Each year, the student body struggles with many of the same questions. It’s always the same story. Student organizations need more money. Students want better representation on campus. This year’s Student Association election will be unique because students will directly determine an important SA policy for themselves. The ballot will include one big question: a referendum calling for student representation on the Board of Trustees. The referendum is a special device designed to take the pulse of student body on the most important issues.
Student Representation on the Board of Trustees has become one of the most talked about student issues on campus. Almost every candidate for SA President and Senate has campaigned calling for student membership on the Board of Trustees. Senator Morgan Corr first brought the issue to the forefront through Senate legislation earlier this year. Corr, now running unnopposed for Executive Vice President on the Coalition for Reform ticket, started a student organization to advocate for putting students on the Board. President Trachtenberg and Board of Trustees Chairman Manatt have opposed these efforts, citing student inability to meaningfully contribute to University decision-making. As a student, I happen to think that students are very capable of judging priorities that impact their lives.
The student body would be wise to take the opportunity to vote in this important referendum. Students that can find the time should take a few minutes to support their peers in the effort to increase campus representation. Although I want the referendum to pass, I think it is important for all students to express themselves in such unique campus-wide discussions. By not taking this opportunity to speak for ourselves, students could effectively remove themselves from involvement in important campus-decision making moving forward. Let’s not blow this opportunity.
President Omar Woodard vetoed another important referendum, one that proposed to better fund student organizations. Sadly, the student body will not get the opportunity to make this very important decision for themselves. President Woodard made it for all of us. Although I appreciate Woodard’s service, I think that the SA president should trust students to make decisions for themselves.
Right now, students pay one dollar per credit hour to the Student Association general fund. From this pool, the Senate allocates money to student organizations and to the Executive branch. For almost every single student organization on campus, the SA serves as the exclusive source of funding. Although some organizations are funded adequately, the vast majority of them are not. For many students, extra-curricular activities are a central part of their college experience. When student groups are under-funded, students lose important opportunities to take their education outside the classroom.
Earlier this year, one senator introduced legislation to raise the student fee through a referendum, a bill ultimately passed by the Senate. Unfortunately for students, President Woodard vetoed the bill, calling for the fee increase referendum. Because of President Woodard’s actions, student organizations will not have the opportunity to get the resources that they need in the coming year. Next year, struggling student organizations will most likely continue to struggle.
Students should not be in the business of silencing each other. That is why I am so disappointed with President Woodard’s decision to veto the fee increase referendum. It was wrong for President Woodard to take that opportunity away from the student body. It would be even worse for students to not take the opportunity that we do have. Student representation on the Board of Trustees could be the most important issue that comes up while we are here at GW. We are getting a much-deserved chance to show the GW community that students are ready to speak up. If we don’t take this chance, we are lending credence to the skeptics. Don’t make Trachtenberg right. Support your peers and stand up for yourself. Vote to put students on the Board.
-The writer, a junior majoring in political science, is a Hatchet
This article appeared in the February 28, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.