Letters to the Editor

SEC funding clarification

I write to clarify a point from an April 16 article on the Science and Engineering Complex (“University to take on more debt to build SEC,” p. 1). In February, the GW Board of Trustees approved an expenditure of up to $10 million to conduct a feasibility study for benchmarking, programming and preliminary architectural design of a new science and engineering complex. Since then, a number of questions have been raised regarding how this project, if ultimately approved by the board, would be paid for.

Projects of this kind are only made possible, at this University or any other, through a construction loan – in effect, a mortgage that the University pays off over some number of years. President Steven Knapp, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Don Lehman and I have all stated that this particular project would be paid for through a combination of three components: fundraising; federal reimbursement for so-called indirect costs on research grants and contracts; and other nontuition revenue, including some portion of the ground lease payments for the commercial development known as Square 54.

How much would be contributed by each of these sources is yet to be determined, and this question is hard to answer at this stage because of the way they are interrelated. How much we would receive from federal reimbursement will depend on how much research is housed in the building. How much we have to borrow, and therefore how much we need for debt service, will depend on how much of a “down payment” we were able to raise from donors. Fundraising for this project is currently underway, and once again how successful we are will help us determine how much of it needs to be paid for in the other ways mentioned.
Lou Katz, Executive Vice President & Treasurer

The case of legalizing marijuana

Justin Guiffre’s column “Put the poor before pot” (April 20, p. 4) raises a unique and interesting argument against the legalization of marijuana. However, it is a bit misguided.

The author’s assertion that a cash crop like marijuana would crowd out production of edible crops is simply not applicable to U.S. agriculture. He cites the troubles created by cash crop proliferation in countries like Eritrea and Ethiopia. However, this is only a issue in countries where subsistence farming is more prevalent and food supply varies seasonally. Commercial agriculture in the U.S. actually produces a massive surplus of edible crops (the product of large U.S. farm subsidies) and world hunger is arguably the result of resource misallocation, not shortage.

Secondly, in a recent letter to the editor a reader made the weak argument that marijuana legalization would increase reckless driving. Likening the effects of marijuana to alcohol is a classic tactic employed against its legalization, but it is scientifically unfounded. The study the reader cites is critically flawed in that the applicants would test positive for marijuana if they had used it at all approximately 30 days prior (hence drivers that tested positive were likely not “high” at the time).

Regardless of the above, both opinions pieces miss the true case for marijuana legalization: cost. The U.S. spends billions of dollars every year combating marijuana growing, dealing and trafficking, and billions more on imprisoning millions of people for minor drug offenses (not to mention the cost to the economy from keeping these people out of work). Even if marijuana production is untaxed if legalized, the costs of prohibition are tremendous enough. Look no farther than California or the Netherlands to see that marijuana is not as socially destructive as some would have us believe.
Sammy Lopez, Junior

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