Over the course of the past year, the Student Association has emerged from years of squabbling and scandal as a body that is slowly regaining some of its credibility and usefulness. Under President Lamar Thorpe’s leadership, the group has kept free from scandal, enacted several tangible initiatives to help students and maintained a focus on advocacy.
That is not to say that the job is finished; most of this year’s initiatives were limited in scope and it may take several years for the SA to develop into a fully functioning organization that effectively serves the needs of the GW student body. That is why it is essential that the next president build upon the foundation laid this year to positively develop the SA’s reputation in the minds of students and administrators alike.
Unlike last year’s election endorsement hearings, in which Thorpe stood out as an outstanding pick for the presidency, none of this year’s candidates shine as impressively as the current leader. Out of this pack, however, Casey Pond distinguished himself as the candidate who best understands the nature and workings of the SA and who will best be able to advocate for the student voice. The Hatchet endorses Casey Pond in his bid for the SA presidency.
Pond ran for SA president last year as well. Although unsuccessful, he seemed to take the lessons of the election to heart and went to work behind the scenes to better GW. Through his position on the SA Dining Services Commission, Pond consulted with Sodexho on J Street’s new dining venues and also successfully played a role in opening the Gelman Library Starbucks 24 hours a day. These efforts, along with his participation in helping GW lobby for Square 54 development, come with little public recognition and show a true commitment to helping GW.
Last year, this page gave Pond serious consideration for the presidential endorsement; however, the editorial advised him to distance himself from the scandals and failures of former President Audai Shakour and SA politics in general. Pond has done just that, forging strong connections with students outside the group and administrators who can realistically bring new policies to fruition. The fact that Pond is not running on a slate also promises an administration that does not immediately engender division or political bickering.
Over the past year, Pond also appears to have gained maturity and tempered his speech to reflect the realistic goals within the SA’s reach. Pond appears to understand that the organization he seeks to lead is about looking out for student interests, and not creating the broad and, at times, radical policies that failed so badly in the past.
There will no doubt be weaknesses for Pond to overcome, however. Although he has learned to work effectively in advisory and behind the scenes roles, the SA presidency also requires a public face – an area in which Pond has yet to prove his skills.
Nonetheless, The Hatchet believes that Pond has a solid foundation and understanding that makes him the best choice to lead the SA for the upcoming year.
Marc Abanto also received serious consideration for The Hatchet’s endorsement. A moderate and personable individual, he would likely foster a great amount of cooperation within the SA. His accomplishments during his time in the SA were less than impressive, however, for a two-year senator, forcing the editorial board to wonder whether a year under his leadership would bring substantive results.
Even so, Abanto will be an extremely valuable asset in next year’s SA. If Abanto does not win the presidency, it would behoove of him to seek a position as a liaison for whoever is elected.
Nicole Capp showed the most enthusiasm and spirit out of any candidate, and she carries an impressive list of achievements during her short SA career. Her experience working with top administrators is limited, however. Additionally, she articulated a vision for the SA which includes many programming initiatives with a combative stance with the administration – a course that many past SA presidents have followed, leading to failure.
While Capp has organized a number of events as a senator, she must realize that there is much more to the position of president. A year working closely on SA-wide initiatives and learning about the political realities and constraints of the SA would make Capp a knock-out candidate for next year.
David “Tito” Wilkinson is a very well-spoken individual. His complete lack of SA experience, however, makes him unsuited for the job. While a candidate with revolutionary rhetoric such as his would have been desirable in the past, it is unnecessary following a year of growth and productivity in the SA.
Michael Ray Huerta presented a number of good ideas, but he is not necessarily the person to make them happen. During his endorsement hearing, Huerta explained how enamored he is with GW, making it seem as if he would be unable to think critically about areas in which the University needs improvement. He would still be able to work for his viable proposals, such as 4-RIDE service to the Student Health Services facility, in a non-executive position.
Thorpe has set the SA on the right course, and next year’s president should be someone who understands the need for student advocacy and pragmatic leadership. While not a shining star out of the field, Casey Pond is the candidate best suited to keep the SA focused on the needs of GW and not on internal politics or radical change that could force the group back into stagnation.