Members of our Student Association are dropping seven large on expensive meals? Harrumph. While it would be easy simply to ridicule these hungry, hungry, hippos, it is more useful to discuss how the SA can move beyond these foodgate scandals to gain respect from GW students.
Though $7,000 sounds like a lot of money, it must be kept in mind the SA budget for the year is $471,000. The seven grand makes up less than one and a half percent of SA expenditures. I don’t suppose this fact would have helped SA members in trying to defend their expensive palates. No matter what portion of student money went to excessively fancy meals, these expenditures are difficult to defend. Not that they didn’t try to defend them. The reasoning behind such expenditures was that these meals allow for SA members to discuss business and get to know each other. You would think it would be hard to communicate with all the expensive food in their mouths.
Beyond its ability to dole out funds to student groups, the SA plays – at best – an advisory role to the GW administration. No matter how strongly worded an SA resolution is, our administration isn’t bound to comply with its wishes. Presumably, a proclamation released by any other student group, say the fencing club or RECESS would put the same pressure on the administration to take action.
Since these senators are elected by enough of their friends, acquaintances, frat brothers, people who they lived next to freshman year, etc., – or the tens of people like me dorky enough to vote – shouldn’t we expect the SA to make a tangible impact on the campus? I’ll admit this view of the SA is cynical, but one that I wouldn’t be surprised to find widely held here in Foggy Bottom. The lack of respect paid to the SA isn’t totally the fault of those who are elected. As savvy college students we realize the decisions of the SA don’t go far in affecting our college life. Therefore, most of us don’t care about what they do or don’t do. The important decisions are made by administrators who work for GW, most likely made before we even thought about coming to GW. Whether or not the University admits more students, builds more buildings or acquires more land is not going to be decided by the SA. These all have long-term consequences and play a greater role in the lives of Colonials than whether or not the final exam schedule is released early enough.
Quite obviously the University is never going to grant to the SA a share in this type of the decision-making. This does not mean the SA must always be relegated to a marginal role on campus. What our SA so dearly needs is a “Swan”-style makeover. The first item of business is to stop the expensive dining. There is nothing wrong with having a meeting over pizza. You don’t have to get dressed up and the boxes are easy to throw away.
Senators would also help their standing by using the Hatchet editorial page for more than verbal food fighting. Yes, wasting student money is bad, but so is blowing a scandal out of proportion for political gain. This gives off the appearance the SA is really more a place for political infighting between power cliques than about the benefit of fellow students.
The SA needs to overcome its image as an organization that serves those who serve on it. I don’t know how valid this charge is, but throwing a $5,000 dinner with student cash congratulating yourselves on a peaceful transition of power doesn’t do much to disprove it. If you decide to have a transition dinner next year, at least make a doggy bag for the rest of us.
The SA needs to focus not on what it could do for itself, but what it can do for us. One of the things it already does that it needs to promote more is its test/syllabi file. This is useful service provided by the SA, giving students a chance to see what they are up against on a future test. Providing more services like this to students will go a long way in improving the SA’s image. True, this may not be the kind of thing to go and celebrate about with an expensive dinner, but that’s what started this problem in the first place.
-The writer, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet columnist.