Patrick Rochelle: Drop student space from your platform

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo
Patrick Rochelle

We’ve been hearing Student Association leaders push for increased student space for the last two years through both small-scale and more extensive renovation plans.

But after rallying and collecting more than 4,000 signatures in favor of increased student space to present to the Board of Trustees, their lobbying efforts have proven largely ineffective. In fact, the administration sent a message to the student body last week. Provost Steven Lerman and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz wrote in a letter to the community that the University feels it is already doing enough to improve student space through building projects like the Science and Engineering Hall and the “superdorm”.

And while I agree with SA leaders that student space is an important issue, this election season, it’s a mistake for candidates to continue to make it a prominent point on their platforms.

But that’s exactly what most of them are doing.

Candidates should think about how to make an impact in the next 12 months, not the next 10 years, finding innovative ways to help students during their terms.

“I think it’s important to tackle those things that don’t take up as much time but are very important because at the end of the day, everyone wants a more efficient system” SA presidential candidate Julia Susuni, a junior, told The Hatchet Feb. 14.

She’s got the right idea. But even Susuni has sworn to continue the student space fight. And she’s not alone.

In the last couple of weeks, SA presidential candidate Mike Morgan and vice presidential candidate Mike Adam, both sophomores, have mentioned student space as a central tenet of their platforms.

There’s no doubt students would benefit if the third floor of the Marvin Center were renovated into a community center where Colonials could meet for clubs and organizations as well as do homework and hang out with friends. But it’s one thing to have ambitious goals for the year and it’s another to be unrealistic.

The administration has been vocal about its opposition to the SA’s student space plan and whether students like it or not, the probability of it going forward anytime soon is very low.

Even though the University rejected Narla’s most ambitious goal, it’s not like his term has been devoid of success.

He convinced the administration to keep Duques and Funger Halls open until 2 a.m., brought regular free HIV/AIDS testing clinics to the Student Health Service and passed a student fee increase that will provide smaller student organizations with more funding for programming.

There’s a common theme here: Each of these accomplishments was a relatively small-scale quality-of-life issue that didn’t require GW to fork over millions of dollars in renovations. They were practical, simple and most importantly, accomplished within a year’s time.

And while Narla created a long term student space plan earlier this year where he laid out what the third floor of the Marvin Center might look like, imagine how much more he and Executive Vice President Abby Bergren could have accomplished with the time they spent on student space this year.

We hear SA candidates talk about the same issues every year. They claim they can improve J Street, lower student fees and tackle rising college costs. And while many of these promises fall short, this year’s batch of candidates have the opportunity to fill their platforms with fresh ideas that could really make an impact on campus. Instead of recycling tired lines and piggybacking off former administrations, the candidates should think outside the box.

The SA president and executive vice president have very little time to accomplish all of their goals. And they shouldn’t waste it on initiatives that are out of reach.

Patrick Rochelle, a senior majoring in English, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.

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