Letters to the Editor

Improve procedure

As one of the many students residing at Thurston, I appreciate the work of first responders and want to thank them for helping evacuate the residential hall and ensuring the safety of the students during the fire on March 22. However, during the evacuation there was much confusion and a degree of panic when the stairwells became crowded, and we could not proceed downstairs. Fortunately, fire fighters extinguished the fire quickly, but I cannot help but wonder how vulnerable we are had there been a larger crisis.

The school administration can do more to prepare and protect its students and staff in the event of an emergency. Everyone should be made aware of escape routes from all university buildings. If a residential hall is in danger, students should have several alternative rendezvous points depending on the severity of the crisis. Students should also have a dependable, password protected toll free call-in number to find out the most recent news regarding the response to an emergency.

Students armed with skills to respond to emergencies effectively will save lives and serve as lifelong qualities of leadership. In the wake of this most recent threat to safety, I urge the administration to review its evacuation and emergency response plans and find ways they can be improved. In order to make GW as safe as possible, everyone must be prepared, and campus security should be vigilant against potential threats and be aware of state-of-the-art emergency procedures and technologies.

-Jared Brecher, freshman

More efficient system

The past few editions of The Hatchet have been filled with well-deserved criticisms of the University’s outlandish housing policies, especially those concerning pricing. I personally feel that these out of touch housing prices and GW’s increasingly absurd tuition are symptomatic of deeper problems in the University’s spending policies.

GW has placed itself in a death spiral by charging so much that students are required to depend on University-provided financial aid. If the University were to decrease financial aid it would greatly reduce what has turned into a behemoth of a system and a burden to the University.

It is unethical to charge everyone almost $50,000 per year only to refund an average of $27,413 through financial aid packages. This was the case for our university in 2002. In that year, roughly half of all students attending this University qualified for financial aid. I’m somewhat shocked that the Board of Trustees has continued to raise prices that will inevitably lead to an increased dependence on financial aid for more students.

While financial aid is a necessary element of any university, the system should not be so cumbersome as to require some students to pay an exorbitantly high tuition rate to fund a significant portion of other students’ education. It is conceivable that if the tuition and housing rates at GW were brought into the realm of reason that a far greater number of students could afford to pay for their own education rather than relying on the system.

It seems as if Georgetown represents a perfect success story that should serve as a model for GW. They have consistently provided their most needy students with adequate assistance while maintaining a lower tuition rate for everyone. 2002 is a perfect year to compare the two universities’ financial aid systems. In 2002, they awarded far fewer non-need based financial aid packages (five compared to GW’s 1,927) and fewer need based financial aid packages (about 2,500 compared to GW.’s roughly 3,500). The result of curtailing the financial aid system has not been calamity; it has been a lower tuition rate and a more comprehensive aid package for those who truly need it.

I’m not against big financial aid systems; I’m against inefficient ones. I’d much rather prefer everyone pay a lower rate and in turn rely less on the financial aid system.

-Chris Hanley, freshman

Conduct unbecoming

Having missed Professor Hackett’s column (“Understanding the Other,” Mar. 24, p. 4) when it first appeared, my attention was drawn to it by Amy Bailey’s response on Monday. I would agree with Amy that Hackett’s reference to blackface is not so much a reasoned premise in an argument by analogy as it is irresponsible rhetoric. At this point, however, I should like to draw the readers’ attention to something equally troubling.

I am so very pleased with Professor Hackett’s confessions of having studied cultural theory, deconstructionism and theories of narrative representation. I would urge us all to be severely worried, however, by the silence with which she elides decades of foundational research on the very topic (drag) she purports to address. More specifically, we should be concerned by Hackett’s failure to provide even the most cursory reference to the work of, say, Judith Butler or Esther Newton. This is not simply a matter of having one’s bibliography in proper professional order. Rather, I would suggest that the (apparent) incognizance of these sources leads Hackett to make some quite unhelpful conflations and omissions that are most troubling in the thinking of one who so blithely claims admission to the practice of critical theory.

Hackett’s principle grievance with drag is that it “never represents the great qualities of women – their compassion, their stamina – in ways that would parody the weaknesses of men. Rather, drag shows skewer faux-helplessness, manipulation, obsession with one’s looks and crusty coquetry. Not only are women from Venus, they say, but they are also trapped there permanently.” I’m not sure this comment shows a clear understanding of drag. Generally, to dress in drag is to adopt “feminine” characteristics (if the subject is of the male, or possibly intersexual, sex), or to adopt “masculine” characteristics (if the subject is of the female, or possibly intersexual, sex). Femininity and masculinity are attributes of gender, not of sex. The subject in drag performs a gender other than that society would assign to her based on her biological sex. By doing so, the subject draws attention to the fact that gender (in mannerisms, in clothing) is not essential.

Hackett subscribes, it would seem, to essentialism. Kelly Kleiman’s article in the Chicago-Kent Law Review, on which Hackett draws, certainly appears to: “Everything I do is feminine, by definition, because I am female.” This is one of those partings of the ways in philosophy, and although many of us will not agree with the ultimate compatability of Hackett’s essentialism and the flourishing of individual subjectivities, we must welcome the opportunity for dialogue. What I do not welcome, and what has made me sufficiently outraged to write this letter, is the veiling of questionable premises from an audience that may not have the training to detect them. And that, Professor Hackett, is an act of sophistry unbecoming to you as a writer, as a pedagogue and as a person.

-Jason R. Fisette, alumnus

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