Looking back on her term as Student Association president, Julie Bindelglass called the job’s learning curve the biggest obstacle she had to overcome this year.
As a result, Bindelglass – who hands the SA presidency off to Executive Vice President Jason Lifton Wednesday – said she took the summer trying to get set up for the rest of the year, and so things were a little slow to start.
“I could have learned faster what worked for me, what worked for my cabinet, what worked for the senate, the students,” Bindelglass said.
Although this year will conclude with first lady Michelle Obama as Commencement speaker – the SA originally reached out to Obama to appear at the Freshman Day of Service in September – Bindelglass said her administration had trouble outlining its goals for the year beyond three broad categories: increasing communication, becoming a greater resource and improving campus life.
Until her executive branch started talking with one another during the summer, Bindelglass said, “It was hard to pinpoint exactly what we wanted to do.”
Despite the slow start, Bindelglass said she’s happy the SA got to work with other student organizations, including Program Board and the Marvin Center Governing Board. Together, they collaborated on the Beat George Mason basketball game and Marvin Center Late Night.
The focus for the year became “small, tangible changes” for the student body, Bindelglass said, including the microwave in J Street, maintaining catering costs for student organizations and expanding study space, something she ran on during the campaign. This year also saw the creation of the Public Service Grant Commission, which grants money to students who propose service projects.
For some, “small changes” are not enough to stake a Student Association presidency on.
Tabisa Walwema, who served as vice president for public affairs under former SA President Vishal Aswani, said she thinks Bindelglass has not been a real presence on campus.
“I understand the role of the SA president, I don’t expect her to be at every event, but at least [show up for] five minutes,” Walwema, a junior, said. Walwema was one of several resignations in Aswani’s cabinet last year, and cited his “paranoia and distrust” of campus media in her resignation letter.
Bindelglass said she chose to avoid “overexposure” this year, adding, “I don’t think there’s a need for the Student Association president to be everywhere, every time.”
Kanika Gupta, a junior, initially did not know who the current president of the SA was, but remembered Aswani from last year.
“The fact is that I still knew who Vishal was,” Gupta said, “I could still tell you what he was working on and what [events] I saw him at.”
Chief of Staff Dan Curran said he wouldn’t deny that Bindelglass has not been the most visible member of the Student Association, but said, “I wouldn’t equate lack of visibility with lack of hard work or advocacy.”
“The position demands a lot,” Curran said. “It really is an absolute task to balance classes, the SA and real life.”
Despite the emphasis placed on communication during Bindelglass’ campaign, Curran acknowledged that the administration has had some difficulty following through on its promises.
“I do think that we probably set expectations a little too high on what our communication was going to be,” Curran said, adding that communication “ebbed and flowed” between the three branches at times.
Walwema said she found it “interesting” that Bindelglass and Lifton did not put out a “shared vision” statement at the start of the year. She contrasted this year’s administration with that of Nicole Capp and Brand Kroeger two years ago, saying that although they ran for office on opposing slates, they still managed have what is considered a successful year.