After a year of scandal, gossip and fighting within the Student Association, SA president Kris Hart said he has his work cut out for him if he wants to be taken seriously.
Following last year’s scandals involving the SA inappropriately spending its funds, the SA lost some credibility from the administration, Hart said, but he is working to correct this.
“At first it was really difficult to get a hold of the administration…they wouldn’t always call me back,” Hart said, adding that administrators return his calls within a few hours now.
Hart said after his first meeting with Board of Trustees he put a “follow-up” letter into the mailbox of every trustee, inviting each to keep the gates of communication open between decision maker and student. No SA president had ever done this before, he said.
While last year SA members discussed forming an ethics committee to correct last year’s political pettiness, Hart said this is not necessary.
“The problems that this SA has experienced happens everywhere…it is not isolated to GW,” Hart said.
Hart said he has not put his time into an ethics committee because when there is already a heavier focus on ethics in the SA after last year. He also said he does not think a majority of students want an ethics committee installed, but the SA would be willing to form one if students want it.
“I don’t want to focus on internal reform, I’d rather focus on external reform,” Hart said.
Hart said he plans to improve the SA’s image by using thoughtful initiatives and hard work.
Over the summer, Hart and fellow SA members created several new initiatives to restore SA legitimacy.
“(We want to) develop creditability within the SA, promote campus community and generally help students,” Hart said.
Among the first of the SA’s initiatives is Askgeorge@gwu.edu, a new e-mail account used for students to send questions and concerns, and receive answers within two business days. Hart said students have already started to use it and been impressed with it’s effectiveness compared with the old “hotline” system previously used by the SA.
Another initiative, “The Dummies Guide to Student Rights,” compiles all the fine print of University regulations into a short, concise and free handbook, distributed in the SA office and in residence halls. The book explains University Police, Student Judicial Services and 4-RIDE procedures, along with bulleted versions of GW’s alcohol and drug rules and a reference list of important contacts.
“(The book will) help all students stay out of trouble and stay in control of their rights,” Hart said.
The SA’s “The Foggy Bottom Entertainment Guide,” a coupon book, can be purchased in the SA office on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center for $10. The book provides more than $300 worth of savings at local businesses. The SA plans to raise an estimated $20,000 towards student activities this year.
The funding to create the booklet was provided by the businesses themselves; they paid the SA to become part of the coupon booklet in order to promote interest in their businesses, Hart said.
The SA is also working on a “Dean’s Cup” initiative for graduate students, who are also represented by the student government. This initiative will be a competition between graduate schools in which they will work with their respective school in events such as sports and community service, ultimately competing for the “Dean’s Cup.” Hart said this is designed to create community, networking opportunities and social events for grad students to attend.
Hart said the SA’s initiatives will improve its integrity by avoiding political pettiness.
“We want to show we work hard and are trustworthy with our actions, not words,” he said.