These are the most interesting people on campus over the last year – according to The GW Hatchet’s editorial staff.
Removed Student Association President Phil Meisner said he thinks students on campus can identify with him because he’s a tragic figure.
Everyone’s got a soft spot for the underdog, he said.
When he ran for president last year, he was removed from the ballot after he broke a rule. Running a write-in campaign, Meisner triumphed over the competition and won the presidency. He said part of his appeal, even then, was his status as the underdog and his desire to change the unjust system of which he said he eventually became the victim.
But Meisner said his skirting of the status quo proved to be a crown of thorns for him – while it lifted him to higher levels during his campaign, it eventually led to his removal from office in November.
SA senators who removed Meisner cited his failure to follow the SA bylaws and constitution, mishandling of financial matters and overall irresponsibility as reasons for his removal. After being impeached, Meisner announced plans to dissolve the student government, which many senators cited as an example of Meisner’s inability to follow the rules.
Meisner said he acknowledges and regrets his mistakes and attributes them to human fallibility. He said he still believes he was fighting for a noble cause and will continue to seek change through the new student group he formed, Students Helping Students.
Losing a fight for something you believe in is not a bad thing, Meisner said. It’s a righteous thing.
When I arrived in Foggy Bottom, Shawnta Rogers was probably little more than a curiosity. As he was to the rest of the world.
By his senior year, though, he had evolved into a veteran leader – the man we all wanted to have the ball when the team was behind.
Perhaps it’s fitting. We remember Nut as he was. Always having to play catch-up. Always taking matters into his own hands. The things he had learned to do after everyone else had kept growing without him.
When it was time for Shawnta’s senior year, my roommate made the preposterous claim that Rogers would suddenly be a great player.
Today, I hesitate to say my roommate was right. He makes a dozen outrageous sports predictions a day.
But he met his match in Shawnta Rogers.
Rogers seemed to do a million outrageous things every night. We will remember him as he falls away and banks an absurd shot off the glass (one learns odd things when one is 5-4); as he nails a three from NBA-range (oh, we wish they understood); as he dances the Dirty Bird at Rhode Island. He was the man who never cracked a smile on the court, at least not that anyone saw.
We will remember wondering what exactly it is he’s saying in that cool Baltimore drawl. We will see him run down a court with a ball faster than without it. We will see him shrug off a gym full of people telling him to Stand up, shorty! We will imagine him shooting that final shot for GW, for us. With no time left. With no games left.
And so it is. We have no time left for Shawnta. He can never be a Colonial again. But of course, he will always be a Colonial.
Ed Meinert was the typical GW overachiever – he was a Colonial Cabinet member, a candidate for Student Association president, and an intern on Capitol Hill.
But even Meinert’s friends couldn’t see what was behind the ambition.
Meinert, who pled guilty to two counts of first-degree fraud on Oct. 7, was responsible for the theft of more than $8,000 from the U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union along with allegedly using the credit card numbers, checks and social security numbers of his friends at GW.
In addition, Meinert established himself as a campus figure in his run for SA president last year, when he was not even registered as a student.
Former friends of Meinert paint the picture of a young man who wanted to be like a prince, handing out $50 bills to homeless men, buying clothes because he didn’t want to do laundry and losing cell phones like they were candy.
He’s like the Great Gatsby in that he wasn’t anything he said he was, and he loved money, but comparing him to a literary character is giving him too much credit, said Tom Mullaney, a former friend to Meinert.
After leaving GW, Meinert moved to Boston, enrolled in the Harvard School of Continuing Education and posed as a full-time undergraduate, establishing himself as a prominent member of the campus community.
When his past was revealed, Meinert disappeared from the Harvard campus, leaving students there wondering about his whereabouts. He is scheduled to return to D.C. Dec. 13 for his sentencing.
There’s only one way to describe David Burt — full of life.
When he’s not working as Finance chairman of the Student Association, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, promoting Colonials basketball games or working at the Hippodrome, Burt is attending classes to complete a double major in finance and information systems.
This is the only chance I get to go to college, he said. I don’t want to miss anything.
Burt went to a military school in Melbourne, Fla., from seventh to 12th grade, where he earned his pilot’s license. But he says his friendly disposition comes from his childhood in Bermuda.
Burt says he will talk to anyone, even while he is waiting in line at J Street.
I take the effort to meet people, Burt said. I don’t care what they think of me.That’s why I’m here, I love people.
Burt said he eventually wants to return to Bermuda, to work in the political system to help the country’s educational system. For now, Burt has three semesters left at GW to continue his busy schedule – cheering at Colonials games, helping student groups get funding, hanging at the Hippodrome and getting little rest.
I heard this quote, `sleep is the cousin of death’ – so I guess when I die I will catch up on my sleep, he said.
GW junior Ruthie Vishlitzky has spent one night a month for the past year at D.C. General Hospital waiting for survivors of rape and sexual assault to walk through the door.
When they arrive, and they usually do, Vishlitzky does what she has learned to do best in her time as a counselor with the D.C. Rape Crisis Center – she listens, offers a hand to hold and a calm explanation of scary-sounding options: rape kits, crime reports, litigation. She is careful to let survivors choose for themselves what path to take.
It’s the first step toward empowerment for people who have been stripped of their power, she said.
Vishlitzky gained fame on campus last year when she, along with students Heather Hurwitz and Marcie Beigel, founded GW’s first Women’s Center. Vishlitzky runs the center, located on Mount Vernon’s campus.
She said her experiences helping survivors, both at the hospital and on the Crisis Center’s hotline twice a month, have affected the way she sees the world – especially the way it treats survivors of sexual violence.
There is a tendency to question survivors so much, and to believe that because they were drunk or flirting that what happened to them wasn’t really rape, said Vishlitzky, who said she would like to work in social services or public policy when she graduates in December 2000. I guess I’ve been deprogrammed from a lot of that. This work has made me see more things as they are, and the way they are is very sad.
Carolyn Lee’s resum? – coordinator for Students for Gore and soon a field organizer in Iowa for the vice president’s 2000 campaign – is impressive enough. The fact that she tackles this role in addition to a senior-year schedule and work as a community facilitator surprises even her.
I was kinda expecting it to be a normal D.C. internship, said Lee, taking a break from writing her senior thesis. Things took off, and it grew into an amazing experience.
Lee admits her schedule is full and said she has found herself making tough choices.
‘t gotten a chance to hang out with my friends as much, said the political communication major. I’m still getting everything done, but I’ve avoided some of the (aspects of student life).
I realize I’ve been more distracted than I thought I was.
But she said she has been able to combine responsibilities. She brought her Thurston Hall floor on a tour of Democratic National Committee headquarters and brought Gore Campaign Chairman Tony Coehlo to Thurston Dining Hall.
To be part of something like this is an amazing thing, she said. I’m getting thrown right into the middle of what campaigns are about.
She joined the K Street office of Gore 2000 as it was opening last spring and became one of the first interns. With the campaign moving to Nashville, Tenn., Lee will spend her Christmas break in Iowa, preparing for the upcoming caucus.
The more I get into it, the more I made it the focus of my life, she said. I never dreamed I would work the Iowa caucus.
GW junior Shawn Heller, who is somewhat short, initially said his height separated him from other students on campus.
Actually, on this campus – with a bunch of Jewish kids from New Jersey – that’s not even true, Heller said.
Heller, who is the president of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, quickly corrected himself and said his outspoken nature and willingness to take a stand are truly his unique characteristics.
SSDP is a national organization, and GW’s chapter was the second to open in the country. The group’s goal is to promote the regulation, taxation and control of illegal drugs. Heller said he would like to help make the war on drugs a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue.
In addition to participating in SSDP, Heller helped launch the Student Action Front, a loosely organized conglomeration of fed-up students. SAF had a huge turnout at the recent Student Association impeachment trial, which ended with the removal of former SA President Phil Meisner. Heller said SAF protested outside the trial, wore armbands in protest and spoke at the Senate meeting that took place before the trial.
He said SAF will pop up now and then – when things are making students angry. But for now, Heller is focusing on SSDP.
SSDP is here and we’re not going anywhere until we accomplish our goals because it’s the truth, and the truth doesn’t need anything but itself and a voice, he said.
-Francesca Di Meglio
GW students are unique in their own ways, and GW junior Devin McCalla is a prime example. A talented member of the GW gymnastics team, McCalla recently auditioned and received a part in April’s performance of Into The Woods.
A business major and music minor with a concentration in voice, McCalla is always keeping busy.
There are just certain things I absolutely love to do, McCalla said. Gymnastics is definitely one of them, but I also have a strong passion for singing and performing.
McCalla recently performed as the lead in Pippin and sang a solo in the University Singers’ Messiah concert.
McCalla came to GW from Dallas, Texas, where she earned the No. 1 ranking of all high school gymnasts across the country in her junior and senior years.
GW senior Scooter Slade works full time – about 40 hours a week – on Capitol Hill for Rep. Dan Miller (R-Fla.).
That’s nothing rare for a GW student, but Slade is more than one of the hundreds of students running around Congress. He’s also heavily involved with the Interfraternity Council and the Emergency Medical Response Group, both of which take up a large chunk of his time in addition to the four classes he takes.
(The work) keeps me going, Slade said. I am one of those people that needs something going on. The more down time I have, the less I do.
He is the vice president of risk management for the IFC, which oversees fraternities on campus. He helps fraternities oversee programming and ensures fraternities know which rules they must follow.
He is also the supervisor of Operations for EMeRG, a division of University Police automatically dispatched with UPD officers in emergency situations. In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations, he works in the field and is also the group’s chief financial officer, all of which takes up about 40 hours a week.
He first got involved with EMeRG as a freshman, and he says it’s been fulfilling to see the group evolve into a service on which the University relies.
Helping people is really rewarding, and it’s giving back to the community, Slade said. I don’t want to make medicine a career, but I do like practicing and providing care.
When Eddie Lara departed from his predominately Latino community in Santa Ana, Calif., to come to Foggy Bottom, he never considered his Latino background an issue that would shape his college career.
During his first few weeks at GW, Lara said he did not notice how different he was from other GW students. Only when he realized he was out of the habit of speaking Spanish and eating tortillas everyday did Lara understand the vast differences between his hometown community and his new temporary home.
During his sophomore year, Lara joined Latinos for Progress and pledged La Unidad Latina, a predominately Latino fraternity. He joined efforts to strengthen the small Latino community that exists within Foggy Bottom.
Now a senior, Lara, executive chairman of LFP last year, played a large role in fostering a stronger Latino community on campus. He said he has focused on adding more multicultural flavor to campus.
Lara now devotes time to recruiting elementary school tutors with For the Love of Children and advises Latino groups around campus.
For the future, Lara said he looks to continue strengthening communities with education and hopes the newly born Latino tradition at GW will continue to grow. He believes other multicultural groups around campus will progress with the Latino groups.
There is an ever-increasing feeling that we need to unite, Lara said.