Although efforts to create a student seat on the Board of Trustees have repeatedly failed, three student representatives are making sure the University’s highest governing body hears from its main constituents.
Students have no voting representation on GW’s Board of Trustees, despite heavy lobbying from the Student Association in past years. Chairman of the Board Russell Ramsey said in an interview in December he does not expect the board to add a student representative in the near future, and other administrators have been similarly definitive in their objections to a student seat.
Still, although students don’t sit on the board itself, three members of the SA executive branch represent students by reporting to board committees. These committees, each of which has a specialization, meet in the days leading up to the official board meetings, which occur in February, May and October.
Junior Geoffrey Louden reports to the Academic Affairs Committee, SA President Julie Bindelglass reports to the Committee on Student Affairs and junior Ally McDougal reports to the Committee of External Relations.
None of the three can vote, but Louden said he feels his opinions still hold weight.
“At the Board of Trustees level, you have so many things going on that a Student Association report coming in puts a face and voice to a decision,” he said. “It is a very welcoming environment and they’re open to hearing concerns.”
A junior in the Elliott School of International Affairs, Louden was confirmed as the new vice president of Academic Affairs for the Student Association Feb. 23, and his first contribution to the Academic Affairs Committee occurred during its February meeting. The VPAA always serves as representative to the academic committee.
To gauge what students are most worried about, Louden said the Student Association plans to hold events similar to the “Flag Your Problem” event this fall where people wrote their top concerns on colorful flags that were then displayed on campus.
“People are very aware of what issues exist, and so there is some knowledge about it, but it doesn’t hurt to have a student report that says these are the stories we collected, this is sort of a big issue,” Louden said.
Now that the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences announced an overhaul to their adviser program, Louden said he will lobby the board for an online syllabi bank so students can have a better understanding of the course load and required books prior to class registration.
Bindelglass said the advising improvements are a testament to the weight of student input, and that the Student Association plans on keeping track of and remaining active participants in advising.
“One of the big issues I’ve been working on all this year is to increase our student voice at all levels of the administration, including the Board of Trustees,” she said. “That being said, I’ve always found the Board of Trustees to be receptive to our concerns as we present them in our reports, and that they’re willing to be our partners in advocating student issues, such as advising.”
Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said student opinion is always valued.
“So many ideas and initiatives that have been incorporated into University operations, improvements in service, and reordering of priorities over the years can be directly attributed to the voice of students being heard at the Board of Trustee level,” Chernak said.
He added, “The University has been very fortunate to have very effective leaders in the SA who have been able to represent our students with a very articulate and often times very persuasive voice.”