“The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don’t have it.”
– George Bernard Shaw
The dichotomous nature of students at universities like GW is not well documented. I was thinking about this as I finished a 15-page research paper on the evolving nature of self-reliance in Chinese energy security policy – all the while nodding my head to 50 Cent’s “The Massacre” and the latest west-coast tracks by Sly Boogy. There is an obvious disconnect here. I frequently joke with friends about my career plans, telling them, “I’m thinking of going into international intellectual property law – or gangsta’ rapping.” But hey, maybe I am just a product of GW – a school with as many contradictions as it has rumors of STD breakouts in Thurston Hall.
Our daily lives as students at GW are full of contradictions, and that is what makes it a special place. Walking around you can never tell which alternative-looking kid actually puts on a suit and works at the White House on Mondays and Wednesdays; which quiet kid in the back of class is really a low-pro hip-hop fanatic; and which doofy-looking nerd has aspirations to run the planet. People that know me find it hard to believe that beyond my sometimes relaxed and laid-back California persona, I am the same guy that has spent four years working at the Hatchet – getting my first story assignment my first day at GW – all the while taking four years of Chinese language class (including studying abroad in Beijing).
GW was probably such a great fit for me because of its own inherent contradictions. Lets spend some time to examine some of these.
While promoting itself as a center for international affairs, GW simultaneously takes every effort to make actually studying abroad as difficult and expensive as possible. Not only charging GW tuition for programs that are less than half the cost and go to only limited destinations, GW has the temerity to charge D.C. housing prices even for students studying in developing countries. Their rationale? So students can support GW’s mission even while they are gone. Aren’t we lucky? It wasn’t always this way. GW used to be able to plan its spending within its own financial limits and not resign to malicious fees that charge students for the GW experience even when they are on a different continent.
While speaking about and investing in the expansion of Greek-letter life, the University has simultaneously cracked down on Greeks actually having a life. The University is rightly accused of sending mixed signals by spending man-hours preventing off-campus fraternities from participating in charity events for breast cancer; stopping the dangerous practice of sorority girls walking around with pennies in their shoes; and a creating a list of rules and obscure regulations Communist China would be envious of.
Heck, we go to school in a city of contradictions. The capital city of the greatest democracy on earth continues to completely disenfranchise every last one of its citizens. So important in the civil-rights movement, the District nonetheless continues to exist in de facto segregation.
I think I am on to something with this contradiction stuff. Let’s take it further. We go to school in the nation’s capital where the President of the United States chooses a strategy to simultaneously fund both sides of the war on terror by sending our troops into Iraq at the same time it props up Saudi mullahs through oil deals. We elected a president who, while adamantly pro-life, might as well have set a record for “most executions in one year” while governor of Texas.
We are definitely surrounded by contradictions here at GW, but I would be to the first to tell you that I enjoyed every second of it – even my many hours spent at The Hatchet. The Hatchet represents a special tradition of student journalism at GW that goes back over a century and it has been exceedingly rewarding to be a part of.
Editors that came before me took a chance on a kid from Cali and put me in charge of the opinions section as a wide-eyed sophomore with little real-world experience. Nothing would prepare me for the intense Palestine-Israel debates that often exploded among contributors to my section. It was a learning experience that I carry with me today. The opinions section of the Hatchet can be a very effective tool for GW students to express themselves. I’m delighted that Will Dempster, and now Kyle Spector, have shown the ability to take this section to the next level – truly attempting to create a voice that represents all GW students.
I have to thank Kate Stepan, Mosheh Oinounou and Brian Costa. Working with these three editors and friends over the past three years, a true cast of characters, has been as hilarious as it could be exhausting.
I don’t think I could have been in a better position for this lesson in contradiction attending any other school or working at any other organization. I find it hard to imagine there will be any fewer contradictions in my life even after leaving, however, as I don’t plan on giving up the rapping career dreams anytime soon.
-Josh Riezman was managing editor of The Hatchet in 2004-05. He began writing for the paper in August 2001.