Sophomore, SA outsider announces presidential campaign

Media Credit: Madeleine Cook | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Adam Johnson, a sophomore and Student Association outsider, is running for SA president.

A sophomore from outside the Student Association announced his candidacy for SA president Monday.

Adam Johnson is running on a platform that includes expanding the pass/fail policy to freshmen and sophomores, adding two hours of free Mental Health Services counseling and fixing the blue light security system. He said he chose to run now because he felt many students, like him, are not connected to the SA.

Johnson said he first had the idea of running for SA president his freshman year, but opted out because he felt he was too young for the job.

“I don’t have SA experience,” he said. “But after the last week of getting signatures, of talking to students and explaining my platform, they didn’t care about what SA qualifications I had.”

Johnson is an executive board member of GW’s Young America’s Foundation, a member of the College Republicans, GW for Israel and GW Hillel, and has worked with Young Americans for Liberty, a conservative and libertarian organization, in the past as a member of YAF.

Johnson said he will try to expand pass/fail course options from four to six in total, and include freshmen and sophomores in the policy.

GW allows juniors and seniors in good standing to take one elective course per semester – four in total – on a pass/fail basis, according to the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences academic advising website. The policy varies slightly among the University’s 10 colleges.

“I met a bunch of freshmen here who are taking electives. They say they usually don’t want to do electives because they don’t have the choice to really enjoy the class,” he said. “There are so many people that can find out their new passion, their new minor or major for that matter with a pass/fail elective class. It shouldn’t be an upperclassman thing.”

Johnson said he researched online policies that include freshmen and sophomores at New York and American universities, two of GW’s peer institutions.

He said he would talk to SA senators about proposing a bill on the topic and presenting a similar resolution to the Faculty Senate, but did not provide a timeline for the policy.

Johnson said he has not spoken to any administrators about how feasible it is to allow underclassmen to take pass/fail classes.

Outside academics, Johnson said he wants to make Mental Health Services more affordable by allowing students to have up to eight hours of free individual counseling.

Mental Health Services currently allows six hours of free individual counseling sessions, according to the Colonial Health Center website. After six hours, students with non-GW health insurance face an upfront cost of $60 per session. Students with financial constraints can complete a sliding scale fee application to pay a lower rate or will be referred to a low-fee clinic in the area, according to the Mental Health Services website.

“If someone truly needs it, it shouldn’t be about the school deciding who needs it,” he said.

Johnson, who said he has used MHS services, said he has talked to Kalpana Vissa, co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, about increasing the number of sessions allowed each semester for sexual assault survivors for long-term support.

He said he has not had formal meetings with Colonial Health Center officials, but has spoken with students he knows affected by the limited number of free sessions.

Johnson said he will also work to make sure all blue lights on campus are functional and repaired in a timely manner. He said he would mandate that University Police Department members inspect them weekly and that a text alert be sent to all students if a machine is out of order.

“We can’t even have one out of order,” Johnson said. “If someone uses it, they all should be working.”

In 2013, then-UPD Chief Kevin Hay said while GW’s 26 blue light machines had declined by 26 percent since 2010, they are rarely used to report crimes and the majority of calls are pranks. The new GW PAL app went live last month and safety officials said it would be a more useful way for students to indicate when they need help because it shows their locations.

Johnson said he plans to create a new SA cabinet position, the vice president of military and veteran affairs, to ensure concerns of students who are veterans or members of ROTC and NROTC are known to SA leaders. He declined to provide examples of what concerns he anticipates would need to be addressed or has heard of.

While crafting his platform, Johnson said he spoke with students, who he declined to name, from the Veterans and Military Affairs Office and was told that former servicemen and women on campus do not feel SA members address their concerns.

“Many vets are much older because they come out of service and then go to college and they feel disconnected,” he said. “I think because of how big ROTC is and how big GW Vets is, they deserve a vice presidential position that represents their views.”

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