Erika Feinman and Thomas Falcigno are the former Student Association president and executive vice president, respectively.
As GW students, we are trained to look outward. We are, as many administrators will say, becoming global citizens, prepared to witness injustice and pain, feeling a deep and fundamental responsibility to act. As we think about the students on our campus, we know that our classmates and friends are fueled by that fire, being the change they wish to seek in the world, guided by a thirst for justice in each and every new step in life.
As members of the LGBTQ community, we have always been keenly aware of the way that the national can affect the local, and of the importance and value in strong and diverse community-building. GW has taught us even more about our responsibility to seek progress in our communities and in our world. A core thread in our GW story, and many of those around us, is not just the realization that there is much to be done to make progress, but that we must challenge our own internal notions of right and wrong, of just and unjust, of fair and unfair.
While running for Student Association president and executive vice president, we aspired to find connections between the national, local and personal, striving to discover innovative solutions for pervasive problems.
While national policy debates and legislation threatened to diminish the services available to those dealing with mental health issues, we launched GW Listens, an anonymous and free peer support hotline that expands the mental health resources available to students, and successfully advocated for the continuation of a fall break on the University calendar.
As universities across the nation struggle with retaining students, we worked with the Faculty Senate and other administrators to implement a first-year academic forgiveness policy, giving students more opportunities to succeed in the classroom.
As the job market becomes increasingly difficult to navigate, and with many students facing large sums of student debt, we wanted to ensure that students had access to internship opportunities that would make their resume stand out. By improving and simplifying the KACIF application process and by creating the KACIF-Travel fund, we increased the number of students who were able to receive financial assistance to participate in incredible internship opportunities around the world.
As issues of food insecurity plagued campuses around the country, we worked to provide customizable GWorld plans that better address the needs of students.
With the increased validation of racist ideologies among political leaders, we worked to improve the campus environment and student experience by enhancing what is now an annual diversity and inclusion training for University staff, faculty and students.
We, along with other student leaders, served on the Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, which held a town hall with over 120 students in attendance to learn more about what student organizations are doing to prevent sexual assault.
We believe when everyone is included in decision making processes, we attain better outcomes for the entire University community. We, the students, should have a voice at every level of this University, which is why we prioritized student representation on the Board of Trustees. Our final recommendations are being considered by the Board, and we feel extremely confident that we have started a conversation on this campus about the importance of student input at every level of University governance.
Often our impact comes in small increments. One student who is able to talk to a peer and develop tools to manage their anxiety. One member of our community who doesn’t have to skip as many meals at the end of the semester. A class in which the professor acknowledges and respects the diversity represented among their students. Sometimes student advocacy can feel slow, but it is always worth the challenge when the end result is making improvements in the everyday lives of students, which is not only our goal, but also our responsibility.
We are proud of the progress we have made this year. Progress toward building a University that works for every student. Progress that would not have been possible without the hard work, dedication and creativity of countless students across this campus. After a year of SA advocacy, we have worked for you, moving GW forward together.
But the work is not yet done. It is our hope that all students, overexcited and equipped with that same thirst for justice that GW instills in us, might see this letter and decide to enter advocacy work here at GW. We have made great strides, but you, the next generation of student leaders, must continue to lead the way. We are confident that, if you have the right intentions at heart, you can leave this campus better than when you first started your journey as a GW student.
This article appeared in the May 22, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.