Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nick Clooney Shows Documentary to AU Students

Professor and journalist Nick Clooney took his son, actor George Clooney, to Darfur, but their mission to try to help the violence-wracked African nation failed, the elder Clooney said Tuesday.

Clooney, American University distinguished journalist- in- residence and a reporter for over 50 years, said he mixed advocacy with journalism for the first time to produce Journey to Darfur, a documentary shown to American University students during School of Communications Week.

Clooney said he made the film in 2006 to get the situation in Darfur on the front page of newspapers. The war in Darfur is a conflict taking place in western Sudan between the Sudanese military and various rebel groups such as the Sudan Liberation Movement. The military is attacking tribes from which the rebels draw support, killing over 200,000 people so far.

Clooney said his efforts have done nothing to change the circumstances in Darfur, and the violence continues.

“The most disturbing thing is how barbaric people can be to each other. There is absolutely no hope,” said Clooney. “Homes have been burned, children slaughtered and women have been raped.”

Clooney said he took his famous son to blatantly gain more attention from the media. The trip was covered by newspapers and celebrity magazines.

During their trip, the father and son talked to victims of attacks that destroyed their towns and killed their families. According to Clooney, the attacks on the villages would start with bombings by the military, and then the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group, would come to kill and rape survivors.

George and Nick Clooney claimed armed men stole their tapes twice, and that they constantly felt endangered.

“We were there for nine days and there was not a minute I didn’t think we would get killed,” said Clooney.

Nick Clooney strategically chose to go to Darfur directly prior to a rally on the National Mall organized by the Save Darfur Coalition, and in time to attend peace talks at the United Nations where he tried to press for action in Darfur, he said. According to Clooney, he believed that if people knew what was happening in Darfur, they would do something about it.

While in Darfur, both Clooney and his son spoke with a man who lost nine family members due to attacks, as well as several child soldiers, and a woman who survived an attack only because her baby on her back stopped a bullet. Clooney told the audience he was particularly moved by one young girl who asked George when he was going to come back and bring help. George said, ‘Soon,’ and the young girl replied, ‘That’s what you always say’,” Clooney said.

Clooney referred to the conflict as a genocide, which is something he says the United Nations is hesitant to do because to do so requires specific action, including a mandate for U.N. peacekeepers to protect civilians and ending impunity through judicial action in both national and international courts.

Clooney said he will not give up on Darfur.

“I have to go back, so that’s what I’ll do,” said Clooney. “I’m already forgetting them.”

Clooney encouraged AU students to take action by being a “pain in the neck.” Clooney told students to repeatedly call their representatives and senators until they get through.

Sarah Stahlberg, a sophomore in the School of Communications and a member of the SOC Undergraduate Council, said she was moved by Clooney’s admission that his film may not have had an impact.

“I was nervous to go start the film after he made his introduction,” said Stahlberg. “The room was so quiet.”

Joe McGrann, a freshman in the School of International Service, said he was moved by Clooney’s passion for the cause.

“It seems like he really wants to pursue this,” said McGrann. “I thought his point about going along as a journalist for so many years and now becoming an advocate for a certain cause speaks to how deeply the issue had an impact on him.”


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mayor Adrian Fenty Addresses Budget Issues

DCCA Meeting

By Alexandra Gordon

Washington D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and Councilman Jack Edwards warned the DuPont Circle Citizens Association Wednesday night that funding will be cut in the March 15 budget from schools, libraries, and police, despite residents’ protests that such services need more money, not less.

City leaders told the DCCA that cuts to public services, the school system, and public safety are necessary will need to be made from human services, the school system, and public safety are necessary because of suffering economy. According to Edwards, the city will need to put together a budget with 7 million less dollars in capital this year.

“We need to tighten our belts,” said Edwards. “Human services, the school system, and public safety account for 70 percent of our spending. We will see decreases in those areas to balance the budget.”

Lee Granados, vice president of the PTA at Ross School, an elementary school in the DuPont Circle area, said public schools are already suffering from a bad image, despite recent improvements due to funding.

“We don’t get a large draw to Ross School because of the public school reputation in D.C.,” said Granados. “People are hesitant about enrolling their children in the public school system.”

According to Granados, many DuPont Circle residents struggle to send their children to private schools. She has seen this situation play out many times in her neighborhood.

“I have friends who send their kids to private schools and are stretching their means and can’t do anything besides go to work,” said Granados.

Bert Huntington, a member of DCCA, said the public school system needs more funding.

“The system needs money so it can be turned around so normal people can go to public school,” said Huntington. “I am surprised Jack Edwards sends his triplets to private school,” he said referring to the fact that the city council member from ward 2 sends his three children to a private school in Georgetown.

DCCA members said they also disagreed with the city’s decision to cut library hours to save money. They suggested using volunteers to work at libraries or enticing book publishing companies such as McGraw Hill to send interns to work at libraries.

At the meeting held at the Universalist National Memorial Church, Fenty focused on the successes the DuPont Circle area has experienced throughout the past decade.

“We have had the biggest turn around in perception in history,” said Fenty. “People who come to our city who haven’t been here in 10 years don‘t recognize it. We’re reaching higher up on the tree and we can do so much more in the Nation’s capital.”

According to Fenty, ward 2 has the second largest amount of development in the city. D.C. has improved child welfare, economic development, recreation and increased housing for the homeless, said Fenty.

In other business, Fenty and Edwards noted the swift snow removal after the March 2 storm and the successful presidential inauguration in which no arrests were made.

“It was like hosting the Superbowl and Olympics all together,” said Edwards.

Also, police officers Steve Fletcher and Eric Biller told the DCCA members about a string of burglaries occurring since December.

According to Biller, there have been 20 roof top burglaries in the 1700 block between P and U streets. Thirteen of the 20 burglaries occurred in December and no arrests have been made. Biller and Fletcher stated the suspect is believed to be a black male around 30. Biller urged citizens to “watch out for your neighbor and share information with your neighbor.”

Officer Fletcher urged citizens to evaluate their roof-top security. “Sixty out of 80 people in the area did not know they had a roof top hatch,” said Fletcher. A roof-top hatch is a small, often metal window which opens up towards the roof of a building. Fletcher also urged citizens to inform neighbors of the burglaries.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anderson Hall's very own Live-In Mentor; John Richardson

On a cold and snowy night in December 2006, a fire alarm rang through Anderson, Letts and Centennial halls at American University. Most students didn’t get much sleep that night, and Professor John Richardson decided he could do something to help them out the next day.

Richardson, a professor in the School of International Service, e-mailed every professor on campus telling them about the alarm and asking them to understand if their students were tired in class that day.

Richardson knew first-hand what the students had gone through. He experienced it too, as a faculty in residence in Anderson Hall.

Since 2003, Richardson, the director for the Center for Teaching Excellence, has lived among the students. He holds regular home-cooked Sunday dinners – students invited, he lends an ear at office hours in his apartment and he offers tea and cookies in the afternoon.

“You can tell how much Professor Richardson cares about the students,” said Leah Simoncelli, a sophomore resident in Anderson. “His meals are always great and they bring a lot of students together. We really appreciate what he does.”

According to Richardson, only about six or seven students used to come to his Sunday dinners in his apartment. But as crowds grew, students in Anderson entered a contest to have the first floor lounge remodeled in order to hold the dinners in a larger space. The Anderson Style Lounge was remodeled and now can accommodate the dinners which draw about 30 students.

Richardson said his motivation for wanting to influence students’ lives comes from his own mentors, including his professors at Dartmouth College. Their portraits hang on his office wall.

“If you have good mentors and want to express appreciation, the best way is to become a mentor yourself,” said Richardson.

Richardson may give to AU students, but he said he gains a lot in return.

“I’ve had so many opportunities to listen to AU students and learn so much from them,” said Richardson. “The most rewarding experience has been how much I’ve learned and also how much I’ve come to appreciate the challenges that students face and for the most part how well students rise to those challenges.”

Richardson said he also gets satisfaction from his interaction helping faculty at the Center for Teaching Excellence.

According to Richardson, the purpose of CTE is to combine “superb teaching and engaged learning with world-class research and professional practice.” As director, Richardson runs computer labs, new media centers and training courses for student and faculty.

Jim Lee, associate director of CTE, has known Richardson for 28 years. Lee credits Richardson and CTE for turning the audio visual department around at AU by using videoconferencing and by providing equipment and support to the program.

Richardson was Lee’s dissertation advisor when he got his Ph.D.

“I remember him as a very thorough guy,” said Lee. “I would give him two or three pages and who would give me three to four pages of comments.”

Lee also described Richardson as a sometimes unconventional lecturer.

“He would lay down on the desk and lecture,” said Lee. “He was tough but fair and we always learned a lot.”

Richardson is currently a professor of international development who specifically focuses on prevention, management and resolution of political - especially ethnic conflict - in developing nations. Richardson has decades of experience studying the relationship between conflict and development. Much of his studying took place in Sri Lanka, a country he first visited in 1987. His 18-year visit resulted in his book, Paradise Poisoned, a study on conflict, terrorism, and development from Sri Lana’s Civil Wars.

“In the course of writing the book I fell in love with the place,” said Richardson. “I am as much at home in Sri Lanka as I am here.”

Though his professional career has become focused on international development, Richardson did not always know his path. Once a confused college freshman walking around the campus of Dartmouth College, he said it took until his junior year to figure out what his focus would be.

During his first two years at Dartmouth, Richardson was involved in athletics, was a member of a fraternity, and claimed to drink heavily. However, Richardson soon established a close relationship with his history professor who helped him overcome some of the challenges he faced, many of which he attributed to coming from a public high school rather than a private one. Richardson also decided to live by himself in order to concentrate on his studies and eventually enroll in the honors program where he would discover his life-long interest for research and writing.

Richardson has come full circle, from sitting in front of a mentor, to becoming one himself.

Victoria Golden, a junior resident in Anderson, has worked with Richardson in the past.

“He is always friendly and happy to see people. It really makes your day,” said Golden. “He wants to help improve residence life in a way no one else can.”

Richardson does not know when and if he will ever retire from his job at AU, but when he does have free time he enjoys train travel. He dreams of traveling on the Trans Siberian railway.

Richardson’s experiences have given him a unique outlook on life.

“Coming from my readings in Buddhist philosophy, I believe life is impermanent and you have to accept that,” he said. “A lot of life is suffering but good can come from that. Life is an experiment so it is important to always be listening and open to learning new things.”

Richardson said he plans to keep sharing that outlook with students, along with an afternoon cookie or two.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inaug dorms
By Alexandra Gordon
WASHINGTON, D.C. - To some, a night in an American University dorm room might be dreadful, but for 15 Ohio University students, it gave them a once-in-a-lifetime chance—attending the inauguration of Barack Obama as president.
American University College Democrats and AU students who volunteered to serve as hosts, made the dream of the College Democrats of Ohio turn into a reality.
Meghan Bender, secretary of College Democrats of Ohio University, had the responsibility of finding a place for herself and her fellow College Democrats to stay for the inauguration. Beginning her effort in October 2007, she quickly discovered that all hotels within a 22-mile radius of Washington, D.C., were booked. Fellow members told Bender to give up, but she refused.
“A huge weight was put on my shoulders,” said Bender. “We needed to know people.”
Through meticulous Facebook “creeping” --the random searching of profiles on the popular networking sight-- Bender was able to get to know the right people; American University College Democrats. Bender e-mailed Emma Noftz, the AU College Democrat’s Vice President. Once Bender started e-mailing with Emma, plans moved quickly, according to Bender. She remained in contact with Noftz throughout the time leading up to the inauguration.
Noftz was in charge of finding hosts for the OU students and said she was “amazed by how willing AU students were to host the OU Democrats.”
“It was a great experience seeing students our age from an area besides D.C. being so involved in politics and the inauguration,” said Clare Walsh, an AU sophomore who hosted a student in her dorm room.
Once Bender solidified the plans to attend the inauguration, OU’s College Democrats let their members know of the opportunity.
“We received dozens and dozens and dozens of e-mails from interested students,” Bender said.
After choosing the most active members, the group was set at 15.
Jordan Siler, a freshman at OU was one of them. After receiving the e-mail notifying her of the opportunity, she thought “heck ya,” and hopped on board, she said.
“I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Siler.
“I’m glad I made the cut,” said Rose Ashe, an active junior of OU’s College Democrats. Ashe said she admired Obama’s “eloquent speech and mannerisms.”
Of the 15 members who traveled to AU, only six overcame their exhaustion and braved the 20-degree weather to actually view the inauguration from the Washington Mall. According to Bender, by 7:30 a.m., some members of their group started to leave the Mall to go back to the AU campus. The six members who weathered the entire event faced never ending lines for food and warming stations. One member of the group even started convulsing, according to Bender. At this point, Bender said she was “envious of the people who bailed.”
After the inauguration was over, Bender and the rest of the group walked 12 miles around Washington, D.C.
“We just wandered for four and a half hours,” said Bender.
Bender was responsible for driving some of the OU students back to Ohio the night of the inauguration. She said she was so tired she started hallucinating and thought the “red headlights in front of her were falling ashes.” Her group made it back to Ohio at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday. In an attempt to wake herself up the next day, Bender said she went to the gym, only to end up falling asleep on the equipment.
Despite the hardships, Bender said she had an incredible experience.
“I am looking forward to visiting American University and some new friends again in the spring,” said Bender.
Bo Hammond, president of the AU College Democrats, said he plans to work with OU students in the future.
“Hopefully we’ll keep those ties,” he said.
The experience was also fun for the AU hosts, according to Shannon Curry, a sophomore host at AU.
“We would definitely do it again,” said Curry.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who I Am

It was a warm early June day in 1997. My mom and I were sitting on a small bleacher stand watching my sister’s softball game. My sister should have felt lucky that I paused my writing in order to see her hit the ball. My eight year old self had more important things on her mind. I was in the middle of my newest short story; The Train. It was quickly becoming my best piece of work which featured an alcoholic mother and daughter traveling on an overnight train to Kansas.

My name is Alexandra Gordon and I am a sophomore from New Hampshire attending American University. Entering college, I had little to no idea who I really was or what I wanted to do with my life. I felt pretty lost coming to school so far away from home. However, I clung to something I knew I loved; writing. Since the time I learned how to write, I was always composing stories. Although my dreams and expectations have changed now that over ten years have passed, I still plan to write, whether it is for a non-profit, a newspaper, or a law office.

Aside from my plans for the future, my personality also defines me. When asked to say something about who I am, my roommate and friend said “Alex is one of those friends who you can go to with any problem and she will always make you feel better.”

I love to help people and would describe myself as genuinely compassionate. In addition, I love ice cream, have been a competitive gymnast since the age of five, love my family, love to be goofy, love to travel, and want to save Latin America. I also like to approach life with the motto “Do what you Love”.