Staff Editorial: What parents need to know this Colonials Weekend

Media Credit: Cartoon by Daniel Kim
Whether after the first day of kindergarten or at the beginning of Colonials Weekend, it always feels good to see family.

Dear GW parents,

You’ve arrived on campus just in time for the cool weather – and just in time for midterm season. You may have been here last year or this may be your first time. Either way, we’re glad to have you – despite the fact that most of us should probably be studying.

We’re members of The Hatchet’s editorial board, a group of Hatchet editors completely separate from our news team. Our members come from many of the paper’s sections and each week we meet to discuss an important issue on campus or in D.C. We do research, talk to faculty and administrators, and use our own experiences to back up our opinions.

Of course, since we’re a diverse group, we don’t always agree. Our editorial board is made up of both men and women. We have members of the sophomore, junior and senior classes. And we also vary in our political affiliations: Republican, Democrat, libertarian and independent. Sometimes it takes us a while to come to a conclusion. But once we reach a consensus, our two opinions editors write it up, resulting in our staff editorial.

So far this volume, we’ve covered a range of issues – everything from trigger warnings to the University’s $1 billion fundraising campaign. Each week, we try to choose a topic that affects many people in the GW community, especially our fellow students. But this week, we’re writing to you.

It’s tough to keep up with everything happening on campus, especially if you aren’t here every day. But this year, we have thoughts on two issues that will likely impact your child’s time on campus. Chances are, you’ve been thinking about them already.

An emphasis on Greek life
Over the past few years, membership in social Greek life has increased. The community has grown to encompass about a third of students on campus, and just by walking around, you’ll see how present the community is here.

Now, you may be familiar with many stereotypes about the students who “go Greek.” But as Greek chapters on GW’s campus have grown, they’ve come into their own. The Greek community has worked hard to make sure that fraternities and sororities are beneficial to students’ experiences at GW. Unlike some other universities, GW boasts a unique Greek population, with the majority of students also involved in other areas on campus.

For the first time this year, Greek leaders have promoted a values-based system of recruitment. Before recruitment, many members of sororities completed a workshop that helped them determine what qualities and values they were looking for in new members. Similarly, potential new members completed a workshop that helped each woman determine what she was looking for in a sisterhood.

Fraternity rush also underwent some changes this year. Last month, the Interfraternity Council held a pre-rush event for all men considering rushing, aimed at educating them about Greek life and explaining fraternities’ core values of service and academics.

The Greek community is also actively getting involved in the campus movement to prevent sexual assault, an issue that is often paired with Greek life. One fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, is holding a sexual assault prevention event later this month, with the goal of educating students about consent through a game of “Red light, green light.” Last April, Sigma Chi fraternity hosted a sexual assault prevention workshop, which 300 members of the Greek community attended. Fraternities have also tried education programs to teach their members about bystander intervention.

But as at any school, GW’s Greek community isn’t flawless. Since January, eight chapters have been added to the list of those currently sanctioned for violations, which range from hazing to unregistered parties. Most recently, Delta Gamma’s national organization shut down the chapter of the sorority on GW’s campus. Greek life leaders have called on officials to reform the disciplinary process, but so far the only change is adding more detail to GW’s official list of student organization sanctions.

But don’t let those individual incidents scare you. Greek life at GW provides a relaxed community where a lot of students find their place and their friends. If you’re the parent of a freshman or sophomore who has just gone Greek, there’s no need to panic – they’re in good hands.

Confidence in campus safety
It’s one of the biggest questions parents ask, both on campus tours and once their students move in at GW: “Are you safe?”

This academic year, we’re starting a new chapter on safety. The new leader of the University Police Department, Chief RaShall Brackney, came to GW in June. During her time here, she hopes to strengthen UPD’s relationship with the student body, create a better culture within the department and coordinate with the Metropolitan Police Department – all things our editorial board has advocated for in the past.

It’s refreshing to have Brackney on campus, and we hope that she can accomplish all of her goals and help to stabilize UPD. We’ll need them as a strong force on campus, especially given some of the high-profile crime occurring around the city. This past summer, D.C. has seen its murder rate increase, including the deaths of two recent American University alumni.

Although those incidents haven’t been occurring on campus, the uptick in violence in the District has probably been on students’ minds – and yours, too.

Though it’s normal to worry about your children when they venture off campus, D.C. officials have been working to quell citizens’ fears. MPD has started a city-wide crackdown on illegal guns, and has received more than 250 since August. And city police have also partnered with federal agents to tackle the District’s recent rise in violent crime.

At GW, it’s felt a bit safer lately. Unlike last year, freshmen and many student organizations have participated in sexual assault prevention trainings and the University now has a Title IX coordinator. Plus, burglaries in Foggy Bottom have decreased by 70 percent, and disciplinary actions for alcohol and drug-related incidents have also gone down on campus.

No matter what, it’s understandable to be worried. But take solace in the fact that everyone has students’ safety on their minds – whether it’s within MPD, UPD or the University.

So enjoy your experience on campus this weekend. And remember that even once you leave, there’s no need to worry. But we know you will, anyway.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Sarah Blugis and contributing opinions editor Melissa Holzberg, based on discussions with managing director Rachel Smilan-Goldstein, design assistant Samantha LaFrance, copy editor Brandon Lee and assistant sports editor Mark Eisenhauer.

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