SA refocuses on advocacy

Omar Woodard had several small initiatives. Audai Shakour had Colonial Coach. Lamar Thorpe had condoms.

Former SA Presidents focused on supporting costly intiatives to accomplish their goals, but today’s SA executives emphasize lobbying and advocating on behalf of students.

SA President Nicole Capp, along with Executive Vice President Brand Kroeger, successfully lobbied for the return of the GW Reads program, the Colonial Invasion pep rally and, most notably, the addition of Safeway to the GWorld Colonial Cash program.

“It’s been advocacy every step of the way,” said Capp, a junior. “It will continue to be advocacy all throughout the year.”

The SA has the power to pass nonbinding resolutions and use meetings with administrators to lobby on behalf of students and help meet students’ demands. But the University does not have to comply with the SA’s demands. This has led to the organization’s branding as a “do-nothing” body.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said advocacy should not be the only role of the SA.

“I think a more accurate term describing my interaction with Nicole and Brand, rather than simply advocacy, would be open communication and a sharing of ideas about problems,” Chernak wrote in an e-mail.

Chernak said that there has been “significant agreement” between University administrators and student leaders on numerous issues.

Director of the Student Activities Center Tim Miller said advocacy should be the focus of the SA.

“Many initiatives that the SA would create could more easily be adopted by a University department if they are made aware of the student need,” Miller wrote in an e-mail. “If the SA spends too much of their energy on creating initiatives and programs then they are missing the opportunity to make significant long-term change.”

Capp and Kroeger have both said they have worked closely with Chernak and other University administrators on numerous projects.

Kroeger, a junior, said he and Capp faced criticism from people within the SA for advocating for the return of the GW Reads program and Colonial Invasion.

“They told us we were crazy when we got in a car and drove to Safeway and said we wanted to meet,” Kroeger said.

Capp and Kroeger’s meeting with Safeway officials last spring to pitch the GWorld Colonial Cash program is only one example of how the current SA administration has gone past the University’s bureaucracy to advocate.

Capp and Kroeger, alongside University officials, met with representatives from USA Today to help bring back the GW Reads program, Kroeger said.

“A lot of people who were (in the SA) before told us that things couldn’t be done,” Kroeger said. “Nicole and I didn’t adhere to that mindset.”

Former SA President and current presidential administrative fellow Lamar Thorpe opened an election debate last February emphasizing the role of the SA in advocating for students.

“I have learned that the major job (of the president) is (to be) an advocate for students,” Thorpe said. “The dirty secret is that 99 percent of time spent is representing students in Rice Hall.”

Most of the candidates who ran for the SA’s two top positions agreed.

“Advocacy, advocacy and more advocacy are the most important parts of the SA,” said former Executive Vice Presidential candidate Andrew Cooper, a junior, at the debate.

In the past, the SA has put large amounts of money into big initiatives. Their high cost and mixed success rate may be part of the shift towards advocacy.

Part of former SA President Audai Shakour’s campaign was the establishment of an online trading community called “Colonial Trader.” The SA invested $11,000 into the development of a Web site that never materialized.

Other initiatives have been more successful. The Colonial Coach, created in 2005 to shuttle students to Dulles Airport before and after holiday breaks, continued into last year.

The service, started by then former SA Executive Vice President Morgan Corr and former Sen. Marc Abanto, a senior, was funded using the EVP’s executive budget, taking money from the student fee.

Cutting the “huge expense” of the $11,000 program is one of Capp’s goals. She said in an interview in August that the SA is looking for a co-sponsor to help fund the program and make the money used now available to student organizations.

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