As the semester comes to an end, we wanted to take an opportunity to thank you for a great year and to highlight some of the progress that has been made. Rob and I have said time after time, the Student Association isn’t really a government, but a group that works for student interests. We have incredible access to the administration and we are able to use it to advocate student issues.
Last May when we took office, the most important issues facing students were campus dining, Gelman Library, 4-RIDE, affordability and Student Judicial Services reform. After a year of hard work and strategic advocacy, we are excited that we have been successful in each of these areas.
We began our year with discussions about the discontent with campus dining. The mandatory spending, the lack of healthy options and the inflated pricing at J Street were at the core of the issues that we discussed. Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz and Senior Associate Vice President for Administration Ed Schonfeld were very receptive to our feedback and, combined with the new market that will emerge from the venues in The Avenue, the University has made major strides with dining. When you come back in September, don’t expect J Street to look the same!
Gelman Library has been another target of our advocacy efforts. In an October meeting with the Board of Trustees we took the time to discuss the need to improve Gelman. We continued our conversations with President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman, which led to a big first step in the renovation process. This spring, the University hired a firm to help begin the redesign process for the first floor. We hosted town halls with the architect to gather feedback on the design plans and focused on student ideas as the plans were revised.
The SA has focused its advocacy on the 4-RIDE service for as long as we can remember. When Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell first arrived on campus last fall, one of the first things that he heard about was 4-RIDE. He listened to our concerns and made its improvement one of his top priorities. As a result of these efforts, the University recently signed a contract to automate the system. We are excited to see what the fall semester will bring as this new system progresses.
In terms of affordability, we spent a lot of time working with Kaplan Test Prep to negotiate a standardized test prep class discount for GW students.
This is a great money-saving opportunity for GW students looking to pursue another degree.
We have also been devoted to eliminating the graduation fee. After a year’s worth of advocacy, the University agreed this spring to tentatively remove the graduation fee, pending Board of Trustees approval. This has been a yearlong, collaborative effort.
Finally, we have seen major progress in Student Judicial Services reform. This year, SJS has scaled back its sanctions on typical college judicial violations, and replaced punitive punishments with enhanced education. No students were removed from GW this year for a second EMeRG, a key change that has made it easier for students to get help from friends, regardless of the circumstance. Finally, disciplinary probation has been gradated into four tiers, ranging from three to 12 months, to adapt to different violations. In the long term, administrators are looking into the possibility of revising the Code of Student Conduct, a project that our successors will be able to play a role in.
We’d like to thank you, fellow GW students and administrators, for the many important ideas you’ve shared and the support you’ve lent us throughout the past year.
Jason Lifton and Rob Maxim
Jason Lifton and Rob Maxim are the Student Association president and executive vice president, respectively.