Updated: Feb. 27, 2017 at 8:37 a.m.
A sophomore who has worked with the Student Association for two years is the first to announce her candidacy for executive vice president.
Sydney Nelson, an undergraduate senator for the Elliott School of International Affairs, said she will focus her campaign on student affordability, proposing policies to limit costs of textbooks and transportation. She said she will also make administrators more accessible to students by creating a council for the two groups.
Nelson said she decided to run for executive vice president because her time at the SA has given her a chance to interact with student groups and administrators, which has given her a sense of purpose.
“I feel at home and at my happiest when I contribute to whatever community I am a part of,” she said.
I feel at home and at my happiest when I contribute to whatever community I am a part of.
As executive vice president, Nelson said she will call for course descriptions to be more detailed to eventually include information on textbook costs that students can access before class registration.
“Currently when you register for classes, not every course has a description. This is especially prominent in the Elliott School, but appears throughout the different departments. This makes it incredibly challenging for students to know what courses to register for,” Nelson said.
Nelson said her research and discussions with Gina Harris, the senior managing academic editor of the University bulletin, show that course descriptions should be more accessible.
“It can be scary when you walk into a class and a professor tells you that you need to buy 10 books and it’s going to cost you $400. For students on a limited budget, it’s really hard to factor cost in if you don’t know beforehand,” Nelson said. “Making sure students are empowered to achieve academic success at GW begins on day one with course registration.”
Students can currently access information about courses before registration through syllabus banks on Blackboard and through the SA, but syllabi from each course are not available and have to be submitted by faculty and students.
Making sure students are empowered to achieve academic success at GW begins on day one with course registration.
Nelson added that she would also work to add “open source” alternatives to commercial textbooks to keep classroom costs low for students. She cosponsored a bill on a similar topic that passed the SA Senate last week.
“It is also an educational process for administrators,” Nelson said. “A lot of teachers don’t know that there are free online programs they can use instead of clickers. Educating them about that is a huge deal.”
She said she also plans on using results from a University-wide SA survey about affordability to create an action plan on how to tackle those issues – a goal current SA leaders have established.
She said that she will go through the survey results to see what classroom costs affect students most, like paying for access to online tools, to create a list of alternatives for faculty to consider and meet with them in-person to discuss those options.
“I have often found that one of the largest barriers to proposing a solution to administrators is that they often don’t realize the problem exists in the first place, and if they do, what potential solutions there are,” Nelson said. “By directly showing them how passionate students are about using more affordable options will show that that this will benefit their class.”
Nelson said she would also lower transportation costs for students by re-approaching administrators about a partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Nearly 74 percent of students who voted in last year’s election voted in favor of creating an unlimited Metro pass in exchange for a one-time tuition cost. University officials rejected the proposal, saying it would be unfair to add the $250 cost for the pass to all students’ tuition bills, as not all students would use the program.
Nelson has discussed the idea of reintroducing a transportation program with current Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno and groups like Engage D.C., whose members use public transportation to and from their community service locations, she said. She did not say how she would convince officials to adopt a program they have already dismissed.
“Learning more about that fund and how it could affect students made me realize how the larger problem at GW is transportation in general,” she said.
It can be really hard to express any sort of sentiment to the administrators.
Nelson said she will create a Dean’s Student Advisory Council to allow students to directly communicate with administrators with frequent meetings.
“I think there’s a common frustration with GW students where they feel that their complaints get brought up, but then they disappear or no one follows through with them,” Nelson said. “It can be really hard to express any sort of sentiment to the administrators.”
She said she has already been working with administrators in the Elliott School to create the council and will launch it within the next six weeks.
Nelson is a member of the International Affairs Society, on the executive board of the Women’s Leadership Network and the vice president of administration on the Alternative Greek Council. She said her experience on the Women’s Leadership Network, a relatively new group as well as working with the Alternative Greek Council – which she said tends to get less exposure than social Greek organizations do – will help her be a voice for small or new student groups.
“It’s about how we can support each organization individually,” she said. “Communication and collaboration is a two-way street and I think it’s really easy to wait for organizations to go to the University or SA for help, but it’s really important that we’re reaching out to them as well.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Nelson advised Gina Harris on textbook costs. She advised her on course description accessibility. We regret this error.