GW administrators have yet to announce whether residence halls will remain open Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 even with canceled World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings. With the cancellation all but officially announced, police say they still expect as many as 15,000 protesters to show up, and GW officials appear to favor leaving the halls closed and forcing students either to travel unnecessarily during an uncertain time or find alternative housing in or around the District. GW should not be so callous as to close its doors to its students when remaining here in D.C. is the safest and most reasonable response to the recent terrorist attacks.
Director of Media Relations Gretchen King said the protesters expected to show up will be the most committed to their causes, and she links their zealousness to a potential for violence. The University is assuming the protesters will be violent with no evidence to support those assertions. These comments sound more paranoid than reasonable and are a poor basis for formulating University policy.
Mayor Anthony Williams lifted the state of emergency in D.C., and the Metropolitan Police, while remaining in a heightened state vigilance, have returned to normal duties after the frightening terrorists attacks last week. Handling 15,000 protesters should pose no problem to a professional police force that routinely deals with much larger crowds.
According to GW officials, MPD has not requested GW keep its residence halls closed as it did when police expected 100,000 people demonstrating in Foggy Bottom. At the time, security officials needed to limit the number of people in the area. More than 5,000 students in residence halls so close to a massive demonstration posed problems police could avoid by asking the students to leave. Now, with such a small protest expected, additional students do not create an unmanageable situation. Asking students to leave makes no sense.
We understand administrators have student safety concerns, but forcing students to return home under the current circumstances is ridiculous. National Airport remains closed, and Dulles is functioning at minimal capacity. And according to major news outlets, the FBI is still not certain the terrorist attacks are over, and agents are investigating the possibility that other terrorist cells are operating in the U.S. With all this in mind, students are safer in Foggy Bottom, even with 15,000 protesters chanting down the street.