Student lobbying intensifies for BOT

Student Association executives have spent weeks rallying student support for campus space, which they will bring to the University’s highest governing board this week.

SA President Ashwin Narla, along with two other students, will pitch ideas to expand student space while attending committee meetings with Board of Trustees members over the next few days. Narla will also have a few minutes to speak before the full board Friday, and said he will share a petition that has been backed by thousands of students in the last month.

Opening up space on campus for studying and lounging has topped the SA’s agenda for the past two years. Narla and Executive Vice President Abby Bergren are continuing the fight after administrators did not agree to keeping academic halls open 24 hours a day and eliminating room reservation fees for groups.

More recently, the executives have called on administrators to create a plan to add additional floors to the Marvin Center and carve out student areas in the lower floors of GW’s soon-to-be-built residence hall, the “superdorm.”

Narla said he wants to “make sure [student space is] on their radar,” acknowledging that campus development – and particularly construction in existing buildings – is a slow process.

Last spring, former SA leader John Richardson also brought his lobbying effort to the board, urging members to tackle cost of attendance. He asked for comprehensive descriptions of all charges students could face at GW, and was directed by board members to work with administrators on the issue.

Students do not have votes at board committee meetings or general body meetings. Committee meetings are held the day before full-board meetings, for which agendas are typically set weeks in advance.

Some of GW’s peer institutions, including American, North Carolina and Pennsylvania State universities and University of Massachusetts have student board members, while New York, Boston and Georgetown universities do not.

The board will also greenlight a student fee increase approved by students in November. Committees, which involve more informal discussions, will also review SA initiatives, such as emails from the registrar’s office when students’ semester grades have been tallied in the GWeb system, and a how-to guide for conducting research in college.

Narla is one of three students reporting to committees, including SA Vice President of Academic Affairs Jordan Hill and Vice President of Public Affairs Julia Susuni. Hill said he is content with the level of student representation on the University’s highest governing body.

“There are many committees that hear from the Student Association, and they are all extremely receptive,” Hill said. “Their focus is on making GW better as a whole.”

Narla agreed, and added that the February meeting is when the president proposes an idea and the May meeting is when “things get done.”

“I think it would be interesting if we could get some more students on some of the committees, but I am really happy with what we have now,” Narla said. He added that members are typically open to communicating with him about his ideas, and said he had an almost two-hour long meeting with Vice Chairman Nelson Carbonell over the summer. “I think three students on these committees is great. If you talk to a lot of other student governments, they don’t even have students on these committees.”

At Pennsylvania State, a student is the Vice Chair of the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee. Peter Khoury is the only student with voting privileges on the board. He said he believes that an active student voice is both a valuable and necessary input in the board decision making process.

“Students drive the process from the ground up, and their representation on large bodies, either by virtue of position on campus, by popular election or by appointment is integral to ensuring that the student voice is represented in important conversations and decisions,” Khoury said.

Diana Henriques, a senior financial writer for the New York Times who joined the board in 2011, said her committee makes an effort to reach out to students.

“The student affairs committee makes a special effort to reach out to students on an informal setting,” Henriques, an alumna, said. “There are many ways for the student’s voice to be heard.”

The Hatchet also reached out to Development and Alumni Relation Committee chair Steven Ross, and Carbonell, who chairs the Finance and Audit Committee. Neither returned a request for comment. Chair of the Student Affairs Committee Alan From deferred to the University’s public relations office.

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