Staff Editorial: Vote for John Bennett in the runoff election

Today is the last day to vote in the runoff election for Student Association president, and The Hatchet’s editorial board would like to re-affirm its support for John Bennett as president.

Bennett and his competitor Ashwin Narla are both strong candidates, who bring unique sets of skills and strengths to the race. But we believe Bennett is the better candidate for the post.

Bennett is a truly impressive candidate with a long history of student advocacy and a generally comprehensive plan for arriving at his goals. His platform strikes a healthy balance between tasks that can be achieved quickly and those that require a year’s worth of advocacy. More importantly, he has the strategy to accomplish both. His plan to get SA Senators more involved and motivated by including them in upper-level advocacy efforts is a smart response to the SA Senate’s typical apathy. It also speaks to his own high-impact term as SA finance chair this year, during which he reformed the financial allocation process and notably kept open dialogues with the many student organizations on campus by holding well-attended town halls.

We are confident Bennett would be able to negotiate the University bureaucracy to push his agenda and make the right connections to achieve his goals. Not only does Bennett have knowledge of campus issues, but also he knows how to apply it. His plan to revitalize Columbian Square, for example, which includes bringing in new furniture and making the area more inviting, is an efficient short-term response to the current lack of student space. Also, when pressed on the infeasibility of one point of his safety and security platform, he was willing to be flexible on its details as long as student safety did not suffer.

Bennett’s performance during the student media debate did not merely exemplify the success he’s had in his current role as SA finance chair. When posed questions about student life issues that weren’t mentioned in his platform, such as how to ensure that campus groups are accepting of GW’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, he responded with a smart and effective solution by suggesting requiring major student organizations to complete Safe Zone training.

We still worry Bennett is not willing enough to ask for the counsel of the students whose votes he seeks. There is no denying he has a huge ego, and while this might fuel a tenacious students-first lobbying agenda, he must make it clearer that he would continue to seek student input. But we have confidence that, if elected, Bennett would bring about important change during his one-year term.

Narla has made frequent communication with the student body the focal point of his campaign. Often, Student Association executives become so entrenched in their efforts that they lose sight of the students they are serving. But Narla’s strong, students-first platform and his plans to hold frequent “State of the Campus” updates reassures us that he would keep his ear to the ground and maintain dialogue with his peers. Narla’s attitude about the sort of chief lobbyist he would be is one of the greatest strengths of his platform.

He asserts that he wouldn’t just work with administrators as one student taking on the University, but also, through his outreach, he would mobilize the student body to be involved in initiatives and lobbying efforts. In the week between the general election and the runoff, it was encouraging to see Narla continue to tweak his platform and goals, such as putting in a specific timeline for accomplishing his plan to implement a student organizartion calendar. By attempting to further outline his ideas and provide additional detail, Narla demonstrated that he would be able to remain responsive and adaptable to any unforeseen problems or issues that could arise throughout his term.

We were very impressed by his fervor and charisma during his endorsement hearing – he certainly has the magic – but during the debate, it became clear that his platform lacks serious substance beyond plans for frequent student outreach.

Narla’s infectious personality and commitment to improving student life would make him an excellent lobbyist. We were disappointed to find that his initial platform and ideas weren’t developed enough to match the strength of his passion and desire to lead the student body.

While both finalists for this year’s presidential race are exceptional, there is only one who can provide real results as next year’s SA president. Vote John Bennett for SA president.

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