Twelve crowd candidate pool for top two SA spots

Eight more students entered an already crowded pool for the Student Association’s two top spots over the weekend, bringing the number of candidates seeking the SA presidency and executive vice presidency to 12, double that of last year’s election.

Seven candidates are running for SA president, including newly declared SA Finance Committee chair Chris Clark, U-At Large, former Sen. Caleb Raymond, former Joint Elections Committee member and former Sen. Phil Gardner and SA outsiders Kwasi Agyeman and Joshua Benjamin. They join current Sen. Jason Kaplan, CCAS-U, and John Richardson, another SA outsider, who declared last week.

Clark, a junior and a 2-year veteran of the SA Senate, said he plans to center his campaign on reforming the organization’s efficiency and structure. If elected, he said he will continue to advocate for Gelman Library renovations and improving 4-RIDE. His top priority is to create “George’s List,” modeled after the website Craigslist, where GW students can exclusively sell their books, apartments, tickets and other items to one another on campus.

Unlike his opponents who have either spent a year on the SA Senate or have not served at all, Clark said his experience on the SA is key.

“Experience gives you the intangibles that no one else has. You know the inner workings because you’ve been there so long,” Clark said. “I know the little things that make a difference. I know how to work those things into a good presidency.”

After spending nearly a year away from the SA, Raymond, a junior, said his previous experiences left him disheartened about the organization’s purpose. But as candidates began announcing their campaigns for the presidency, he said he felt compelled to once again step forward and run for the SA, adding that the majority of candidates appeared either inexperienced or ineffective.

As the president of GW Band, Raymond described his year off from the SA as beneficial, saying he knows what it is like to work with the organization from both sides.

“I think we can have someone in charge who’s president of the SA who can truly advocate on behalf of the student body,” Raymond said, adding that his position has given him perspective on how the SA should work with student organizations.

Gardner, a sophomore, is running on an abolish the SA campaign, centering his bid on ending the organization altogether.

“Student governments are a bad idea. They don’t actually govern anything outside of their own office and are rarely effective. The SA is not an exception. Be it Gelman, dining, GWireless or SJS, the SA has been unable to make substantial progress on the issues that matter to GW students,” Gardner said.

If elected, Gardner said he will work to abolish the SA from the beginning of his term, and will step down once the task is completed and an alternative has been set in place. He intends to implement a system of student lobbyists, advocating full-time on student issues.

Agyeman said he is running for SA president because he represents the average student.

“They’ve been doing this for the past 3 years and see [the presidency] as the next step,” said Agyeman, a junior and president of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He is centering his campaign on the idea of centralizing academic resources in one accessible location, increasing interaction with SA representatives and students, and granting certain student organizations “legacy status,” making it easier for them to get funding for traditional events they hold year after year.

Benjamin launched his campaign in similar terms, referring to himself as “just a student.”

“I don’t think of myself as higher than other students, I have no political aspirations, I’m not interested in power,” said Benjamin, the co-executive of the student theater company 14th Grade Players. “I just feel no one ever runs for office who is really just a student.”

If elected, he said he would get rid of the favoritism he feels the SA financial process has come to use.

“The SA has come to favor Greek life and political organizations like the CRs and CDs. I just want to make it even across the board. I want to bring attention to the rest of the GW student community,” Benjamin said.

Last week, SA Sens. Amanda Galonek, CCAS-U, and Ted Costigan, CCAS-U, each declared their candidacies for executive vice president, the SA’s second-highest position. The pool has more than doubled since then, with three more candidates announcing their intentions to run.

Current SA Sen. Zahin Hasan, SEAS-U, said he will run his campaign based on common sense.

“It doesn’t make sense to charge for student counseling, but we can deal with it using common sense,” Hasan said. “When problems arise, our goal is to fix it. As an engineer, being EVP is not going to help me with my job, I don’t plan to further my political career. I just want to help out, and with common sense, EVP is the best way to do that.”

Sam Free, a junior, has also thrown her name into the ring of candidates for EVP. Also an SA outsider, Free said she is not concerned about her lack of participation in the SA Senate.

“As former co-president of REMIX [the Racially and Ethnically Mixed Student Association] and treasurer of the Student Theatre Council, I know the issues of student orgs and of the students in general,” Free said. “The SA in the past has come across as very closed off and not open, but every student should have a part in the student government.”

If elected, Free said she will be the voice for the students, reaching out to get everyone more involved.

Aria Varasteh, another SA outsider, is also running his campaign with a student organization focus, including streamlining the SA’s reimbursement process.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have participated in many student organizations at GW… it’s because of these experiences that I’m running, because I’ve been able to identify problems that I believe can be addressed and improve lives of students both in and out of student organizations.”

The election will be held March 9 and 10.

Madeleine Morgenstern contributed to this report.

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