Staff editorial: New year, new people, same old Student Association garbage

This week could not be worse for Student Association President Audai Shakour.

While Student Judicial Services investigates allegations of sexual impropriety brought against him, some members of the Senate have drafted articles of impeachment outlining various alleged failures of leadership on the part of Shakour.

While the results of the sexual misconduct investigation are a matter for SJS deliberation, Shakour’s alleged misconduct in the SA and the potential impeachment proceedings are another chapter of the continued saga of SA ineptitude. In its current incarnation, the SA is unable to avoid yearly scandals, efficiently fund student groups or provide adequate representation in general for the students it purports to serve.

The SA has proven time and again that it cannot serve the students of GW in a substantial manner. While each year brings its own small successes for the Senate or executive branch, it brings far more failures in terms of broken campaign promises, scandals and divisiveness.

Any hope of the SA getting through a year without any major complications is confounded by the fact that members of the organization take the procedure of government more serious than the act of governing itself.

Even in such a situation, there are some people in the SA who have a genuine desire to serve students. They are hindered, however, by various factors that cause a systemic breakdown in student representation.

The very nature of the organization attracts many students who are keenly interested in playing an elaborate game of dress-up – behaving like real politicians without the mandate or power to effect real change. Often, fabricated “political” divisions – really just squabbles among students with various interests – impede the few students who want to enact programs that are actually beneficial to the student body.

It is true that the SA has accomplished some goals this year. The upcoming Colonial Coach bus service to Dulles Airport should make life easier on the students who choose to use it. There are few other substantial achievements to attribute to the SA this year. There is, however, a long list of failures – including the outcry from student groups over initial allocations and the botched Hurricane Katrina relief fundraiser.

Many in the Senate attribute the lack of progress on many programs this year to Shakour’s lack of leadership, or the absence of initiative in the executive branch. What these student politicians do not realize is that in the mind of the average student, there is no division between the branches of the SA; rather, it is merely one large bureaucracy consistently proving itself incapable of rising above squabbles and internal strife year after year. Students continually see a failing SA which takes their money, poorly allocates it, runs lackluster programs and spends too much time on internal debate.

As a service-based group, the SA could enact substantial benefits for the student body by attacking issues individually. If the Colonial Coach bus service runs as planned, it will serve as a model for future development of the SA as a force on campus to deal with student problems instead of its own petty bickering.

The chances for such a development, however, are slim under the current system. Division between the executive branch and the Senate occurs each year. Mainly, this occurs because some members of the SA are looking to further themselves rather than represent the student body. This leads to a situation in which SA officials are only concerned with working on initiatives to which they can attach their name. Broad-based planning or complex service initiatives lose support because individual credit is diminished when many officials work together.

In its present form, the SA is unable to achieve its mandate. While dialogues persist about impeachment, student-fee raises and a new SA constitution, perhaps it is time to enact more drastic or revolutionary change rather than consistently bandaging a broken system. Students should seriously consider whether they want to continue funding a group that fails in its mission year after year.

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