George Washington University

Location: Washington, District Of Columbia
Website: http://www.gwu.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

George Washington University has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

  • George Washington University: Jewish Student Suspended for Displaying Souvenir Indian Swastika

    April 28, 2015

    George Washington U. suspended a student, temporarily evicted him from university housing, and banned him from campus because he posted a small souvenir swastika from India on his residence hall’s bulletin board.

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  • George Washington University: Secret Informer Line

    May 4, 2002

    Students and faculty at the George Washington University (GW) continue to live under a nightmarish "Compliance Line" policy that invites secret allegations and investigations. The hotline, established in February 2002 and administered off campus by Pinkerton Security, allows charges of any nature to be made anonymously. The administration may then launch investigations and create secret dossiers, without even notifying the target or providing him or her with the means for immediate rebuttal of quite possibly malicious charges. When media attention was first brought to bear on this scandalous policy, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg issued a public statement in which […]

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  • George Washington University: Violation of Due Process Rights in Sexual Misconduct Policy

    April 1, 2001

    George Washington University (GW) proposed a new sexual misconduct policy that lacked even basic provisions of procedural fairness. In a stunning and wholly appropriate blow to the university administration, GW’s faculty senate voted 15-0 to condemn a proposed sexual harassment code that virtually eliminated due process protections. The spirited discussion before the vote included references to FIRE and a resounding condemnation of Columbia University’s atrocious Sexual Misconduct Policy, which has now achieved the dubious distinction of demonstrating how serious charges should not be handled in a civilized community.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Code of Conduct for Users of Computing Systems and Services 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    University computing systems and services may not be used in an obscene, harassing or otherwise inappropriate manner.

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  • Demonstrations Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    [T]he University maintains the right to define the time, place and manner in which demonstrations occur on its campuses and at its facilities. Individuals and organizations sponsoring demonstrations should contact Marvin Center and University Conferences, Mount Vernon Campus Life, or the Chief Academic Operating Officer/Virginia Campus, as appropriate, for information regarding compliance with University rules.

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  • Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities: Code of Student Conduct- Disorderly Conduct 11-12

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    Disorderly Conduct – Shouting or making excessive noise either inside or outside a building; verbally abusing University officials acting in performance of their duties; acting in a manner that annoys, disturbs, threatens or harasses others; disrupting obstructing or interfering with the activities of others; or behaving in a lewd or indecent manner.

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  • GW Housing Poster/Flyer Distribution Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting and Distribution Policies
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    PURPOSE OF THE POLICY
    To assure that: … Postings are not derogatory to any group.

    POSTER/FLYER GUIDELINES
    1. Posters/flyers must have clear evidence of a student group/organization sponsorship.
    2. “George Washington University” logo must be clearly displayed on the posters/flyers.
    3. Posters/flyers must be deemed appropriate under University policy and regulations.
    4. Posters/flyers should not be found in bad taste/blatantly offensive to any group on campus.
    5. Posters/flyers should not display any form of harassment.
    6. Posters/flyers cannot promote alcohol consumption and should be in compliance with university solicitation regulations.
    7. *** Posters/flyers may NOT be printed on orange paper as this color is reserved exclusively for emergency/UPD notices ***
    8. Posters/flyers advertising non-university sales or job listings will not be approved regardless of student organization sponsorship.
    9. Posters/flyers may NOT be palm card size.
    10. Students/groups must submit a copy of the posters/flyers to GW Housing.

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Green Light Policies
  • Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities: Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities 11-12

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students, and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals. As members of the academic community, students should be encouraged to develop the capacity for critical judgment and to engage in a sustained and independent search for truth.

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  • Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities: Pamphlets, Petitions, and Demonstrations 11-12

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    The George Washington University is committed to the protection of free speech, the freedom of assembly, and the safeguarding of the right of lawful protest on campus.

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  • Guide to Student Rights and Responsibilities: Policy on Sexual Harassment 11-12

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 10, 2014

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when … (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance or limiting participation in University programs; or (4) the intent or effect of such conduct is to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive academic or work environment.

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  • Confederate Symbols, Swastikas and Student Sensibilities

    July 31, 2015

    By Joseph Berger at The New York Times Symbols — their meaning, history and power to hurt — have been a volatile topic across the country this summer, and college campuses have not escaped the storm. The Confederate flag became a target of outrage after the massacre of nine African-Americans at a historic church in Charleston, S.C., and the emergence of photos of the accused gunman waving the flag. Amid calls to remove the symbol from the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, statues of Civil War figures at campuses in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Austin, Tex., were spray-painted with the message […]

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  • Display of Swastika Causes a Row

    May 28, 2015

    By Narayan Lakshman at The Hindu When a ‘Jewish student’ placed a Hindu swastika obtained as a souvenir on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board on March 16, it led to a suspension order and charges, including those relating to disorderly conduct and discrimination, with the possibility of an investigation into ‘hate crimes’. Following a revocation of the suspension order, the student was reinstated this week to full status at the George Washington University (GWU) after an outcry by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). According to FIRE […]

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  • GWU Drops Its Ignorant Attack on Student who Posted Hindu Symbol

    May 28, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix All it took was international condemnation and threats of legal action! George Washington University – the first college in the nation to crack $50,000 in “total cost of attendance” for students – won’t expel a student after all who posted a symbol resembling a Nazi swastika on his house’s bulletin board, which turned out to be a Hindu religious symbol, the Times of India reports. The school made a big stink about the symbol when it was first discovered – President Steven Knapp even opened a hate-crime investigation – yet has made nary a […]

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  • George Washington University Rescinds Suspension Of Jewish Student Who Displayed The Hindu Swastika Symbol

    May 28, 2015

    By Raif Karerat at The American Bazaar WASHINGTON, DC: Following international outcry and the threat of litigation, George Washington University has opted to rescind the suspension it doled out to a student who posted a Hindu swastika on his residence hall’s bulletin board. The Hindu swastika — which is a religious symbol and carries none of the hateful connotations of its Nazi-appropriated counterpart — was displayed on a bulletin board in GWU’s International House residence hall and subsequently mistaken for the Nazis’ World War II-era emblem on March 16. The student, who is a member of the predominantly Jewish fraternity […]

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  • Subjecting Free Speech to the Assassin’s Veto

    May 5, 2015

    By Sonny Bunch at The Washington Post Free speech is under assault around the globe. Consider, for instance, the vow from British Labour leader Ed Miliband to “outlaw” language deemed offensive to Muslims. “We are going to make [Islamophobia] an aggravated crime,” Miliband said. “We will challenge prejudice before it grows, whether in schools, universities or on social media.” Meanwhile, others in the United Kingdom are pushing for anti-Semites on social media to be treated like sex offenders: banned from services such as Twitter and Facebook for the good of all. Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Ed Miliband’s Britain share a disdain […]

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  • GWU Urged to Revoke Jewish Student’s Suspension

    April 30, 2015

    By PTI at India Tribune A prominent student rights’ group, along with the student’s attorneys and the Hindu American Foundation, urged the George Washington University to revoke suspension of the Jewish student for placing a souvenir Hindu swastika obtained on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board. “GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany,” said Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which defends and sustains individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. “It’s ironic that the charges against the […]

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  • GWU Suspends Jewish Student for Hindu Swastika Souvenir, Calls it a ‘Hate Crime’

    April 29, 2015

    By Ashley Dobson at Red Alert Politics Learning outside of class and free expression is apparently frowned upon at George Washington University. GWU has suspended  a Jewish student for placing a souvenir Hindu swastika obtained on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Here’s the back story from FIRE: “On March 16, the student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on a bulletin board at GWU’s International House residence hall. He intended to educate his friends and co-residents about the symbol’s origins, which he learned about during a spring break […]

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  • The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the GWU Swastika Suspension

    April 29, 2015

    By Eugene Volokh at The Washington Post From FIRE; see the post itself for further links: The George Washington University (GWU) has ignored both context and its own promises of free expression by suspending a Jewish student for placing a souvenir Hindu swastika obtained on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with the student’s attorneys and the Hindu American Foundation, are calling on GWU to revoke the suspension. On March 16, the student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on a bulletin board at GWU’s International House […]

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  • Swastikas and Free Speech

    April 29, 2015

    By Richard Vedder at Forbes Magazine Roughly 25 years ago, the chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), Frederic Andre, gave me a short tour of his building right off the Mall in Washington, D.C. I was startled to see that the main wall design in the main lobby consisted of thousands of swastikas. I believe the building predated the Nazi era, and the swastika had not taken on the sinister meaning it later assumed. The ICC was even more antiquated than the building, and within a few years it was abolished, a move Mr. Andre wholeheartedly supported. While the […]

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  • GWU Student Suspended, Investigated for Anti-Jewish Hate Crime. Wait, What?: Is School Not the Right Place to Learn About the Swastika’s Origins?

    April 28, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online In March, George Washington University suspended a Jewish student and charged him with breaking the law, disorderly conduct, and discrimination. Additionally, administrators forwarded his case to D.C. police as a possible “hate crime” investigation, according to theFoundation for Individual Rights in Education. What did this Jewish student do to get himself kicked out of classes and trigger an anti-Jewish hate crime kerfuffle? He tried to start a conversation about the swastika, which actually predates German Nazism and is a symbol of good luck in other cultures. He placed an Indian swastika on a campus […]

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  • George Washington University’s Swastika Problem

    April 26, 2015

    By Kevin D. Williamson at National Review When tyranny arrives on these shores, it isn’t going to start off looking like something out of George Orwell — it’s going to look a lot like college, which is why the sort of people who twice made Barack Obama president of these United States will welcome it. George Washington University (“the Harvard of safety schools,” as alumnus Dan Foster calls it) has a swastika problem. This goes back a ways. In 2007, a Jewish student, Sarah Marshak, reported that her dorm-room door had been defaced with swastikas, and she complained that the […]

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  • Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity, Campus Audience Decides After Hearing Both Sides of the Argument

    February 26, 2015

    By Napp Nazworth at Christian Post WASHINGTON — Before the Intelligence Squared debate held at George Washington University, only one in three audience members said they agreed that liberals are stifling intellectual diversity at colleges and universities, but after hearing both sides of the debate, almost three-fifths of the audience was convinced that liberals are stifling intellectual diversity. The debate, moderated by John Donvan, an author and correspondent for ABC News, will be aired on National Public Radio stations and is available online. For the motion, “liberals are stifling intellectual diversity on campus,” was Greg Lukianoff, president of Foundation for Individual […]

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  • Encouragingly, Both Sides in Debate on Campus Speech End Up Defending Campus Speech

    February 25, 2015

    By Stephanie Slade at Reason.com Anyone feeling disheartened by the many ways our FirstAmendment freedoms are under attack may find solace in the outcome of an event last night hosted by Intelligence Squared at George Washington University. Two teams of two debated whether liberals are stifling intellectual diversity on college campuses—and the side arguing for the proposition won in a landslide. Interestingly, three of the four participants and both debaters arguing the affirmative indentify as liberals. The winning side was represented by Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and Kirsten Powers, one of Fox News’ sacrificial left-of-center […]

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  • GWU punishes victims in anti-Muslim flier flap, group says

    October 11, 2007

    Administrators at a university in Washington, D.C., are “on a rampage” against a conservative student group on its campus over fake anti-Muslim posters even though seven other students have said they were responsible for the fliers, a national organization charged on Wednesday. “It’s obvious to anyone with a moment’s reflection that such fliers were created to fake an incident of hate where none exists, rather than contribute to a robust discussion regarding the threat of radical Islam,” said the conservative Young America’s Foundation (YAF) in a statement on the group’s Web site. The news release stated that the YAF chapter […]

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  • Schools discipline students over Internet content

    February 22, 2006

    Four Syracuse University students punished for trashing their teacher on Facebook.com joined the growing number of students nationally whose school has held them accountable for what they put on the Internet. “Criticism can be considered a matter of free speech. In this particular situation it was the content, and the content was considered as being reviewable as a possible violation of the university code of student conduct,” said Kevin Morrow, speaking for SU. “The language and the phrasing of these Facebook postings were extreme.” Some students use Facebook.com as their personal diary. They post pictures and information such as their […]

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  • Victory: The George Washington University Retreats from Battle with Context

    May 29, 2015

    A Jewish student charged with five disciplinary violations and placed on interim suspension by The George Washington University (GWU) for attempting to start a dialogue about the historical pre-Nazi use of the swastika has been allowed to return to campus and his studies. The reversal comes in the wake of criticism from FIRE, the Hindu American Foundation, and the student’s attorneys. As FIRE detailed in our April 28 press release, the student had recently traveled to India, where he learned about the ancient history of the swastika as a symbol of good fortune and purchased a small bronze replica of […]

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  • George Washington’s Response to Swastika Earns Media Scrutiny

    April 30, 2015

    Earlier this week, FIRE reported on The George Washington University’s (GWU’s) suspension of a Jewish student who displayed a Hindu swastika he brought back with him from a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board. Charging the student with five conduct code violations, the university ignored the swastika’s long tradition as a symbol of good luck. In so doing, GWU ignored its own promises of free expression, as well as FIRE’s March 27 letter arguing that it must rescind its punishment of the student. Many commentators have since written publicly to explain that the mere display of a […]

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  • The George Washington University Tramples Free Speech, Ignores Context in Suspending Student for Indian Swastika Posting

    April 28, 2015

    WASHINGTON, April 28, 2015—The George Washington University (GWU) has ignored both context and its own promises of free expression by suspending a Jewish student for placing a souvenir Hindu swastika obtained on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with the student’s attorneys and the Hindu American Foundation, are calling on GWU to revoke the suspension. On March 16, the student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on a bulletin board at GWU’s International House residence hall. He intended to educate his friends and co-residents about the symbol’s […]

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  • Catch FIRE President Greg Lukianoff in D.C., Chapel Hill, and Berkeley Next Week

    September 19, 2014

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be on the move next week as he travels from campus to campus to promote free speech and First Amendment rights at America’s colleges and universities. On Monday, Greg will be participating in the Fourth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge National Gathering on the campus of George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. He will take part in a panel that will focus on the issue of religious liberties on campus and will be joined by Charles Haynes, the Director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center. The panel will be moderated by […]

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  • Letter to Editor on ‘National Failure of Student Discipline Codes’

    April 1, 2013

    Illustration of Justice Scales – Shutterstock In a powerfully written letter to the editor of The GW Hatchet, a student newspaper at George Washington University, attorney Shanlon Wu calls into question whether students can receive a fair and accurate result from university disciplinary processes. Wu, a litigator with the Washington, D.C., firm Wu, Grohovsky & Whipple, draws upon personal experience representing university students to make a number of salient points. Among them:  Every day, students across the country face discipline code violations that can affect the rest of their lives yet the systems under which they are investigated, charged, tried […]

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  • Student Newspapers at George Washington, Rutgers Take Note of Their Institutions’ Speech Code Ratings

    September 7, 2010

    The student newspapers at George Washington University (GW) and Rutgers University have reported on FIRE’s Spotlight ratings for the speech codes at their respective institutions. A September 2 article in The GW Hatchet, an independent student newspaper at GW, discusses the university’s yellow-light rating in Spotlight. As the article points out, there are three policies that earn GW this rating: a “Disorderly Conduct” policy, a policy on “Demonstrations,” and a policy on “Poster/Flyer Distribution.” With regard to the Disorderly Conduct policy, which in relevant part prohibits “acting in a manner that annoys, disturbs, threatens or harasses others,” the article notes: […]

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  • Common Sense Saves GW Production of ‘Quills’

    February 10, 2009

    Yesterday’s issue of the GW Hatchet, an independent student newspaper at George Washington University, reports a troubling controversy—albeit one that seemingly has come to a proper conclusion. The controversy arose when a new student theater group, called The Company, sought to mount a production of Doug Wright’s play Quills at GW. As Matthew Rist summarizes in the Hatchet: “’Quills’ is an award-winning production set in 18th-century France that tells a fictional story of the last days of aristocrat Marquis de Sade, who was notorious for his pornographic novels and sadomasochism.” In one scene, Quills contains full-frontal nudity, a matter student […]

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  • After ‘DeJohn,’ Time to Revisit Sexual Harassment Policies Nationwide

    September 23, 2008

    George Washington University (GW) law professor John Banzhaf points out that GW’s sexual harassment policy is: very similar to one just found unconstitutional in a very recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The court struck down a very similar policy at Temple University even before it was applied in a specific situation. This follows several similar court decisions which suggest that rules limiting sexually harassing speech in workplaces cannot be applied to student speech in public universities. Although GW is a private university, Banzhaf makes very good points about university sexual harassment policies in […]

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  • George Washington University Badgers Innocent YAF Students

    October 12, 2007

    Randy Hall at the Cybercast News Service has it right: “GWU Punishes Victims.” The “victims” to whom the title alludes are the members of the George Washington University student chapter of Young America’s Foundation (YAF), which was parodied in flyers posted around campus by non-YAF students who have admitted posting the flyers. The clearly satirical flyers read, “HATE MUSLIMS? SO DO WE” and implied that YAF had authorized the flyers (although reading the whole flyer makes it obvious that YAF was not the author). But now a GWU official is badgering YAF, the group says, to draft a statement which […]

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  • Police State U

    October 18, 2005

    Check out “Keeping a Close Watch on Students” on Inside Higher Ed. It tells only the latest story of universities’ encroachment into students’ lives, this time at the University of Rhode Island: About 150 students rallied Monday in protest of university policy changes that will allow students who live off-campus—as a majority do—to be referred to the university judicial system for things that happen outside campus borders. This is not new. I have received reports of universities with ever more invasive polices for years and, as the article notes, “Rhode Island officials noted that most of the university’s peer institutions […]

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  • Rudeness Police

    September 21, 2004

    Beware of GW’s new rudeness police; they may be investigating you. Suppose you’ve left GW for the day and are working at an office in a private building off campus. Suddenly someone you don’t know, and who has no connection to GW, barges in. You tell him to leave, and he does. You go back to work, and figure everything is over. But you’re wrong. Months later you learn this person has filed a complaint against you with the University. As a result, you are requested by a high-level GW administrator to submit to a 30-minute interrogation to determine whether, […]

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  • FIRE Letter to George Washington University

    April 30, 2001

    Dear Professors and Faculty Senators, The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, public intellectuals, and journalists across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, academic freedom, legal equality, free speech, freedom of religion, and, in this case, due process and fundamental fairness on America’s college campuses. Our web page, www.thefire.org, will give you a fuller sense of our identity and activities. The faculty members of an institution of higher learning have a solemn obligation to pass along to the next generation a university at least as free, humane, and decent […]

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  • Faculty Senate Meeting Minutes, April 13, 2001

    April 13, 2001

    GW Faculty Senate Minutes   Attached Files GW Faculty Senate Minutes, April 13, 2005, PDF, 2.2 MB , GW Faculty Senate Minutes

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