Off-beat campaigns shed light on SA flaws

While most Student Association presidential candidates are polishing off their speeches, one is polishing off his crown.

Instead of promising more student space or new career programs, senior Hugo Scheckter is casting himself as the “king of GW” in a satirical campaign meant to shed light on real issues.

His campaign vows to raise tuition higher than GW’s infamous rate and build more textile museums on campus, mocking the GW Museum that will house the crosstown Textile Museum, which is slated to open in 2014.

Scheckter, a former undergraduate-at-large senator, said few student representatives are bold enough to challenge administrators. He called that part of the reason the SA has seen little traction on issues like student space in recent years.

“None of the students really stand up to the administration enough, by running this campaign there’s a serious message behind what I’m doing,” Scheckter said.

During his time on the SA, Scheckter worked on an anti-discrimination bill and was known for voicing his opinions without reproach during meetings. He stepped down from the SA Senate last fall after a semester marked by disagreements with the organization’s finance committee.

Two years ago, another former SA senator made a splash with a bold presidential platform to abolish the group in entirety: junior Phil Gardner.

Gardner, now a graduate student at GW, said non-traditional campaigns allow for a break from overused talking points recycled with each administration and help get average students talking about the SA.

“The real changes that happen rarely happen from the safe candidates,” he said.

While the SA is criticized when it focuses on internal reform, Gardner said changing the organization’s structure would allow for more meaningful reform.

Executive Vice President Abby Bergren said campaigns like Scheckter’s and Gardner’s help bring a “fresh perspective” to debate and also get more students interested in the SA.

“If you see king Hugo running around that will catch your attention and the more you’ll be interested,” Bergren said.

She added that they do not delegitimize the SA because its legitimacy “comes from the work that we do throughout the year.”

Director of the Center for Student Engagement Tim Miller said he makes sure candidates “treat the election process with both respect and perspective.” He said satirical campaigns are common but he still takes all candidates seriously. Each campaign seeks to improve the University as its ultimate goal, he said.

“While the students in these positions are capable of doing incredible things at GW and can effect change that can last for years, perspective is essential,” Miller said.

As a senior picking up his diploma this summer, Scheckter knows he would have to resign his post if he is elected. But he said winning the most votes on election day Thursday isn’t his intention.
And with the buzz he’s generated among students and administrators like Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Students Peter Konwerski and University President Steven Knapp, Scheckter said his campaign is already a success.

“The fact that I’ve been asked to meet with the top administrators to discuss the serious points behind my message, which other candidates have not, shows that they are listening to what I’m saying,” Scheckter said.

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