Students running to be the top leader of the Student Association are voicing complaints about a plan to replace the SA Senate with a new body.
All five SA presidential hopefuls have objections to the plan, which could dramatically change the structure of GW’s student government.
Two weeks ago SA Sen. Elliot Gillerman (ESIA-U), a sophomore, and junior Caitlin Bevin Doherty announced their goal to organize a new body made of student organization leaders by the end of the semester. A similar plan was proposed in a November editorial by Hatchet senior editor Will Dempster, a senior.
Since the announcement, Doherty and Gillerman have begun to solicit support; they have sent e-mails to student organization presidents, and last week, Doherty and Gillerman invited students to an informational meeting in the Marvin Center.
While Gillerman said the sessions have been positive, students running for SA president said they do not see some of the advantages of the Doherty-Gillerman approach to restructuring the SA.
“It’s blatantly obvious that it doesn’t help students to eliminate their only unified voice to the administration,” said SA Executive Vice President and presidential candidate Morgan Corr, a junior. “The student government here was dissolved once, and it was quickly regretted.”
In 1970 GW students voted to disband the SA in an attempt to install a new student government, but in 1976 the GW Board of Trustees re-chartered the organization.
All five presidential candidates have told The Hatchet they believe there are structural issues within the SA that need to be resolved, but they believe that those issues can be addressed within the framework of the current system.
“I think there are parts of (the SA Senate) that work,” said sophomore Casey Pond, presidential candidate and the current SA executive vice president for public affairs. “The senators do want to help students.”
Contrary to the other candidates, Pond and Corr have made reformation of the SA Senate a primary element in each of their respective campaigns.
Pond developed a proposal similar to the Doherty-Gillerman plan, which he has released on his campaign Web site, he said.
Pond’s plan is to work within the SA to create a second student government body comprised of representatives from various student organizations. The group would “provide increased advocacy, greater communication and greater overall awareness of student events on campus,” he said.
One difference between his plan and the Doherty-Gillerman plan is that his does not contain a provision for an independent financial board, Pond said.
In contrast to Pond’s plan for SA Senate reformation, Corr’s plan for SA Senate restructuring aims at creating a separate representative body for GW’s graduate students. Graduates students are currently represented within the SA Senate.
“The SA has historically done a poor job of helping and advocating for graduate students,” Corr said.
The other presidential candidates have also weighed in with their opinions regarding a new student government.
Sen. Nick D’Addario (U-CCAS), a sophomore, said the SA’s time could be put to better use than soliciting advice from all students in forming a newly structured SA.
Junior Nate Hayward believes that establishing a new student government would take away time from the work of the SA and advocating for students.
Lamar Thorpe, a junior, advocates the advancement of existing ideas to improve the Senate but is worried about undoing “the hard work of prior senators.”
University administrators said they neither support nor condemn reforming the SA.
“I see no problem with students offering different perspectives as to how to make student government work better,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.
“Times change, environmental circumstances change,” Chernak said. “Issues are dynamic and needs for different forms and types of governance arise.”