Updated: March 6, 2017 at 8:05 p.m.
A sophomore Student Association senator from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is running to become the first international student to be executive vice president in recent history.
Peak Sen Chua, who announced his campaign Monday, said his plans include expanding SA senator outreach and availability to smaller student communities on campus and reducing fees for missed appointments at the Colonial Health Center. He said he would also work toward allowing freshmen and sophomores to take one pass/fail elective course.
Chua is an SA senator representing the Milken Institute School of Public Health. Outside the SA, Chua is also a member of the executive board of the Southeast Asian Association, and a member of GlobeMed and the Milken Undergraduate Student Association.
“It wouldn’t only be about me being the first international student to win,” he said. “I hope I get international students, and I think this has already happened with multicultural students, to run for office.”
Chua said he will push for SA senators to go to more student organization meetings and offer consistent office hours by connecting group leaders to senators from their school and having senators working on a specific group’s issues. He said many students do not work with the SA because they do not attend senate meetings or know who their representative is.
A lot of students at GW feel underrepresented here, and they feel that the SA has forgotten about them.
While concerns and funding for larger organizations like College Democrats and College Republicans are frequently addressed by the SA Senate through financial allocations, Chua said smaller, multicultural groups’ concerns are left out of the group’s conversations.
“A lot of students at GW feel underrepresented here, and they feel that the SA has forgotten about them,” Chua said. “Most students feel their representatives are hard to contact.”
Chua said he will also mandate weekly office hours for senate leaders in the student advocacy room on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center. He said he has spoken to Katie O’Connell, the SA vice president for student activities, about using the space.
“From what I know, there are no office hours with SA senators, so most office hours are conducted by the executives, EVP and President,” he said.
Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno said senators are not currently mandated to hold office hours, but that finance committee members often do. Falcigno and SA President Erika Feinman hold regular office hours.
Chua said he also plans to work with the International Services Office to compile a list of voluntary student “country representatives” who are available to meet international students from the same areas and help them adjust to GW. Interested students could post their contact information on the website for students to use if they want to talk with another student from their country.
“This is personally my favorite idea,” he said. “You can build community and students can feel at home first before deciding to branch out to the other parts of GW.”
If no student from a specific country volunteers to be a representative, international students from those nations will instead be referred to student groups that represent the areas, he said. For instance, if there is no Thai student representative, international students from Thailand would be directed to members of Southeast Asian Association for advice.
Chua said he has met with Isaac Fuhrman, the SA director of international students, to discuss whether international students would be open to the idea, but the plan originated from his own experiences coming to campus not knowing whether there were other Malaysian students or how to meet them.
Chua wants to reduce missed appointment fees at the Colonial Health Center, which currently range from $30 to $80 for physicals and psychological appointments, by 50 percent, he said.
“It’s something that could really impact student affordability. I think it could also help students feel like the University understands that students have day-to-day issues or conflicts that might make them miss their appointment, and they shouldn’t be penalized severely,” he said.
Chua said he has talked to Amber Singh, the SA’s director of student health services, about how feasible the change is. He said he has not spoken to administrators about the proposed policy.
There are quite a significant amount of undecided majors, and I think they are disproportionately freshmen and sophomores.
He said he will compile a list of missed appointment fees at other universities and has already contacted peer institutions, including New York University and the University of Miami, to ask about their health center fees. He said once he has created the list, he will present it to administrators, but there is no “silver bullet” to lower the costs.
Chua said he has also formed a proposal that would allow freshmen and sophomores to take one pass/fail elective, a policy currently limited to juniors and seniors. He said the change will allow students more flexibility and could introduce them to fields they had not previously considered without the fear of lowering their GPAs.
“There are quite a significant amount of undecided majors, and I think they are disproportionately freshmen and sophomores,” he said. “I think this will allow students to explore what they want to do and try something new.”
Chua said he is in the process of meeting with administrators and compiling statistics from other schools on similar programs, and plans to present the policy to Provost Forrest Maltzman and eventually the Faculty Senate.
“It will encourage students to especially engage in the arts and the humanities. I hear ‘Oh, I don’t need to take a women’s studies class. That’s useless. I’m not gonna make any money’ a lot. But you could try it out pass/fail and find out you really like it,” he said.
This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Chua had not met with Isaac Fuhrman. Chua has met with Fuhrman. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that Chua had spoken to Kaitlin O’Connell in admissions. He spoke to Katie O’Connell, the SA vice president for student activities. We regret these errors.