Student Association to shift focus to larger problems

Halfway through her term as Student Association president, Julie Bindelglass said she is proud of what the SA has accomplished so far this year and hopes to make progress on the two issues that consistently draw complaints from students: dining and advising.

“We’ve been focused mostly on small, tangible goals and we’ve achieved a lot of them,” Bindelglass said, pointing to extended hours in the Marvin Center last semester and receiving University funding for a public service grant commission.

For her remaining time in office, Bindelglass said she plans to shift that focus to directing the SA’s resources to larger problems.

Kim Neu’s resignation as dining services commission chair last month leaves Bindelglass without a go-to person to help implement her dining goals. Specifically, Bindelglass is considering a possible Sunday brunch at J Street and extending weekend hours there. Reducing Sodexo catering costs for student organizations also remains a priority, she said.

Complaints about J Street have abounded since it opened.

“We’ll never have a perfect dining system,” Bindelglass said. “The best we can do is make large improvements.”

Bindelglass acknowledged the SA had a somewhat “internal focus” fall semester, but said she hopes to minimize that this semester.

December’s failed SA constitution overhaul was criticized for being too internal and not relevant to the student body. The constitution task force included representatives from all three branches of the SA.

In terms of advising, Bindelglass said the most the SA can do is be “a constant reminder and megaphone to the administration that the problems with advising exist.”

“Unless significant progress is made, there will be a level of student dissatisfaction,” Bindelglass said.

Part of the SA’s answer has been CourseRank, a Web site that debuted last semester to positive reviews and helped students assemble their class schedules for this semester.

But both Bindelglass and Executive Vice President Jason Lifton said the University’s “red tape” hinders much of what the SA wants to do.

“We get pushed back on issues you’d never expect,” Bindelglass said.

Lifton said the relationships the SA has been building with University administrators will serve it well for the projects it hopes to tackle in the coming months.

In particular, Lifton wants to work on lowering Academic Technology fees for renting equipment and gather momentum for substantial improvements to Gelman.

“The speed at which things move at GW is incredibly slow, and there’s only so much we can do until everybody’s on board,” Lifton said.

While the since-failed constitution referendum comprised most of the senate’s headlines last semester, tangible achievements for the student body have been limited. Notable exceptions are the increase in shuttles to the Virginia campus, spearheaded by Sen. Schwetha Shekar, CCAS-G, and legislation passed in December that was a step toward standardizing credit hours for Reserve Officers’ Training Corps classes, which students take at other D.C. universities.

One area in the SA that has seen subtle improvement is communication. Bindelglass vowed to make communication a priority during her campaign, but faltered during the first couple months of the school year.

The body’s Twitter page has since been maintained fairly steadily, although the “Our GW SA” Web site, one of three in the SA’s “resource network,” still has not been updated since July.

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