SA seeks to break freshman `curse’

Student Association graduate Sen. J.P. Blackford (SEAS) said he hopes the “curse” does not strike this year’s Student Association freshman senators.

That “curse” is the high number of freshman senators who fail to return to the SA Senate after their first year of service.

As chairman of the SA Rules Committee, Blackford oversees the application and selection process of the two freshman senator seats that are made available each fall. The seats are offered to get freshmen involved early in the SA.

But with a near 75-percent drop in applications from last year and a low retention rate among freshman senators, many are wondering why students do not stay involved. Applications last year reached 80, whereas this year the number is in the low 20s as of the Sept. 17 deadline, Blackford said.

“Though we had fewer applications, they were of higher quality,” he said. “The process is not suffering from the lower numbers.”

“We get many people who are interested in making GW a better place, and we have a lot of people who are real up-and-comers politically,” SA Executive Vice President Caity Leu said.

She said students with specific goals in mind usually fare well with the Senate, especially when their ideas are accomplished and they have a sense of ownership. Those who expect immediate results do not continue, she said.

“They need to choose realistic battles,” Leu said. “We generally retain people with an idea of what they specifically want to do. They find that the SA can work.”

Blackford agreed with Leu.

“If they come in expecting sweeping changes, they’ll be disillusioned,” he said. “At GW, change takes years.”

Though freshman senators do not have voting privileges, they do comprise an important voice on the Senate, Leu said.

Prospective senators fill out applications that are distributed in the beginning of the year. If they make the cut, they are offered interviews. After this process, the Rules Committee forwards the applications of six potential senators to the entire Senate, which then listens to presentations from the students. The Senate then chooses two students.

The only change from last year’s application process, Blackford said, is the “paper cut” stage.

“We don’t automatically guarantee an interview as we did in the past,” he said.

One past senator who decided to run again and lost said he is disillusioned with the process.

“No one really pays heed to your opinion,” sophomore Heath Hanson said. “You can play a proactive role, but it’s very difficult.”

Hanson said freshmen still should become involved and try to make a difference.

Freshman Nate Morris applied for one of the spots, but said he is not worried.

“I’ve been discouraged by members of the Student Association about the curse, but in order for change to happen, you have to put yourself out on the line,” Morris said.

Blackford said some students simply become interested in other student groups on campus and decide to discontinue SA service.

“It’s not overly indicative of the (SA),” he said. “It’s important that we keep the freshmen involved, because they’re the future of the Student Association. We could lose a very vibrant group who will lead the SA in years to come.”

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