WEB EXCLUSIVE: Students, faculty clash at forum

A forum with GW experts on public policy and globalization turned into a clash of opinions Wednesday afternoon, as students fired questions at faculty members about issues surrounding the IMF and World Bank.

The forum, hosted by the Institute of Public Policy and the Center for the Study of Globalization, drew about 100 students to the Jack Morton Auditorium in the Media and Public Affairs building to hear a panel of seven faculty members discuss the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“Many (GW) faculty members are experts in fields such as globalization, finance and international trade,” Institute of Public Policy Director Hal Wolman said.

History professor Bill Becker said he considered postponing the forum due to the terrorist attacks on America and rumors that the IMF and World Bank meetings in D.C. might be cancelled. The meetings have since been postponed.

“The reason for going on today is that the issues surrounding these meetings are not going to disappear,” Becker said to begin the program.

Each faculty member made a presentation on their respective area of expertise, such as international economics or trade.

Becker said the World Bank and IMF organizations created a “better system for the world” by raising capital and acquiring contributions to help countries rebuild after World War II.

“Despite the fact that the Bank has spent trillions of dollars since (World War II), the world still has pockets of poverty,” Becker said.

Becker said the group of protesters preparing to demonstrate at IMF and World Bank meetings later this month are more knowledgeable than groups he has talked to in the past.

“I didn’t get the sense that we were trying to marginalize or dehumanize (the protest),” he said.

Some activist groups believe the IMF and World Bank should absolve Third World countries of large debts.

Economics professor Robert Dunn disputed their requests for massive debt forgiveness.

“If one group borrows in one decade, the next decade they must pay it back,” he said. “If the first group does not pay it back, then the money will not be available for the second group who wants to borrow . and countries like Japan will not pony-up and cover the difference.”

In response to the protests against bank loans for gas and other environmentally unfriendly purposes, Dunn said, “the bank does not initiate loan applications. The sovereign governments initiate loan applications and are free to pursue (what they want).”

Aseem Prakash is an assistant professor in the department of Strategic Management who also teaches political science and international affairs.

He said protesters contradict themselves by wearing Nike shoes and other clothes made in sweatshops.

“Ninety-six percent of sweatshop workers are women,” senior and GW Action Coalition member Tanya Margolin said. “We buy Nike shoes because we don’t want them to lose jobs. We just want them to have better conditions.”

Prakash, who used to live in India, said students should not assume they know what a country and its people want if they have never been there, learned the language or understood the culture.

He questioned several students, who said they had not been to any Third World countries.

Margolin said she was disappointed by the lack of female representation among the panel members.

Harvey Feigenbaum, associate dean for the Elliott School of International Affairs and political science professor, said the panel members were chosen for their expertise, not the race or gender they represented.

Assistant SMPP professor Reba Carruth said she agreed the world tends not to pay enough attention to women in Third World countries.

Associate Dean for International Comparative and Legal Studies Raj Bhala said Margolin may have been over-generalizing by speaking about all women in Third World countries.

He said many parents have called his office because their children are Arab-American or Muslim-American and they fear for their safety because of ignorance and overgeneralization.

Margolin stood up and shouted at him from the audience that she was offended that Bhala was connecting Tuesday’s events to her comments, claiming it was a personal attack.

“The question and answer period became disrespectful because no matter whether the views are different we can learn from each other,” junior Emma Stayduhar said.

Students said they found the forum informative, but highly opinionated.

“I think the forum was useful, but what I expected going in was a more informational session,” Stayduhar said. “The comments of the (faculty members) were a bit opinionistic.”

“I appreciated the (faculty members’) point of view. The one-sidedness of the presentations was unavoidable,” freshman David Angelo said. “It was only because the other side did not choose to comment, their absence isn’t the fault of the voluntary (panelists) who were here tonight.”

Senior and GW Action Coalition member Shrayas Jaktar said he was disappointed by the faculty panel.

“It is sad to see that there was not enough diversity (in the panel),” Jaktar said.

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