Updated: April 2, 2017 at 11:25 p.m.
After Lande Watson was disqualified from the SA presidential race, The Hatchet’s editorial board decided to rescind our endorsement of her. We are keeping this editorial on our website for readers to read our opinions on the remaining candidates.
A Student Association president isn’t just someone who can understand student complaints. The SA president needs to identify the needs of students, create a feasible plan to address those needs and articulate plans to both the student population and to officials.
There’s only one candidate on this year’s ballot who checks all those boxes: Lande Watson.
Watson’s platform focuses on students’ needs, not just things that pander to students’ wants. And her plans showcase her experience in the SA and as a student leader. She understands what an SA president can and – just as importantly – cannot do. Her platform encompassed many areas of campus. Although the length of Watson’s platform is overwhelming and she probably won’t accomplish everything she sets out to do, if she can get administrators to take on one or two of her big ticket items – like resident adviser funding – she’ll have a long-lasting impact on student life.
Watson’s affordability goals are in line with what students need. Thirteen of GW’s peer institutions allow students to take up to 18 credits without additional charges. GW’s policy puts an undue burden on students who are trying to graduate early. While Watson didn’t personally suggest that students take six classes every semester, she understands that the current policy is an economic barrier for students who need to graduate early or want to take on a second major.
Furthermore, Watson’s desire to bring more students into the SA shows her commitment to making sure the organization represents all kinds of students. Her freshman advocacy corps would give freshmen jobs within the SA when they arrive to campus and allow them to make connections with upperclassmen senators and cabinet members. And by creating cohort directors, which will be SA senators and cabinet members assigned to student organizations to provide resources, student groups will have more direct contact with the SA outside financial allocations. Sometimes having too many cooks in the kitchen makes it harder to get things done, but we believe Watson’s plans will ensure students have a say in the government that represents them. As president of College Democrats, Watson created a senior deputy board that added 10 positions to CDs’ executive structure, and expanded the executive board to 16 members from its normal 14. We aren’t concerned that she’s adding positions for the sake of it, because she’s used the strategy before.
This year’s other presidential candidates may have missed the mark for what the SA needs, but both sophomore Adam Johnson and junior Cole Ettingoff brought perspectives and goals that the SA should consider no matter what next year.
Ettingoff clearly identified what students’ day-to-day complaints are. Thurston Hall needs to be renovated and the Mount Vernon Campus, and accompanying Vern Express, makes some students feel isolated from the Foggy Bottom community. Like Watson, he knows that campus spaces should be free for student organizations. Although his passion for improving the student experience was evident, he didn’t have well-thought-out plans for how those ideas become reality.
Most of Ettingoff’s platform deals with cutting down on University bureaucracy – or as he calls it, “bullshit” – and housing updates. But during our hearing, he couldn’t answer questions about how he would accomplish those goals. To cut down on bureaucracy, Ettingoff proposed replacing GW employees with federal work-study recipients. But it’s not within the SA president’s power to fire University employees, and Ettingoff was unable to explain how he’d lobby officials to make that happen. Of course, students can get behind the idea of renovating Thurston – but Ettingoff said that it wouldn’t be his job to plan how students would be displaced during the renovation. Even when Ettingoff said Thurston renovations wouldn’t happen with him at the helm because it’s a multiyear process, he didn’t show regard for the goal’s logistical or financial feasibility.
Although we don’t endorse Ettingoff for the position of president, his interest in student life was admirable. The SA should take up his fight to make GW’s contract with International Limousines include Wifi on The Vex. And a single-stream complaint system would be a great way to make sure students’ complaints are heard by the right people.
Johnson brought realistic expectations to this election, and we hope Watson will be as willing to compromise with officials as Johnson is. But Johnson’s lack of experience was apparent in just about every one of his platform points. For instance, he couldn’t explain how his proposals for improving the blue light system would make campus safer, nor did he seem to understand the SA finance committee’s allocation rules. But he knew that by running as an SA outsider, he could hopefully make more students interested in the SA, and that’s admirable. Hopefully some of his ideas, like hiring a gynecologist at the Colonial Health Center and extending the pass/fail course option to underclassmen will be championed by the SA next year, regardless of who wins the presidency.
We know Watson is not a perfect candidate. It’s concerning that she pushed back at the idea of compromising with officials during our hearing, and some of her affordability proposals seem contradictory. In our hearing, Watson said she knew her proposed dining contribution plan – which would put GW’s profit from using GWorld back into students’ dining dollars – would take money out of the University’s budget and add to students’ tuition, as would her proposals to increase the number of free sessions at Mental Health Services and add an 18th credit to the semester limit. But when pressed on increasing tuition, Watson said students’ financial aid could cover it. Not all students receive need-based aid or will receive need-based aid if tuition is raised, and student loans could cripple students for decades after graduation.
We don’t expect perfection in an SA president. All three candidates bring new ideas and refreshing perspectives to the race. But Watson’s experience, leadership skills and attention to students’ needs make her the best candidate for SA president.
Vote Watson for SA president Wednesday or Thursday.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Melissa Holzberg and contributing opinions editor Irene Ly, based on discussions with managing director Eva Palmer, homepage editor Tyler Loveless, contributing sports editor Matt Cullen and copy editor Melissa Schapiro.