Senior Omar Woodard said he hopes to reform the class wait list system, begin a residence hall renewal project and develop an online syllabi file during his one-year term as Student Association president.
A past president of the Black Student Union, former Colonial Inauguration leader and SA senator, Woodard, a Philadelphia native, began his term in May following his win in the SA election two months earlier.
As president, Woodard heads the SA, which consists of his cabinet and the Senate.
Woodard’s cabinet is a group of about 20 students that advise the president on many aspects of University life, such as academics, community relations and Greek-letter group affairs. The senate, which is headed by the executive vice president, junior Anyah Dembling, is a 22-member body comprised of students representing all undergraduate and graduate schools. Just as in the federal government, if the SA Senate approves a resolution, it then goes to the president for his signature.
Students elected both the new president and Senate in a March contest that saw Woodard trounce his opponent by a 2-to-1 margin.
Reforming the class wait list system is at the top of the presidential to-do list, Woodard said.
“We need to institute some procedures that everyone knows about,” he told The Hatchet in a May interview. “Classes need to go to seniors so they can graduate.”
Woodard said such a system would cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 to put into place, not including the cost of maintenance.
Although it carries a sizable price tag, Woodard is optimistic that he can enact the system and said he hopes to have it in place in time for spring registration. But even if Woodard pushes his wait list proposal through the Senate, GW administrators would still have final say over whether to adopt the system.
Woodard said his system will allow students to register for classes based on seniority rather than registration time. Currently, some freshmen and sophomores with extra credits can register at the same time as or before upperclassmen.
Woodard said he also hopes to institute a residence hall renewal project during his term.
The new president has plenty of experience dealing with residence hall-related problems, having worked as a property management assistant for three years. While newly minted dorms such as New Hall and 1957 E Street have been built in the last decade, others, such as Strong and Thurston halls, are more than 60 years old.
“I’m very familiar with what students are complaining about on a regular basis,” Woodard said.
Woodard said he would like to see the University respond to student complaints with the same level of efficiency as the outside firms managing and maintaining the Aston and City Hall dormitories. He said the third-party firms are “sometimes … a bit more responsive.”
Woodard said he plans to begin the dorm renewal process by meeting with students and administrators involved with property management.
“We need to identify what our trouble spots are and see if there’s anything we can do about it,” Woodard said.
Woodard said he is frustrated with the University’s concentration on construction rather than the maintenance of existing dorms. GW’s newest residence hall, the Ivory Tower, will open to students in August. Officials are also trying to secure city approval for a 10-story dorm they want to construct in the parking lot adjacent to Francis Scott Key Hall.
“Lets take care of what we have,” Woodard said.
Renovation of the Student Association Web site is also on Woodard’s agenda for the upcoming year. He said he is not pleased with the existing SA Web site, located at http://sa.gwu.edu.
“I hate it, it’s disgusting,” Woodard said.
Currently, students have access to a test file at the SA office, which gives them a chance to look at old midterms and tests from various classes.
Woodard hopes to update the system by giving students access to such a file online. He said he also hopes to add a syllabi file, where students can get an idea of class workloads before they register.
Although students seem to be emphatically in favor of Woodard’s plan to update the site, some professors are just as “adamantly opposed” to it, Woodard said.
Woodard said many professors are reluctant to allow students access to their past tests.
None of the reforms planned this year will be possible without an examination of current funds, Woodard said.
“Fundraising is going to be an important part of the SA this year,” Woodard said.
The majority of the SA’s budget goes toward support for student groups. Woodard hopes to encourage student groups to raise funds for themselves so the SA can put money toward projects intended for all undergraduates.
Along with funding for student organizations, Woodard hopes to cut down on operational costs of the SA.
“The SA cannot be spending money on things we have in the past,” Woodard said. He cited food for SA meetings as an example of misspent funds. “We can cut down at least 10 percent on operational costs this year,” he said.
Such “operational inefficiency” and problems with communication pushed Woodard to run for a position in the Black Student Union instead of the SA last school year.
After a year off, however, Woodard said he once again has something to contribute to the student body.
“We’re not going to be a big-daddy organization,” Woodard said. “We’re going to be a body that enables students to do better.”