-ever podcast, covered our fair share of breaking news and brought context to some of the toughest issues facing the University. Informing the student body, as well as other segments of the AU community, is one of the most meaningful things I will ever do. I felt that responsibility most when a hate crime targeted black women on our campus in May 2017, prompting several protests, national media coverage and difficult conversations about our staff ’s diversity and how we cover marginalized communities. I also felt that responsibility when we pressed the University to answer questions about the effectiveness of its alert system last summer, and even when we wrote straightforward stories about the issues important to students. Every day at The Eagle is filled with a sense of purpose, and it’s been a privilege to feel

that commitment for the past four years. But the more honest reason that I’ve stuck with it for so long is because of the people. I would not have made it here without the kindness and fierce examples set by my predecessors: Shannon Scovel, Kate Magill and Courtney Rozen. You are my role models, my best mentors and, most importantly, my friends. Thank you for seeing something in me I didn’t see in myself. I am also indebted to the guidance of Chris Young, our student media advisor, who has never failed to be there for me and any student who needs him. At a school where it’s common for students to feel alienated and alone, you always made me feel like I had someone in my corner. My non-Eagle friends carried me through some of the worst days, mostly without being aware of it. Your love and support, which was never dependent on what others thought of me or the newspaper, was a relief I needed more than any of you could know. My family played the largest role in keeping me sane throughout my time at AU. My grandparents in particular listened to many a late-night rant, never failing to pick up the phone no matter what time it was or what they were up to. Your unwavering love reminded me to be more like the person y’all raised me to be: resilient, generous, sincere. Most of all, I am grateful to the hilarious, dedicated, wonderful people I was lucky enough to be surrounded by in The Eagle office every day. My managing

editor team this year (Maria Carrasco, Lydia Calitri, Cordilia James, Sasha Jones, Nickolaus Mack, Kimberly Cataudella, Daniella Ignacio, Emily Martin and Kris Schneider) was fearless in their ambitions to improve their sections, working incredibly hard to mentor their staff members and make our journalism better. I am so proud to have worked alongside y’all and to call many of you my close friends. Over the course of the past several months, I’ve thought a lot about what the future of The Eagle will look like. There’s no telling what the staff will have accomplished by this time next year, or in the next five years. But when I think about the freshmen and sophomores who have proven themselves to be some of our most talented reporters and editors yet, I’m no longer afraid of what will happen after I leave MGC 252 for the last time. I know that, once Lydia takes the reins, she will find her footing and take this publication to new heights. I also know I will miss this place, and my staff, more than I’m willing to admit. Thank you for making it so hard to say goodbye. Know that I will always be cheering you on, even if it’s from thousands of miles away. Haley Samsel is a senior in the School of International Service and The Eagle’s 2018-2019 editor-in-chief.

Staff Editorial

University should adopt new policy on selling alcohol at athletic events Alcohol sales may boost attendance, engagement with AU sports During this spring’s Student Government elections, students had the opportunity to vote on a referendum on whether they would support the sale of alcohol at on-campus athletic games. The referendum passed with overwhelming support, with 81 percent of students voting for the measure. The reason offered for the alcohol sale proposal was that the measure would boost student and alumni attendance and improve school spirit. As any AU student knows, games do not draw huge audiences. Data obtained by The Eagle found that the average attendance at men’s basketball games – the best attended sport – was only 738 people. Students and alumni have not demonstrated a large interest in attending basketball games, or any other sport, for that matter. The hope from those who proposed the referendum and those who voted to pass it is that alcohol sales will change this.

The Editorial Board agrees that alcohol sales at athletic events will increase revenue for the athletic department and increase student and alumni attendance – at least at first. The University has increasingly grown more relaxed with its on-campus alcohol policies, as the campus has transitioned to being “damp,” in order to allow students who are over 21 to have alcohol in their residence hall rooms. This acceptance of student drinking speaks more to the student body and makes drinking more casual for students. The potential to sell alcohol at sporting events also provides a legitimate opportunity to attract more students who may want to have a calmer weekend night. Games would provide a space for students to interact in a relaxed environment while still being able to drink alcohol. This also provides students with a cheaper sports option, as D.C. professional teams are currently more attractive to

them than student games. Simply put, the board believes that going to an athletic event and having a beer should be an option for students who are of age. However, this potential change does present issues. The University would do well to follow rules similar to other college sport venues, like only being allowed to order one beer at a time or stopping sales after the third quarter. Also, students may try to use fake IDs to purchase alcohol or ask older friends to buy it for them. As The Eagle previously reported, AU students often subscribe to a “work hard, play hard” culture that the University would have to be mindful of if they start these sales. If the caveat for student attendance is alcohol, the University should take the opportunity to discuss safe drinking habits with students and showing what that can look like at AU. As discussions continue among administrators about the potential policy change, The Eagle recommends

keeping the sales simple. While George Washington University has a ticketed program, in which students can buy tickets to attend a wine event prior to a game, it is our opinion that sales should be out of the concession stand. It may even be possible to use student IDs to check age or using university systems to confirm that someone is not using a fake ID. Most likely, the alcohol served would be beer and wine, making the games a casual and student friendly environment. The University will need to ensure that responsible steps are taken to prevent belligerent students. Drinking while watching a game is an American pastime. If AU students have shown an interest in doing so at athletic events, and may attend more games because of it, it’s up to the University to figure out the right way to honor that request.

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