GW Part-Time Faculty Stages Protest

About 70 part-time George Washington University faculty members held a rally yesterday at the campus's "Professors Gate" to protest what they said are inadequate wages and benefits.

Chanting "1-2-3-4, GW keeps its teachers poor" and "5-6-7-8, we want justice, we can't wait," the picketers milled around before beginning a series of speeches demanding better treatment from the private university, whose fall semester begins tomorrow.

The Graduate Teaching Assistant-Adjunct Alliance wants to form a union to represent, by its count, about 3,215 part-time instructors, who organizers say teach 40 percent of the university's classes but do not get health insurance or a "living wage."

GW Director of Public Affairs Barbara Porter, who watched the rally, said she did not know how many part-time graduate student employees, teaching assistants and instructors the university has or whether they are offered health insurance. She disputed assertions that the salaries are not fair but added that the university plans to meet with the union organizers this week.

Six Injured When Firetruck, Car Collide

Six people were injured, one critically, when a D.C. firetruck collided with a car yesterday in Southeast Washington, police said.

The firetruck, using emergency flashers and siren, was heading south on Benning Road SE about 9:10 a.m. when it collided with a car going east on H Street SE, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman. The driver of the car, Latonya Williams, 22, of Richmond, was listed in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center, Gentile said.

A woman who was a passenger was in stable condition at D.C. General Hospital. Another woman and a 6-year-old girl were treated at D.C. General and released. Two firefighters were treated at hospitals and released.

The firetruck went back into service after the accident, authorities said. The call to which it was responding--a gas leak--was believed to be minor.


Pedestrian Killed in Charles County

A pedestrian walking on the shoulder of Route 488 in Charles County was struck and killed Friday night by a car whose driver tried to pass another vehicle, state police said.

Dewayne Banks Severson, 41, of Bryantown, was walking west on the eastbound shoulder of Route 488 near Brice Chapel Road about 9:22 p.m. when he was struck by a 1980 Datsun driven by Joseph Calvin Robinson, 33, of White Plains, according to police. Robinson had veered onto the shoulder to pass another car that was turning left onto Brice Chapel Road.

Aged Dynamite Destroyed in Germantown

Explosives experts safely destroyed 35 sticks of aged dynamite discovered on a farm on the 13900 block of Schaeffer Road in Germantown yesterday, said Dan Gilman, a Montgomery County fire department spokesman.

The dynamite was found by a woman inside a farm building that had been used by her deceased father, a professional explosives expert, according to Gilman. The woman called authorities when she found a box labeled "high explosives."

Because of its age, the dynamite was unusually sensitive and therefore dangerous, Gilman said. County fire and explosives investigators soaked it three times in acetone to stabilize it, then transported it a mile away to a construction site and set it on fire. The fire consumed the dynamite without an explosion.

No nearby residents were ever in danger, Gilman said.

Appeals Court Upholds School Holidays

A federal appeals court in Richmond has upheld a 1997 ruling that Montgomery County may declare school holidays on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Judith Koenick, then a teacher in the county, had sued the school board, charging that the holidays unconstitutionally sanctioned Christianity while she had to use personal leave on Passover.

But a panel of judges from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday sided with a lower court that found the days around Easter were given off for largely secular and logistical reasons.

"The [school] board's desire to economize scarce educational resources that are wasted when classes are held on days with a high rate of absenteeism provides a plausible secular purpose for closing school for a four-day holiday around Easter," the panel ruled.

Montgomery County also schedules days off on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


Agency for Disabled Won't Lose Funding

The federal government rejected a request by advocacy groups to revoke funding for the Virginia agency responsible for protecting the rights of the disabled, telling the groups they should work cooperatively with the agency.

A coalition of advocacy groups, including the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, asked U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala on July 26 to pull funding for the state Department for Rights of Virginians With Disabilities because, they said, the department has failed to do its job.

The department receives most of its funding from the federal government. HHS said that it has concerns but that the state agency had complied with requirements to improve services.

Plan for Rappahannock Cleanup Proceeds

The final version of a plan to clean up the Rappahannock River should be ready in October, state officials say. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will accept comments on the plan until Sept. 30.

If adopted, the voluntary plan would decrease pollution from wastewater treatment plants. It also would encourage homeowners to reduce runoff from their land and would provide farmers with funds to set up animal-waste facilities, buffers along the river and equipment to help them decrease contaminants put into the river.


"Some of the marinas don't want a work boat tied up next to a $450,000 yacht. You got a guy down from Washington on the weekend sleeping in his boat, the last thing he wants to hear is a Caterpillar diesel start up next to him at 4 in the morning."

--Calvert County waterman Kenny Keen, on the difficulties facing Southern Maryland watermen.