This year’s Student Association presidential election comes down to one simple question: Do you want an SA insider or outsider?
Both candidates have serious flaws they never addressed before asking students to cast votes, flaws that will hopefully be acknowledged before a winner takes office. But there is no golden choice or obvious candidate this March.
Every year one or two students who have never served in the organization before vie for the Student Association’s top offices. These SA outsiders lambast the traditional candidates for being “insiders,” too connected to the game and too snug with the administration to make any real changes. They boast of being fighters, real students and the obvious choice for students’ votes.
The insiders lash back, saying these outsiders have no idea what its like to serve on or run the Student Association. They say they are unprepared to work with GW’s sprawling administration.
Students are again faced with the choice of two less-than-stellar candidates – an insider and outsider.
Chris Clark, the SA Senate Finance Committee chair, oversaw the largest allocation of money to student organizations in SA history. He looks impressive on paper. But do not mistake his substantial responsibility for an impeccable record of competency.
During the Feb. 2 SA Senate meeting, Joint Elections Committee member Ari Kasper confronted Clark about his failure to respond to an urgent e-mail. Clark responded that Kasper had sent the e-mail to Clark’s personal account, rather than his finance committee e-mail address. He went on to explain that he does not respond to e-mails sent to his personal inbox.
Although Clark’s job as finance chair is burdensome, and he must field many complaints from student orgs, the number of people contacting him will only increase if he becomes SA president. He must find a way to efficiently handle his interactions with students and organizations.
At the Hatchet-SA Debate, several student org leaders questioned Clark about his history of poor leadership, which raised more doubts over his potential capabilities in the presidential role. During the debate, Clark mentioned his membership in the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity as one of his main extracurricular activities – he was later scolded for failing to disclose he is currently suspended from the fraternity.
This is the problem with SA insiders: They have baggage and are easy targets for student criticism.
Running against Clark is John Richardson. Richardson’s lack of SA experience should not necessarily be viewed as a liability – it could bring in a much-needed outsider’s perspective. But not much can be said about Richardson because he simply has not demonstrated any experience as a campus leader.
It remains to be seen whether Richardson has the leadership skills to run a large staff and successfully lobby University administrators.
While viewing their platforms, both have major strengths and weaknesses. Richardson has been an articulate and refreshing candidate with an ambitious platform focused on long-term issues like financial aid and on-campus recruiting that should be pursued by the SA next year regardless of whether or not he is elected.
Clark’s platform is perhaps more realistic, but it is uninspiring as it seems to cover issues SA candidates have promised to fix for years.
When deciding between both candidates, one cannot ignore the fact that Clark has had a somewhat apathetic attitude and made questionable errors in judgment during his tenure as finance chair. One cannot similarly scrutinize Richardson simply because he doesn’t have much of a record.
Both have the potential to be productive SA presidents, but only if they address their biggest potential liabilities and are sincere in achieving their platforms, rather than just padding their resumes. Let’s cross our fingers, hoping that regardless of who wins, the student body will benefit the most.
Dan Keylin is a senior majoring in political science.