I believe it is time for students to stand up together to make GW a better place. Right now, hard-working but detached administrators are making decisions about our lives. No matter what their intentions may be, there is no way for these far-removed individuals to know what students want and need. For students to get the most out of our University, we need to speak with a united voice.
Students are individually voicing concerns about GW all the time: concerns about their residence hall, concerns about the food venues at J Street, concerns about the difficult process of registering for classes and concerns about the high cost of living for students. There is a lot to make better if we can stand up together. Forty thousand dollars a year is a lot of money to be sitting on the floors of lecture halls. Real progress on these important student issues has not been made because the student body has not spoken with a strong and clear voice. Students are not standing up together.
One of the issues I have been most concerned about is that GW policy regulates your behavior on and off campus, during the academic year and during breaks. I have friends that have been sanctioned because pictures of them were found by Student Judicial Services on Web sites like greekyearbook.com. Right now, the rules allow University jurisdiction over students while we are on vacation or even while studying abroad. After being notified of your alleged infraction, you are thrown into a process that is both confusing and unfair. You are not told your rights because you do not have any. Administrators get to decide what happens to you, because every disciplinary guideline and procedure is optional. We can fix the disciplinary system if we stand up together.
The Board of Trustees writes our Guide to Student “Rights” and Responsibilities. This document governs all aspects of student conduct and punishment. It has been hard, as a Student Association senator, to fix this document when the Board is so unwilling to hear student input. The Chairman of the Student Affairs Committee has barred senators from attending their meetings. The full Board only gives the SA President two minutes at each of their four meetings to give a quick report, which leaves the entire student body – 20,000 strong – with a whopping grand total of eight minutes to discuss all the student issues for the entire year. We can demand more if we stand up together.
We need student leaders that can bring us together and stand up for us. Imagine if we had a student leader who did not request thousands of dollars for themselves in order to turn around and spend it on their own food. Imagine if instead that money went to create an online student center, where students could swap textbooks, post campus events, and create message boards. Imagine if it went to chartering a shuttle service between campus and airports during breaks. What if we had a student leader who did not spend tens of thousands of dollars on their own office? These funds should go to the hundreds of student organizations that really need the money. While the SA President spends thousands of dollars on his transition banquet, student organizations are struggling to hold events. It is wrong that student leaders are doing that to their peers. We really need to stop screwing ourselves. We expect our administrators to build a great University, but they move on without our input because we have not spoken with unity. The Student Association needs leadership that is capable of making progress. Progress is going to take a united student body, strong leadership and a student government with integrity. We need leaders that offer students pragmatic solutions and services, not concessions. We need leaders that care more about student services than themselves. With a functional Student Association, students will be empowered to fix their own problems. An empowered and united student body will ensure that today’s students take their rightful place as GW’s top priority.
-The writer, a junior majoring in political communication, is a Student Association senator and candidate for SA President.