Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Anthrax, Terrorism Create New Concerns for Interns

INTERNSHIPS Anthrax, Terrorism Create New Concerns for Interns By Kristy Eberbach Special to The Hoya

Graphic by Charles Nailen and Tim Llewellyn/The Hoya Interning on Capital Hill is still a popular job option among Georgetown students.

After anthrax scares and other threats of terrorist activity to Washington’s government buildings, Scott Fleming, head of Georgetown’s Office of Federal Relations, expected students would demand fewer Congressional internships this semester because of safety concerns.

In a meeting last Tuesday, the MBNA Career Center provided information regarding congressional internships. Fleming said he “had some questions whether anyone would show up” to the meeting. However, over 40 students showed up to learn more about interning.

Congressional internships have always played important role in the Georgetown student experience. However, since the attacks of Sept. 11 and the recent anthrax scares, the mundane responsibility of opening mail has become a potential health threat, causing some students to forgo these internships. At the same time, other students have experienced an increased sense of patriotism since the attacks and have moved to participate in our government through these intern opportunities.

This ability to gain insight into politics and current affairs is an opportunity valued by many students. For example, Courtney Barker (SFS ’05) would like to “get a feel for [government] now before I devote my entire education to that purpose.”

Nonetheless, because of the Sept. 11 attacks and anthrax scares, she is not interested in an internship this semester.

“With time I might feel differently but right now it’s scary,” she said.

Many students asked would feel comfortable working on the Hill but are concerned with some of the obligations associated with the job. With the recent anthrax scares, chores as menial as letter-opening have become a potential risk to interns.

Although many have expressed a legitimate concern for their safety as interns, career counselor Meredith Janik said anthrax and terrorism have not been problematic issues for interested students.

“In terms of other things such as safety and security, no one has expressed any of those fears to me,” Janik said.

Janik also said many students are worried that there will be fewer available internship opportunities as a result of the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11.

However, internships continue to be readily available. Although they need to be taken seriously and approached in a professional manner, internships are not necessarily difficult to get.

“You can get an internship by the end of this week,” Janik said.

In fact, approximately 160 offices have responded to a letter University President John J. DeGioia sent to members of Congress in order to ensure the availability of internships.

Many people have said the events of Sept. 11 have motivated them to become involved in the country’s government. Janik said she has seen an increased interest in public service since the attacks. Many of her information sessions have doubled in size and although she said she cannot directly relate this increase in interest to the events of Sept. 11, she said, “There definitely has been a feel that this is the time for public service.”

The parallels between Georgetown and Congress extend further than interest in public service. Fleming said Congress’ response to the anthrax situation corresponds to how quickly Georgetown responded to the terrorist strikes against the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Although there are obvious safety concerns, Congress has taken all necessary steps to protect all members of its community, including interns, Fleming said.

“Capitol Hill is very much like a family. It’s a small place where a lot of people know each other and they watch out for each other, even of different parties, and I think you saw that in how they responded with what’s going on. When you’re an intern, they’re watching out for you. They understand what you’re doing and where you are in your life. There’s a sort of parenting going on there. Not overtly, but there is a protectiveness.”

Fleming recognized that recent events have left both Georgetown students and congressional staff members somewhat concerned. However, Fleming said these fears are “going to be true anywhere this kind of threat exists and where they’ve experienced this risk. It’s just human nature. But you haven’t seen anyone pick up and leave. Just like you don’t see people pick up and leave Georgetown.”

During this time of uncertainty members of Congress and their staff continue to look out for one another. Marc Ligenza (MSB ’05), a Georgetown freshman who is currently interning for Representative Bill Pascrell (D.-N.J.), found himself extemely close to biological attacks on government agencies. Congress has experienced anthrax scares not only on his floor but in two offices on the floor below. Despite these risks, Ligenza says he feels safe and that Congress has taken every precaution to protect all members of its staff.

For example, Ligenza recently attended a briefing where “they decided if you were at risk for anthrax and whether or not you should take antibiotics.” Meanwhile, Ligenza has remained very well informed, speaking to his supervisor twice a week since Congress shut down Oct. 17. He is scheduled to return to work at the end of this week and does not express any concerns for his safety. He said Congress “would never jeopardize your health or your safety in any way, shape or form.”

Since Sept. 11, Georgetown students, especially interns, have been placed in tense situations. In both cases, individuals have been faced with conflicting emotions: a desire to participate in public service and a fear for one’s personal safety. However, this time in history provides Georgetown students an opportunity to actively participate in our government during a time when their influence can be felt, Fleming said.

“Everybody says that America has changed since Sept. 11. Being able to intern . is something that gives you a perspective of what’s going on that most Americans don’t have.”

Related Visit our special Terror Hits Home section

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