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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

Best and worst of this week’s headlines

Nothing is ever as black and white as it seems, including this week’s headlines. Interim University President Mark Wrighton’s term is coming to an end, and while it’s sad to let go of a president whose legacy will long surpass his time at GW, the first female president of the University is an incredible cause for celebration.

Local residents and businesses are torn over a plan to convert The Aston, a GW-owned residence hall on New Hampshire Avenue, into a shelter for unhoused people. Providing concrete solutions to the lack of adequate and affordable housing in the District is exactly what leaders should be doing. However, affluent D.C. residents are pushing back on the idea, showing the lack of acceptance and support there is for the unhoused community.

Here’s the best and worst of this week’s headlines:

Thumbs Up:

It’s never fun to say goodbye, but ending the University’s lifelong streak of male presidents is certainly a step in the right direction. Next week, Ellen Granberg will take over as president of GW. Up until then, GW’s presidential lineup has been anything but diverse. A total of 21 permanent or interim presidents have led the University and not a single one of them has reflected its students of color and nonmale students. While Wrighton contributed to creating a better GW, a female president breaks barriers in ways the University has never seen.

Another important barrier to break in the District is the city’s inadequate housing. D.C.’s Department of Human Services plans to combat housing insecurity by turning The Aston into a non-congregate shelter, meaning residents have their own rooms. The initiative is the first of its kind in D.C. and is long awaited after the closure of an encampment of more than 50 unhoused people from McPherson Square earlier this year.

Thumbs Down:

Affluent neighbors and local officials are opposing plans to repurpose The Aston, citing safety concerns and pointing out that the building is between two hotels and near various Michelin-starred restaurants. The line drawn between unhoused people and lack of safety is a prejudiced one. Liberating unhoused people from the burden of finding a place to exist and live does not take away from anyone who is already living comfortably in their own apartment. The D.C. Department of Human Services is taking the right action to address the need for more accessible housing in D.C. and anyone made uncomfortable by such help is simply failing to recognize their privilege.

As for the other bittersweet news, Wrighton is sad to leave the University. In his very short time as interim president, Wrighton did more for GW than expected out of his temporary position. Wrighton established 14 endowed professorships, participated in the replacement of the Colonials moniker, launched a scholarship-matching program and helped find the first female president for GW — all within 18 months. Students will also surely miss seeing Wrighton walk his dog Spike around campus. Wrighton’s short but impactful term shows his dedication to the University, and his departure will leave a substantial gap for Granberg to fill.

Riley Goodfellow, a rising junior majoring in political science, is the contributing opinions editor.

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