When the candidate pool for the Student Association’s top spot is short on remarkable candidates, The Hatchet’s editorial board can come to a concise decision easily – this year was different. There are many notable candidates running for SA president who have diverse and thoughtful ideas on how to improve the SA, making the job of picking the best student an arduous one.
The decision was notably difficult, but after hearings, platform reviews and watching his performance at the debate, The Hatchet’s editorial board endorses Chris Clark for SA president.
Clark’s experience and understanding of the SA and student issues make him the most qualified candidate to take on the position. He was able to balance short and long-term goals in a manner that assures us he will carry out reforms on persistent student issues like printing and dining, while pushing forward innovative plans. We look forward to seeing the progress he will make toward increasing study space, as he detailed a specific plan to open Duques Hall to all students. He has taken an impressive initiative to jump-start his platform and with administrator contacts already in place, we believe he will make strides in student advocacy.
Clark knows the limitations of the president’s office but said he is prepared to pressure the administration if it is not acting in the best interest of students.
We do hope that if Clark is elected, he will re-evaluate specific platform priorities before taking office. Some of his ideas seem underdeveloped and make us feel as though he simply included them in his platform in order to round out an innovative platform. We hope that he weeds through the less-reasoned campaign ideas and really focuses on the issues that have a great impact on students. While something such as George’s List, one of Clark’s flagship issues, may be helpful for students, we would much rather he focus more time and energy on his plans for study space and room in the Marvin Center. His experience comes with baggage but he was incredibly tactful when dealing with aggravated students during the Hatchet-SA Debate.
Following Clark, we feel John Richardson is also a formidable candidate for the SA presidency.
Richardson would make a very effective lobbyist, one who could relay the concerns of students to administrators. He had multiple good ideas for how the SA could improve communication with students outside of the organization and his wealth of knowledge on some issues proved impressive. The sophomore demonstrated an adequate understanding of the issues at Monday night’s debate. Importantly, Richardson provides a fresh, unweighted perspective for the top job. He would start in May with only his laurels to rest on, giving the SA a new face for the next year.
Richardson’s platform was not as substantial as we would hope – we do worry how students could hold him accountable when he did not give them a number of ideas to work with.
Caleb Raymond, a former SA senator who is returning to the body, brings a great deal of SA experience and an unmatched love for our University. Raymond has a laudable history of student advocacy on the SA, and is in touch with student organizations. He also demonstrated he has the necessary background knowledge on many issues, and that he will make accountability a top priority if elected.
Raymond may not be as effective as the main liaison between the students and the administration because he doesn’t understand the logistics of some of the larger issues. His ideas aren’t as well-developed – when asked to expand on his sometimes vague platform, he did not seem to have a strong enough understanding of how to follow through on his own goals.
Jason Kaplan was surprisingly knowledgeable about the issues he truly valued, such as University Counseling Center reform. We believe that Kaplan can make some progress on some issues and that he has a valuable understanding of how the SA operates.
Kaplan, however, did not demonstrate the same passion for all of the issues as he did for a select few,, and some of his ideas required explanations that he was not able to adequately provide. In addition, he runs a campaign of saying he goes against the political nature of the SA, and yet we worry he feeds into that politics-first atmosphere. During the endorsement hearing and debate, it felt as if we were hearing from a politician.
Kwasi Agyeman felt less like a presidential candidate and more like a candidate for Program Board. He toted a program-heavy and program-dominated platform and demonstrated a lack of knowledge on main student issues like Sodexo. He by and far has the most attainable platform peppered with the most innovation, but we greatly fear he would replace advocacy on the big issues with advocacy for a block party. He has a great understanding of his own activities and groups on campus, but he would not make an effective president. His idea for the “Buff and Blue Block Party” is great, and we hope whoever is elected takes it up.
In talking with Josh Benjamin, we felt as though there was a blatant lack of knowledge on his end regarding how the University operates, what students want and how students feel outside of his own niche group. He did not have the passion for the role that the other candidates demonstrated, though we did appreciate his willingness to put aside his personal feelings on issues such as Gelman Library in order to better advocate for what many students want. His platform says that he is just a student, but ultimately, that is all we see him as.
Of course there is another route students can take this year. If you think that the SA is ultimately ineffective and you want your vote to change the structure of the SA entirely, Phil Gardner should be the candidate of choice. If elected, Gardner will spend his time next year working on drastically reforming GW’s main student lobbying voice, so if you would like that time to be spent on reform instead of on advocacy, he is the best option. Gardner’s platform is fundamentally difficult to compare to other candidates’ because his idea is so different – but it could work on some levels. The SA is marred by inefficiency and apathy. He has a plan, though not necessarily the most specific plan, to fix that. A larger issue stems from the serious unlikelihood that the Board of Trustees will vote to abolish the SA. In that event, the students would be left without a voice for the remainder of the year.
The pool for SA president is large and diverse, but ultimately we feel as though Clark is the most qualified for the position. Be sure to cast your votes and choose Chris Clark for Student Association president.