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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Inside our pages: A presidential photo policy

The Hatchet has gone highbrow, as you can see from the elegant sketch of University President Steven Knapp’s home on today’s page 3. No, we haven’t lost our photographers … or our minds.

The Knapps do not allow photography in 1925 F Street – even during Friday’s “Open House.” The reason for this, according to President Knapp, is to recreate the off-the-record feel of the F Street Club, formerly a discreet gathering place for local dignitaries and U.S. Presidents.

“(I)t seems to us that there ought to be at least one place on campus where guests can come together without the feeling that they are, so to speak, on stage,” Knapp wrote in an e-mail.

The Hatchet requested taking photos with no guests present – this was denied. Not even the University photographer was granted permission. When The Hatchet sent an illustrator on Friday, a University spokeswoman told him to stop drawing, though Knapp later allowed it.

Are we just being nosy journalists? I don’t think so.

Only about 50 students attended the open house, out of the entire student body. Those unable to attend this and future events, including parents and alumni outside of Foggy Bottom, have a right to see the product of the University’s seven-figure renovation. It’s your money, after all, and as former President Trachtenberg said during a photographed media tour of his $4 million mansion in 2001, “this is the people’s house, we just live here.”

Obviously there is also a concern about the first family’s privacy, and we have made every effort to respect that.

But the house is divided into two parts: the private quarters upstairs and the bottom floor, which was once billed as a “a gathering spot for all kinds of dialogue on campus.” The upstairs is rightfully off limits to the public and the press, but it seems unreasonable to put restrictions on the latter – especially during a public event.

The Knapps have every right to request no photography during private events in their home. But clearly they felt it was important to show the renovations to the public, and presumably not just the public in Foggy Bottom with a free Friday schedule.

The upcoming “salon” discussions at the Knapp house will likely – as far as I can tell – be closed to the media, and I understand the reasoning behind creating an off-the-record atmosphere. But applying the same logic to a public event or private photo shoot just doesn’t hold up.

So attend an event at the Knapp house if you have the opportunity. But unless this odd policy is changed, don’t expect to see much beyond sketches in this paper.

The writer, a senior majoring in sociology, is The Hatchet’s editor in chief.

Related: Knapps open new house to public

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