As they close their terms as the Student Association’s top leaders, SA President Jason Lifton and Executive Vice President Rob Maxim said they are proud of the progress their administration made in tackling some of the student body’s biggest complaints.
Lifton and Maxim made headway on five student ires – Student Judicial Services, 4-RIDE, affordability and fees, campus dining and Gelman Library – goals they developed throughout the academic year.
Top goals Lifton laid out last May were to rebrand the Student Association and increase the body’s communication with students. Both goals fell somewhat flat, as the Student Association Senate spent a large part of the year on internal reforms, while the executive branch made progress.
With his tenure ending, Lifton said he checked off everything on his agenda. While none of the projects are completed, Lifton touted the development he made on the perennial student complaints.
“We hit the ground running from day one after the elections, and we’ve moved these issues further than anybody else in the past,” Lifton said.
Lifton and Maxim’s year in office stands apart from the previous administration under former SA President Julie Bindelglass, which focused on a variety of small goals that left the student body wanting. Former President Vishal Aswani, who served the year before Bindelglass, was widely considered paranoid by his staff and accomplished little.
Among the changes the duo initiated was the elimination of the graduation fee, planned renovations for the first floor of Gelman and scaled-down SJS sanctions.
Lifton said the SA has played a key role in the Gelman restoration project to convert the first floor from a “dark, creepy dungeon with no windows” to a more inviting space for collaborative study.
He said his team has been working hands on – literally – with the architects, using a 10-foot long Lego model to design the floor plan.
The project is still in the planning stages, Lifton said. Construction is slated to begin as soon as the University raises sufficient funds.
Lifton and Maxim have also pressured the administration to take a critical look at its current dining model, specifically focusing on food quality and spending requirements.
He said, as J Street has to compete with an increasing number of dining venues on campus – especially after restaurants at The Avenue open next year – the dining model has to be adjusted.
Maxim spearheaded the creation of the University’s new education-oriented judicial system, which he believes is the SA’s biggest achievement for the 2010-2011 academic year.
Maxim worked closely with Student Judicial Services leaders to scale down the sanctions for students facing disciplinary action. The new system sends students to counseling instead of directly to court, Maxim said.
In the past, students who received charges for alcohol or drug violations faced one year of probation no matter the circumstances. Now, student violations are examined case-by-case and can receive as few as three months of probation. This means the violation can be expunged from a student’s record earlier.
“This is the one that really changes individual students’ lives,” Maxim said.
Maxim said the new system also prevents students from being automatically suspended after going through GW’s emergency services for a second time because of alcohol or drug-related issues.
He explained that, although many students are still learning about this policy, they no longer have to be hesitant about calling EMeRG for a severely intoxicated friend because of the fear of that friend being expelled.
“If you have an alcohol violation as a freshman, that shouldn’t be on your record when you apply to law school,” Maxim said.
Although the 2011-2012 SA leaders are coming in with a different set of goals, Maxim said they need to continue to check in on these issues. High SA turnover is generally considered a hindrance on the previous administration’s progress.
Lifton agreed, and said he is confident SA President-elect John Richardson and Executive Vice President-elect Ted Costigan will succeed with their own platform as well as with the projects already in place.