Commissioner caught in half-truths

While The Hatchet quoted Advisory Neighborhood Council Commissioner Steven Mandelbaum at length and recognized that he is indeed a GW graduate (Residents testify against plan at hearing, Sept. 14, p. 1), unfortunately, it might not have noticed the inconsistencies in his arguments and, more importantly, the diametric turn he now fashions since he ran as a student for the ANC seat two years ago.

First, contrary to Mandelbaum’s assertion, GW does spend a lot of time and money on the campus plan, if only evidenced by a group of University officials’ presentation and advocacy of a plan at several hearings. Further, if GW and its students have essentially taken over the Foggy Bottom and West End communities, as Mandelbaum claims, then Mandelbaum, as a former GW student, is essentially part of the same takeover for which he argues against.

What is even more incomprehensible is Mandelbaum’s declaration that the University should be barred from purchasing properties outside of the campus and converting them to institutional use as a `matter of right.’ It is unclear whether Mandelbaum’s matter of right is connected with the University’s wish to buy land or rather that it is right to ban the University from making purchases.

Inconsistent statements aside, the most troubling aspect of Mandelbaum’s recent dialogue is that in running for the seat in a 1998 write-in campaign, Mandelbaum championed himself as a bridge between GW students and the ANC.

During his campaign, Mandelbaum solicited votes of students in residence halls in his district on the platform and promise that, as a student of the University, he would work to progress student life in the community.

In The Hatchet, Mandelbaum wrote: It is my hope that by being part of the ANC, I will have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the students and ensure they receive the amenities they deserve in their community – both academically and socially . my job is to advocate and vote in the best interests of the residents in my district – and those residents are primarily students (Making your voice heard in the community Jan. 28, 1999, p. 4). Yet recently, Mandelbaum’s antipodean views represent a reverse of course.

In a wonderful piece entitled Lying, Immanuel Kant explained that aside from speculation, there are two ways in which individuals can truly know something – by experience or by what other people tell them. For Kant, half-truths and lies are unacceptable partially because they have the possibility to change the way individuals can make informed decisions.

Mandelbaum owes the GW community an explanation. Without due comment, he should resign the seat that he only won by a single vote. Student voters in the district in which he ran helped garner him write-in votes on Mandelbaum’s word that he would work to represent them on the ANC. Although it is not taught in the business school from which Mandelbaum graduated, reason and telling the truth are always stronger attributes than PowerPoint presentations and broken promises – an important consideration to keep in mind when choosing candidates in an election year.

-The writer graduated in 2000 with a BA in political science.

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