Student Association leaders claim victory with student initiatives

Student Association leaders called the preliminary $5 to $7 million set aside in the strategic plan for student life a win, but said they will push for further investments in renovations and campus programming.

The several million dollars proposed in the draft plan would renovate and add community space in residence halls and expand the number of faculty-in-residence mentors and develop a student leadership program – ideas that SA President Ashwin Narla said will “build something that is more focused on student involvement.”

Because the plan has four months until it is finalized by the University’s Board of Trustees, Narla said he and his second-in-command Abby Bergren would use the extra time to push for more student life funding.

“There’s definitely an opportunity here. It’s the first draft,” Narla said.

On his list are renovations to the Marvin Center third floor terrace and more funding for University-wide events like Fall Fest before the plan is finalized in February, looking to create a focus beyond research and academics.

Narla lauded the University’s commitment to affinity housing and a student leadership program, but said the programming needed to also be based on “more student-driven traditions.”

With a promise to expand on-campus programming, Narla said the strategic plan could help promote a “GW identity,” on the campus.

“We need to bring communities together so the campus feels more like GW,” Narla said, touching on a perennial student complaint that the campus lacks spirit.

He called for new campus-wide traditions, such as a GW Day, which he described as a mix of Freshman Day of Service and Fall Fest with an all-day block party and a concert at night.

The day would model similar traditions at other institutions, like the University of Virginia’s Founder’s Day and University of Rochester’s Dandelion Day, Narla said.

The SA will hold its second strategic plan-focused town hall with Provost Steven Lerman in the next few weeks. The group is also asking students to post feedback on the organization’s online discussion board, GVoice.

The executive pair have already spent months advocating for more University investment for student life.

Last month, Narla and Bergren earned administrative approval for short-term ways to expand student space on campus. The University extended the hours for Duques and Funger halls by about four hours a night.

The funding for the student life prong of the strategic plan will come from money saved through the Innovation Task Force, a group charged with identifying ways that cut down on University spending and raise revenue.

When asked for more information about the ideas laid out in the plan’s draft, University spokeswoman Jill Sankey said details about residence hall projects were not yet available.

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