WEB EXCLUSIVE: Students react to campus closing

Posted 9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7- A coalition of student protesters attracted national media to Kogan Plaza today, protesting GW’s decision to shut down its Foggy Bottom campus during International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings later this month.

The University cancelled classes and is closing all Foggy Bottom campus buildings, including residence halls, Sept. 27 to Oct. 2 in anticipation of demonstrations surrounding the meetings, GW officials announced yesterday.

Metropolitan Police requested Aug. 30 the University close its main campus during the meetings, which are expected to attract as many as 100,000 demonstrators protesting the financial institutions located blocks from GW’s campus. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg agreed to the request a day later.

About 5,400 students living on campus will not have access to their residence hall rooms for four days and five nights surrounding the two days of IMF, World Bank meetings.

The protesters circulated a petition garnering about 40 signatures overnight after receiving a campus-wide e-mail from the University yesterday.

During the April 2000 World Bank and IMF conference, also held in D.C., MPD did not recommend a GW closing because the city expected fewer protesters, Trachtenberg said in an online forum with Washingtonpost.com today.

Trachtenberg said about 30,000 demonstrators invaded the streets surrounding GW in 2000.

At a press conference this afternoon, management science professor Tom Nagy called the University’s decision “ill-advised.”

Nagy said GW is showing a bias in favor of the World Bank and IMF, hampering students’ ability to protest and learn from the demonstrations by “hiding from it all.”

Trachtenberg said he could not ignore MPD’s request to close the campus.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “If you are the guy who’s accountable for the safety of people’s lives and the police say we’ve got an issue here and you’ve got to close, you don’t have a lot of flexibility.”

Students expressed a variety of concerns about the decision.

“Students on this campus are outraged,” junior Naina Dhingra said.

Students accused GW of restricting their rights and sheltering them from an educational opportunity.

“The administration doesn’t want students involved,” said junior Tanya Margolin, who is pictured leading protests in a front-page photo in today’s Washington Post. “We want our homes back.”

Some students said the campus closing would affect their observance of Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest holiday, Sept. 27.

Protesters chanted “We pay, We stay” and “Students united will never be defeated.”

Some students disagreed with the protesters and their claims about GW.

“These people are trying to claim collusion of the World Bank with GW. That is ridiculous,” freshman Andrew Hoekzema, “I bet if you took a poll of the University, a large majority would agree with the actions of the administration. It is not something they are prepared to take a risk on, and I agree with them.”

Immediately following the press conference, protesters migrated to
Trachtenberg’s office in Rice Hall to protest the decision.
Dhingra and junior Eleiza Brahn represented the group of students today in a meeting with Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Bob Chernak.
“The meeting was basically a lot of lip service,” Brahn said.
Brahn said the two sides talked about scheduling meeting, but did not set a time.
-Russ Rizzo and Josh Riezman contributed to this report.

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