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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Granberg inaugurated as 19th University president, urges campus unity in address

Courtesy of William Atkins/GW Today
University President Ellen Granberg dons a velvet tam during her inauguration as GW’s 19th president.

Leaders officially inaugurated University President Ellen Granberg as GW’s 19th president at a private event in the Smith Center on Friday.

Granberg urged the GW community to come together to celebrate its excellence and chart a new path forward during a 15-minute inaugural address delivered to about 200 faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and other invited guests. Granberg said students are continuing to excel academically despite war, “terrorism” and “immense human suffering” overseas and political polarization and misinformation in the United States.

“I know and I believe we all know that in the most difficult times are also the greatest seeds of opportunity,” Granberg said. “As I get to know our GW community and I learn more about our institution, I see a community already pursuing those opportunities.”

Granberg began her term as the University’s first female president July 1 after officials announced her selection in January. She replaced former interim University President Mark Wrighton, whose term expired at the end of June after he assumed the presidency in January 2021.

Granberg’s inauguration is the first since 17th University President Thomas LeBlanc’s in 2017. LeBlanc, Wrighton and 15th and 16th University Presidents Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and Steven Knapp attended Granberg’s inauguration, along with Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto and Ward 3 Councilmember and GW alum Matt Frumin.

As Granberg spoke, about 40 pro-Palestinian demonstrators — including representatives from Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice For Peace, GW Black Defiance and GW Dissenters — protested outside the Smith Center against GW’s response to the Israel-Hamas war, demanded officials release a statement condemning Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip. The protesters held banners reading “End the siege on Gaza” and “From the river to the sea” and chanted phrases like “Granberg you can’t hide, you’re complicit in genocide” and “GW you can’t hide, you are funding genocide.”

Granberg highlighted GW’s co-leading of the new National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Institute and the creation of the Global Food Institute as ways the University is seeking solutions to global problems. She said officials will announce a “revolutionary next step” for students and faculty to develop innovative research, advocacy and coursework in sustainability in the coming days.

Officials moved Granberg’s inauguration to a virtual format for most guests following heightened” safety concerns due to growing international and local unrest about the Israel-Hamas war and planned protests in D.C., according to an update to the inauguration schedule. Granberg’s investiture ceremony was moved online with restricted in-person access, while all other inauguration events were canceled or postponed.

Granberg said students and faculty are working to combat hate and deepen the collective understanding of world events that “stoke passions and beliefs.”

“Despite the news-grabbing headlines, our community has come together to create powerful spaces for healing, discussion and productive engagement,” Granberg said.

Granberg said GW — whose tuition rose 4.2 percent to $64,700 this academic year — is “no exception” to the national rise in the cost of education. She said she is committed to “do more” than the University’s existing financial aid offerings.

“We cannot create the next generation of Revolutionaries if they don’t have reasonable access and opportunity to come to GW, stay at GW and graduate from GW with the skills and experiences they need to tackle grand challenges on a global scale,” Granberg said.

The roughly 90-minute ceremony featured short speeches from students, faculty, alumni and staff representatives officially welcoming Granberg to the University.

Cantor for the Congregation Shaar Hashomayim Gideon Zelermyer led the University Singers in singing “L’dor Vador” — a Hebrew song about the connection between generations — and said his father, rabbi Gerald Zelermyer, delivered the invocation at Trachtenberg’s inauguration in 1988. He said every Jewish person affiliated with the University is “deeply shaken and saddened” by what he called displays of antisemitism on campus and asked University officials to ensure the safety of Jewish students.

“The Jewish students of GW feel unsafe, and it is your responsibility to protect them,” Zelermyer said. “This seems a simple test, yet across the country administrators on numerous campuses are failing.”

Last Tuesday, four students from GW SJP projected 10 messages onto Gelman Library, including “End the siege on Gaza,” “Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” “Glory to our martyrs,” “Your tuition is funding genocide in Gaza” and “President Granberg is complicit in genocide in Gaza.” After about two hours of projecting, officials and two GW Police Department officers shut down the demonstration, which Granberg decried as antisemitic in a statement the following day.

Grace Speights, the chair of the Board of Trustees, said choosing a president is the Board’s most important decision. The Board’s presidential search committee of trustees, faculty, students and alumni assisted the Board in the 18-month process of winnowing the field of candidates during Wrighton’s tenure.

She said Granberg met the Board’s desire for a leader who understood the University’s “aspirations.”

“We needed a leader who could unite the GW community and inspire us to raise higher together,” Speights said. “We celebrate President Granberg’s inauguration today with the knowledge that she is definitely that leader, a collaborative, innovative and dynamic president who will help us fulfill all of our potential and take us to even greater heights.”

Poet Richard Blanco read his poem “Teach Us, Then” about overcoming differences to make peace.

“Teach us how to see each other, how to love, how to reach the stars together,” Blanco orated.

Mohammad Faghfoory, a professor and the director of the Graduate Program in Islamic Studies, said he hopes Granberg’s time in office will bring unity, compassion, tolerance and acceptance. Multicultural Student Services Center Director Dustin Pickett delivered the ceremony’s benediction — a blessing offered to the audience — and said Granberg’s inauguration acknowledges the “vital” role of diverse voices in leadership.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar, who met Granberg when she was a sociology professor at Clemson University, said Granberg is an “inspired” leader because she understands “deeply human” choices motivate advancements in science and technology. Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Ilana Feldman, Staff Council President Bridget Schwartz, Alumni Association President Maxwell Gocala-Nguyen and Student Association President Arielle Geismar also delivered remarks greeting Granberg.

Geismar said as a young, Jewish and queer female leader, she is inspired by Granberg. She said Granberg is “amenable” and available while engaging with students and with her during “tough” conversations like about community disagreement about the arming of the GWPD, which Geismar advocated against after officials announced the plan in April.

“President Granberg will not shy away from difficult conversations,” Geismar said. “Neither will the community of GW. In this way, she has always and will always be a Revolutionary.”

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About the Contributor
Cade McAllister, Events Editor
Cade McAllister is a sophomore double majoring in international affairs and political science from San Diego, California.  He is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 events editor.
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