Tuesday night’s debate was a circus. One Student Association candidate donned a cape and crown, giving comedic responses as part of his satirical campaign. And unfortunately, the others were largely unsuccessful in communicating their platforms to the audience.
It’s unfortunate that none of the candidates used the debate as a chance to distinguish themselves as a clear leader who could become students’ top lobbyist. But considering their responses in conjunction with platforms and individual interviews during our endorsement hearings, The Hatchet’s editorial board endorses junior Julia Susuni for SA president.
Susuni, who serves in SA President Ashwin Narla’s cabinet as vice president for public affairs, put forward an ambitious and balanced platform with both long- and short-term goals. She understands the need to think proactively to ensure a positive quality of life for future students, but she’s also practical and realizes she must produce tangible results within her own term.
When asked what her first priority would be as SA president, she said that she would work to add Trader Joe’s to GWorld. The grocery store, located just a few blocks from campus, would be a welcome addition to existing campus dining options.
And Susuni proved she has done research to sketch a plan of action for the initiative, strategizing with former SA leaders who spent time on similar initiatives and developing contacts in the GWorld office. The Whole Foods Market on campus is expensive but it takes GWorld, and it would be beneficial for students to be able to choose a more affordable option.
Susuni also hopes to collaborate with the Center for Student Engagement to streamline the room reservation process in the Marvin Center and academic buildings into a single online request form, another sensible plan that cuts through red tape.
But we are concerned that Susuni does not possess the skills to rally the student body to unite behind goals and projects, which are critical for an SA president.
During the debate, Susuni was largely unengaging. We were disappointed when she neglected to outline the specifics of her major goals. Given Susuni’s performance in the debate, we worry about whether or not she would be able to fill this role.
Susuni’s most formidable opponent, Sen. Mike Morgan, ESIA-U, brings a breadth of experience and knowledge of the SA to the table as a member of the finance committee. He played an integral role in writing the legislation for the student fee increase in the fall, and he’s also the chair of the Student Dining Board.
Safety and security is Morgan’s top campaign initiative. In particular, he has proposed a plan to station community service aides in all residence halls from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He insists that his relationship with the University Police Department would allow him to accomplish this goal in a short period of time.
This is a practical solution with twofold benefits: It would help cut down on crime in residence halls, and it would generate more work-study jobs. He said that from conversations he has had with UPD Chief Kevin Hay, he can conclude there would soon be enough manpower to enact this plan, though Hay declined to comment on the matter.
But there were a number of Morgan’s proposals that The Hatchet’s editorial board thought were well-intended but likely to prove difficult to carry out or ineffective.
Morgan argued that the student space conversation needs to be rethought. He proposed that the SA takes advantage of existing space in Kogan Plaza and University Yard by installing solar-powered tables in outdoor areas. He estimated that each table would cost about $1,500. The Hatchet reported in February that the table price is closer to $5,000 – no small cost, especially given the SA’s limited annual funds.
Morgan also hopes to offer graduate students more affordable housing. To do this, he argued that the SA could make a deal with apartment complex managers, promising them a certain number of student residents each year in return for lower rates. While this sounds like a good idea, it’s unclear how Morgan would actually make it a reality.
Furthermore, he talked about establishing a program led by graduate students to teach undergraduates how to file their taxes. That is a noble project, but it already exists. Morgan was unaware that the Center for Student Engagement is in the process of establishing a similar program as part of its “Big Adult Topics,” series through which students can learn how to file their own taxes.
It’s the job of the SA president to be knowledgeable about a lot of different student issues and administrative programs.
Hugo Scheckter, a senior in the GW School of Business, is running a satirical campaign. He said that if elected, he would ask for a salary of $1 billion, move the Univeristy out of Foggy Bottom and force Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski to fetch his coffee each morning. In his hearing, he flippantly mocked serious campus issues and responded jokingly when it came to issues like student space, student organization funding and cooperating with other SA members.
Despite his satire, the underlying theme of Scheckter’s campaign was constructive: Students should never hesitate to voice their concerns or tell the administration “no.”
And although his candidacy is widely viewed as a joke, he waxed philosophical during the debate, arguing that the SA should take itself less seriously. His campaign certainly exemplified that ideal.
But it’s not a joke to say that Scheckter’s campaign could have been strong had he taken it more seriously. His witty sense of humor, knowledge of the SA and charismatic personality would likely have made him a good fit for a leadership role.
In an unconventional move, freshman Tywan Wade is also running for the highest student lobbyist post. He declined to sit for an endorsement hearing.
Wade discussed his passion for the University during the debate, but failed to disclose any concrete plans of what he would do if he were elected. He said he would like to restructure the Program Board – a separately chartered organization – and reform the dining system. But his ideas were uninformed and vague.
Neither Susuni nor Morgan are perfect candidates. But after serious consideration of all their ideas and platforms, the editorial board has decided that Susuni’s methodical nature and SA experience would make her a better leader for the student body. Vote for Susuni for SA president Wednesday or Thursday.