With unparalleled access to administrators, the Student Association president and executive vice president are tasked with keeping a close ear to student issues and engaging with the University’s top officials on ways to improve campus life.
The duo should identify tough-to-tackle student issues early on and spend the year working closely with administration to remedy them.
SA President John Richardson and Executive Vice President Ted Costigan are falling short of that task.
Richardson and Costigan must focus on the bigger picture issues that will likely carry into future years and have a long-term impact on student life.
And there are a number of issues they could be addressing. The University’s high dependency on fossil fuels is staggering. The University Honors Program’s move to the Mount Vernon Campus is just one facet of a changing Vern culture. The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ advising is beginning to draw ire once again.
Indeed, the Student Association does seem to have identified two broad issue to focus on this year: improving career services and reducing fees. These are both important topics for it to address, but the University got the ball rolling on career services last year, and the program has largely been administration-driven. But overall, making career services a principal concern will provide valuable returns for students in the years to come.
SA leadership is also focusing on reducing the sundry fees students face during their GW careers. Costigan and Richardson helped get the UCC fee removed for the first six sessions and they are next focusing on printing fees. Reducing costs, from attendance to counseling, is an important and laudable priority of the SA.
But while the SA leadership could have begun acting at the start of their term, it spent the first months of its term focused on messaging and communicating with students, not forming and taking initiative on a substantive task list.
While the Student Association is holding town-hall meetings in an attempt to perceive student concerns and needs, at some point Richardson and Costigan must take control and present their plans to students. They don’t have unlimited time. They shouldn’t have taken the first two months of school to solicit housing complaints when these issues are lasting and they could have been identified much earlier on.
Their goals for the year include organizing a debate series with high-profile speakers, cutting printing costs, organizing tailgates before sporting events, changing alcohol policies for graduate students and increasing lighting for sporting events on the Mount Vernon Campus.
These are not the issues the SA president and executive vice president need to prioritize.
As lobbyists for the student body, Richardson and Costigan should refocus their work to address the issues other student groups can’t or that administrators are not yet working to solve.
Campus debate series and tailgates before sports events are typically handled by Program Board, Colonial Army, the College Democrats or College Republicans. Student Judicial Services is already working to reform alcohol policies for graduate students. The Student Association should have a hand in these efforts and its influence might even improve them, but it is not Richardson and Costigan’s job to prioritize them.