SA’s new mission: Student advocacy

Eight months ago, I was elected executive vice president of the GW Student Association. I wanted to serve the students, and I wanted to serve the students as executive vice president.

However, one of the duties of the executive vice president is to become president if the president is unable to fulfill his or her duties or is removed from office. Early last Wednesday, the Senate voted to remove Phil Meisner as president, and I accepted the position of SA president.

Let’s be honest for a moment. The SA has been caught up in internal politics for the past several months. To some degree, political acts are a necessary evil, one of the tools exercised in a democracy to ensure that things get done properly. But sometimes it gets out of control. I do not believe that the Senate acted in a political manner when removing President Meisner, but I do believe that the entire circus that erupted surrounding the removal hearing was overly political.

My goal now is to attempt to restore some measure of stability to the SA and return it to its primary mission of student advocacy. I do not believe that any student has an objection to the SA if it is truly focused on working for the students. During the past several days, I have spoken to numerous senators and members of my executive branch, and I believe we have all refocused our attentions on student advocacy.

To that end, one of the first actions I took as president was ramping up a new and improved Student Advocacy Service. One of the things that has always bothered me is that the SA has never gone out of its way to ask the students, on a widespread scale, how we can help them. Individual senators and members of the executive branch have done a wonderful job of reaching out to certain groups of their constituents or certain student leaders, but we haven’t approached the campus as a whole. That’s the point of the new Student Advocacy Service – to begin to address, as a campuswide initiative, the problems and suggestions of the entire campus.

The premise of the Student Advocacy Service is simple. If you have any problem at GW, or have any suggestions on what we can help to fix, contact us. We have set up a special hotline at 4-8111 and a special e-mail address at sahelp@gwu.edu. If you call or send in an e-mail, we will contact you within one class day and immediately begin working on your problem. Any suggestions you send in will be forwarded to your senators and to appropriate members of the executive branch.

The Student Advocacy Service illustrates my vision for a new SA. I believe that students need the SA to effectively focus their advocacy, but, at its heart, that advocacy must come from the students themselves. Neither the students nor the SA can truly be effective without the support of the other. If we work together, students telling the SA what they need, and the Student Association truly working to focus that energy into student advocacy, we can change GW.

There are numerous other initiatives I am planning in my short term as Student Association president. I plan on wrapping up an initiative to increase University funding to student organizations. I want to improve communication between the SA and the GW community through more frequent reports to the student body and through a revised SA web page that will maintain up-to-date records of all the student advocacy issues that the SA is working on for the students.

However, to succeed in all these initiatives in such a short time, I need help. I realize that many people are wary of getting involved in an organization that has so recently been in so much turmoil. Ironically, this is the point at which we need help the most. Fortunately, I have already been approached by scores of students telling me that they want to put in a few months to rebuild the SA and really work on behalf of students. I appreciate that sort of commitment, and I hope that there are more people out there that want to turn this difficult transition into an opportunity to really effect positive change. If you are interested in getting involved, please drop me an e-mail at gwusa@gwu.edu.Thank you for your support in this difficult transition. Let’s get to work for the students.

-The writer is SA president.

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