Sean Redding: Confession of a Student Association reporter

Last week, the GW Joint Elections Committee announced Feb. 27 and 28 as tentative Student Association election dates, officially starting the end of the Nicole Capp and Brand Kroeger administration. At this point, it is impossible to know who their successors will be, but one thing is for sure: they have a tough act to follow.

First, let me say I have not always been such a proponent of the SA. I have been extremely active in GW STAND, an organization that receives only a small amount of money from the organization. An organization that spends most of its time fighting with each other over the most ridiculous marginal issues while deciding that my organization isn’t worthy of receiving an appropriate amount of money is not on my good list. But Capp and Kroeger have been successful at refocusing on student organization needs, and their success may have “converted” me from cynic to supporter.

Capp and Kroeger, an unlikely team (Kroeger ran alongside David “Tito” Wilkinson last year), have set a precedent of efficiency for GW student government, something not often seen in the SA executive branch, at least not in recent years. Searching “SA” in The Hatchet archives will provide more articles about battles, impractical goals and budget woes than about significant accomplishments. Perhaps what makes their administration so different is that they did not plan on governing together. While campaigning, each candidate championed different goals. But the ballots forced them together, potentially changing the style of the SA for years to come.

Their differences forced Capp and Kroeger to decide on what they called a “shared vision of student advocacy” along with other members of the executive branch. Finding that common ground looks to be exactly what the SA needed. It forced student leaders to eliminate the fringe issues and unrealistic goals and focus on what GW students really want. With only a few months to go, the SA’s accomplishments range from just recently increasing study hours in Marvin Center to getting Safeway to accept GWorld before the school year even began.

It can be depressing to notice just how much our student leaders use Washington politicians as their role models, often coming off with the same sense of self-importance and need to bicker, while accomplishing even less. Now it seems that it is Washington’s turn to learn from GW student leaders – a shared vision of advocacy may be exactly what they need. Of course, I’m not claiming that all SA infighting has miraculously stopped. This year, the focus is on the goals and the students, not the political battles.

And Capp and Kroeger have not only brought a new sense of vision to the SA; they brought a new style as well. Instead of focusing on major – and costly – initiatives, the pair has placed faith in their ability to advocate for student needs. They’ve been remarkably successful. The move from spending to lobbying also showed that the leaders truly recognized student organizations as the heart of our school, as they reallocated a portion of the SA’s budgets back to the student organizations’ fund. The focus on advocacy is representative of the larger idea behind this administration: a genuine desire to make GW reflective of student needs.

It is important to acknowledge other players in the success of the Capp-Kroeger administration, and University President Steven Knapp is certainly one of them. While it was the students who got the ball rolling, President Knapp has shown over the past year that he does value student opinions. His promises to be a “listening president” have proved to be genuine, and his open ears were nicely complemented by Capp and Kroeger’s lobbying. They forced Knapp and his entire administration to take a step past just listening.

With the clock ticking, the two executives aren’t done yet. They still have sizable goals for the remainder of their term, including modifying the dining plan to reflect student wishes, a difficult task for only a few months.

It is fair to say that the next SA administration must be held to the same standard, no matter how high the bar has been raised. GW students are getting what they deserve in a student government this year, and they should be sure not to accept any less from this year’s executive candidates.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in history and political science, is a Hatchet columnist.

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