Charging that Student Association senators are out of touch with the student body, students formed the GWUnited coalition to run candidates in the upcoming SA elections on a platform that aims to reform the way the SA operates.
The GWUnited coalition members said they drew support from about 20 student groups, mostly cultural organizations, and students who think the SA and other student governing bodies such as the Program Board can do a better job representing students’ interests.
“If students at this school knew what the SA could really do they would be excited and would get more involved,” said sophomore Raj Parech, chief of staff for SA President Dave Burt. Parech is running for an undergraduate at-large Senate seat.
The coalition’s platform includes three main tenets: to appropriate student group funds more evenly, increase communication between student groups and representatives and create legislation that accurately reflects what students want, Parech said.
“We want to make sure senators are accountable not just to groups they represent, but to all students,” Parech said. “Right now if you ask the average student they can’t name their senator. We want to increase communication between students and their senators.”
Members said the group plans to run at least one candidate for every undergraduate and graduate SA seat.
If elected, GWUnited members said they plan to attend meetings of every student group to make sure all groups are represented in funding and legislation.
“I’m a member of Students for a Free Tibet and the GW Action Coalition and we get very little funding from the SA,” said Bernard Pollack, a sophomore running for executive vice chair of the Program Board. “We put on a lot of programming and we feel neglected.”
Some SA members said they question the feasibility of the coalition’s plan.
“In my four years I’ve tried to (go to meetings for every student group), but it would be hard to go to about 300 meetings in eight months and go to class and not fail out of school,” said Cathy Resler, executive vice president of the SA.
There are over 270 registered student organizations on campus, according to the GW admissions office’s Web site.
“We’re running because we have time to do this, not to put it on a resume,” Parech said.
GWUnited began holding weekly informational meetings in January to allow student groups to voice their opinion on the current SA operation.
Students leading the coalition said support for their platform continues to grow.
“The support has been larger than we could have imagined,” Pollack said.
Coalition members said they do not expect to reach all their goals in the next year, but will continue to work to gain ground.
“This is a long-term project,” Parech said
Student group members expressed mixed reactions to coalition.
“I think student organizations tend to represent students’ views, so I think what they are trying to do is good,” said Leo Kim, a member of Korean Student Association. “It could make a closer connection between the student community and the entire GW community.”
“I just feel like the same group of people hold positions (in the SA),” said Hilary Fineman, a junior who works for The Cherry Tree. “It’s those people that the administration knows more and is willing to help. (The coalition members) will be competing with those people who everyone (in the administration) knows.”
GWUnited members said they are not concerned that current SA members would be offended by their platform and unwilling to work with them.
“We’re not running a negative platform,” Pollack said. “We see things that can be different and we want to work towards that.”
Resler said student groups becoming more involved in the election process through GWUnited will be beneficial to the SA.
“It’s great that different members of student groups are running,” Resler said. “They’ll be the ones making the decisions then.”
Some students said the SA does not need reform.
“I don’t think the SA is doing that bad of a job,” freshman Angela Soler said. “I think it is getting to every student. I’m always getting e-mails from them.”