Now that elections are over it is time for someone to step up and defend our Student Association against the misperceptions and accusations leveled by many candidates and The Hatchet. While criticism is a key element of representative government, it must be backed up by facts rather than innuendo.
The Hatchet has frankly done a terrible job of reporting on the SA this year. As the only regularly published student newspaper, it must do more to let students know what their elected leaders are doing. Unfortunately, The Hatchet seems to take this obligation seriously only when it sees it as an excuse to scandalmonger and denigrate the hard work that student leaders undertake. Then The Hatchet turns around and hypocritically editorializes that the SA’s reputation has been tarnished by one thing or another, but if the editorial board wants to find fault for that it ought to look in the nearest mirror.
Generally speaking, the SA Senate meets every other Tuesday at 9 p.m., and contrary to the impression you might get from reading The Hatchet or listening to those candidates who ran bragging about their lack of connection to the SA, they are open for all students to attend. There are even public comment periods built into our agenda for students to express their concerns directly to the body. Closed sessions are very rarely used, and then to discuss personnel issues. I find this a very appropriate means of conducting business so senators may speak freely on the merits. Personnel matters are also the only times that we use secret ballots so that the politics of personalities will not overshadow merits of legislation later on.
It is very frustrating as a senator to see our meetings so shoddily reported on in The Hatchet. There is generally just a small blurb on page two of the edition immediately following the meeting, and it does not even cover all the important points of the meeting. The Hatchet has even omitted reporting on the appointment of new senators, but how can we even pretend to have representative government when the only student newspaper will not so much as publish names of officials? Other legislation and presidential action, which potentially have a direct impact on students, is also neglected by Hatchet reporting. The only times there are full-length stories excluding the spring campaign are when the allocation bills are passed or if the SA can be made to look bad.
Speaking of elections, Hatchet coverage could use some improvement there as well, although there was plenty of it. My complaint here is mostly about the editorials, which were fine as long as they were positive endorsements, but the treatment of those not endorsed made me cringe a bit. The Hatchet wrote off some of the more experienced candidates as merely “establishment,” as if they were not also students working on behalf of students. This year’s Senate was very active, and legislation was followed through. President Kris Hart has been by far more active than any president who served while I was an undergraduate. We have also begun to take action ourselves regarding issues that have come up regarding finances and keeping in touch with constituents.
Finally, I appeal to all of my fellow students to get involved. Your Student Association needs your help. With the recent elections, the Senate has staff positions to fill and the president-elect has several cabinet and sub-cabinet appointments to make. Graduate students, chances are very good that your seat on the Senate remains vacant, as only the Medical School had candidates on the recent ballot and there were not many write-in candidates. So once the Senate-elect is organized, we need you to serve as well. Anyone can check the Web site at http://sa.gwu.edu for the latest information about the SA, and there are always ways to help out. You will find that the SA is in fact run by regular students who care about a wide range of issues concerning this University.
I hope The Hatchet will resolve in the next SA year to cover the SA thoroughly, to get all sides of the story, and to give fellow students the benefit of the doubt.
-The writer, a graduate student, is a Student Association senator.