This spring Ed Meinert asked me to help him in his bid for Student Association president. I knew Ed through participation in a student group, so I decided to join the campaign. Little did I know what I would be exposed to in an SA presidential campaign.
In my three years at GW, I have made a conscious effort to avoid participation in the SA. The desire to remain aloof of SA politics stems from an experience my freshman year when I attended one Senate meeting and was absolutely repulsed by the pettiness and bickering I witnessed. The meeting was a complete waste of time and served to turn me off to the SA, rather than get me involved.
The campaign I joined began with forums where candidates gave speeches and supposedly met the public. I say “supposedly” because the only people who attended these events were SA insiders whose support for one candidate or another was well known and predetermined. Regular students did not attend those events to meet the candidates and see who deserved their vote.
The SA hacks at the campaign events made me realize why there is such apathy and negative attitudes toward the SA on our campus and reinforced my distaste for the organization. These people were consumed with the election. They were locked up in their own little world and completely out of touch with the concerns of the typical GW student.
As time passed I began to wonder – do they have families, significant others, jobs, internships, classes and the scores of things that define students and are more important than the SA?
It seems to me that GW students cannot be adequately represented by people who are more consumed with politics than student life. Most students here are not power-hungry wannabe politicians. Our representatives are not representative of our interests. This represents a fundamental flaw in the SA. We need leaders who engage in all that GW has to offer and participate in the SA on the side.
We are students, not student politicians. After all, it is only the SA – an apparent fact lost on the permanent residents of the fourth floor of the Marvin Center.
It is a shame that the candidates who realized the election should be a low priority fared so poorly in the election. The SA desperately needs leaders with enough perspective to realize that a student government election is not a life-or-death matter.
At the campaign events, I also noticed that the SA hacks were either bitter, whiny or both. What are they so upset about? After reading the pages of The GW Hatchet, it is clear that the SA has no respect on our campus. Perhaps this is a result of their two biggest accomplishments this past year – giving out pennies on a street corner, and attempting to organize a rally against the lowest tuition increase in 11 years.
Look at the presidents and executive boards of the student groups at our school. The overwhelming majority of these campus leaders are positive, upbeat people. I can say from firsthand experience that this is not the case in the Student Association.
The most insulting part of the campaign had to be the palm carding that took place on the election days. Presidential candidate Paul Prados was correct when he said palm carding was part of the SA’s harassment of students.
I find it interesting that after a year of isolating themselves on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center, the SA politicos suddenly want to talk to GW students and bribe them with candy and soda for two days every March. They insult the intelligence of the student body with these antics.
If they were really interested in getting in touch with students and sincere about making a difference, SA leaders would participate in student groups on this campus other than the SA. They choose not to and then patronize us with their phony “outreach” during campaign season.
During the course of the campaign, I learned some facts about the SA that should concern every student.
Despite a mission statement that says, “we will become a financially responsible organization by ensuring all financial decisions directly benefit students,” the SA is adept at finding ways to waste your tuition dollars. They spent thousands on specially designed post-it notes imprinted with the SA logo.
Not only does their office have a photocopier, but it also has a duplicator that costs thousands of dollars each year but goes unused.
The computers in the office have high-speed processors more advanced than any of the 386s or 486s I have used in the residence hall computer labs. Instead of helping you get good computers for your lab, the SA hooked itself up.
In the final analysis, it is obvious that the SA has not changed since that Senate meeting I attended years ago. Maybe it should just be dissolved. The organization has been a disgrace this past year – how could we possibly be any worse off without it?
-The writer is a junior majoring in political communication.