Last year, the Joint Committee of Faculty and Students, comprised of SA officials and professors, set out to reward student leaders with seven $1,000 scholarships. Unfortunately, due to poor advertising and general committee apathy, five out of seven of these awards were distributed to well-known SA functionaries. And while the accomplishments of each of these individuals potentially merits such an award, the procedure through which they were granted reeks of impropriety.
Student and Academic Support Services gave $7,000 to the JCFS to doll out scholarships to deserving students. After a haphazard and half-hearted publicity campaign, only between 10 and 15 complete applications were received for consideration. The 12-person committee barely discussed the applications – sources said at most three members decided on the scholarship recipients. Students appointed by the SA should not be empowered to turn around and give those that appointed them thousands of dollars in scholarships.
This, however, does not necessarily mean that students in the SA are undeserving of merit-based scholarships. Instead, the University should look into administering these or similar scholarships through the Student Activities Center or SASS, its parent. Doing so will ensure the integrity of the process while simultaneously enabling all qualified students – regardless of their participation in student government – to receive the award.
Given that there is not much that can be done retrospectively, the SA, JCFS and SASS should focus on improving the scholarship process for the coming year. First, the JCFS needs to undergo substantial reform. By most accounts, many of the faculty members and students shirked their responsibilities – often resulting in below 50 percent attendance at many JCFS meetings. Hopefully this year’s members on both sides will take their responsibilities more seriously. If not, students should demand an alternative institution through which to achieve cooperation between students and faculty on key University matters.
While this page directs significant criticism at the committee and the SA itself, there is more than enough blame to spread around. SASS did an abysmal job overseeing the scholarship process. One thousand dollars is no pittance; it simply defies logic that SASS opted not to take a more active role in ensuring that their money was being distributed fairly. Defying even more logic, SASS pledged to significantly increase the funds available for JCFS scholarships this year.
The scholarships must be publicized more effectively this year. Despite assertions to the contrary, the scholarship opportunity was poorly communicated. The JCFS should use popular student portals such as MyGW and GWired, along with widely distributed listserves such as Class Council’s, in an attempt to better spread the word. There is no doubt that given how much students pay to attend this University, more students would be interested in a $1,000 scholarship.
This ineptitude in dealing with money only provides SA critics with more evidence to support the claim that the SA and its affiliates are incapable of handling an increase in funding. In such a situation, only students and student groups suffer. Hopefully President Omar Woodard and his administration will prove capable of assuaging student fears in time for the next SA referendum on a fee increase.
Scholarship funding available through student government should not be earmarked solely for those students in “the know.” This latest faux pas underscores yet again the little boys’ club mentality many students associate with the SA. Leaders in student government must realize that whether or not there was actual impropriety in this specific case is largely irrelevant. More important is the perception of shady dealings. So long as this perception is widely held, the Student Association will continue to have a credibility problem with students.