As a parent, I know the soul-searching that goes into finding the "right college" for our children, one that can help shape their opinions and stimulate their minds. In today's climate of violence and intolerance, the "right college" also means one that works to protect our children from physical harm as well as the psychological damage that can result from bigotry.
Therefore when George Washington University's student newspaper, the Hatchet, published an account of a rape on campus by two black men that turned out to be a cruel fabrication, my sensibilities were assaulted -- as a parent and as president of GW.
At GW we work hard -- in cooperation with the D.C. police and, when appropriate, with personnel from adjacent institutions like the White House and the State Department -- to try to protect those who live, work and study on campus. This hoax has hurt many people and reminds us that no security system can protect us from individual dishonesty or bigotry.
I want to assure parents who may now be wondering about their children's safety that GW will continue to do all it can to protect its students. Our campus has a security force of 120 people, and they patrol the campus streets and buildings 24 hours a day on foot and by car. Most members of our force have police or security backgrounds, and all must obtain full police-commission powers.
We provide escort services on request any time, day or night. In emergencies, security officers can make it from one end of the campus to the next in about three minutes. In the only assault with intent to rape reported in an academic building in recent history, our security force responded to the victim's report within minutes and apprehended the suspect on the street a few blocks away.
For 20 years GW has supported a diverse racial and ethnic population with multicultural student services. With such diversity we know will come the occasional misunderstanding or even intolerance. Yet we are working to bridge the gap.
Mentoring programs sponsored by students, faculty and area professionals include the Buddy Program, the African-American Male Support Group and the Professional Mentors Program. Counselors, tutors and advisers are available to assist students. Multicultural student organizations, such as the Black People's Union, the Vietnamese Student Association and the Movimiento Legal Latino, provide opportunities for student leadership, expression and cultural unity.
Perhaps Dr. Frederick Green, a GW emeritus professor of child health and development, best expressed GW's vision of education. "Take advantage of the opportunities that may not come your way again," he said. "Don't sequester yourself away and limit your contacts with only people who are like you or with people with whom you are comfortable -- that's not the point of education. Take advantage of these opportunities to meet and know people of other races and cultures."
George Washington University will continue to do all it can to keep this focus, which Green articulated, upon the opportunities in diversity. -- Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president of George Washington University and a professor of public administration.