This year’s Student Association presidential election has felt a bit like a never-ending political drama, filled with allegations of stalking and harassment, investigations into campaign tactics and the disqualification of a presidential candidate – but it’s not over yet. When we return to campus in the fall, we’ll pick up right where we left off.
Last week, the Division of Student Affairs and the Joint Elections Committee decided to postpone the SA presidential election until the fall, after complaints of harassment and stalking resulted in a 10-hour hearing to determine the truth of these allegations. The Hatchet’s editorial board agrees with the decision to postpone the presidential election. In the past few weeks, the election had been so plagued by outside drama that students could no longer fairly vote on the merit of the candidates’ platforms. But postponing the election likely won’t be a cure-all to the many conflicts we have seen come up over the past month.
By not communicating more openly with the student body while going through former SA candidate Lande Watson’s hearing process, the JEC did a significant disservice to student voters. Although the JEC did release the full report on the violations and how Watson amassed the six points necessary to disqualify her, we find the point system problematic. For example, we don’t know why certain offenses are worth more points than others – providing false testimony is worth three points but harassment and stalking charges are worth only one.
With these uncertainties, this process has led to more questions than answers, which has added fuel to the fire in the drama generated on campus. The JEC should have been trying to contain the rumors and drama spread throughout campus – instead, they only released two statements through the GW Infomail system announcing the election’s postponement. They should have kept us updated and informed by laying out the reasons for disqualification at the same time they announced Watson was being disqualified from the race.
As we head into the summer without a permanent SA president, the JEC and the University have the responsibility to be more transparent with the GW community than they have been. Not only does the JEC need to reevaluate their process for dealing with campaign violations, but new presidential candidates should be allowed to enter the race for a fresh start this fall.
When students come back to campus in the fall, there should be a new filing period for presidential candidates to declare their candidacies and a campaign that lasts a month – the same amount of time given in the spring. The JEC should hold another debate, and give students and organizations the same amount of time to endorse a candidate.
Last month, we endorsed Watson for SA president before deciding to rescind our endorsement when she was disqualified from the race. In our endorsement hearings, Watson and Ettingoff discussed how they would work with a new University president. But now, incoming University President Thomas LeBlanc will arrive on a campus without an elected SA president because a slew of conflicts forced the JEC to postpone the election. That’s a negative and damaging first impression for students to give him.
We hope that Executive Vice President-elect Peak Sen Chua’s platform is the SA’s priority this summer, and it’s important that he works with officials like LeBlanc to lower the cost of missed appointment fees at the Colonial Health Center and to create an international student directory – two platform points of his that will help to make GW a more accessible and welcoming place. Chua and the rest of the SA should continue to advocate for students and work towards goals they can accomplish without a president.
This presidential campaign has certainly been memorable, but it hasn’t been very fair to students who deserve a student government to advocate for them. We’ve been left in the dark, and it has angered and divided students. But it’s not too late for the JEC and the University to rectify the situation by becoming more transparent about their decision-making and allowing new candidates to enter the presidential race come fall.
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.