Updated: March 6, 2018 at 10:26 p.m.
Students will vote on at least three referendums during Student Association elections later this month.
The SA Senate passed three bills Monday allowing the student body to vote on questions about academic affordability and the SA’s internal structure.
One of the questions will ask whether students should be allowed take up to 18 course credits each semester without paying added tuition – a hot topic within the SA in recent years. Students will also vote on whether to make the SA’s sustainability director a vice presidential position – making it a permanent part of the SA’s constitution and allowing the senate to approve nominees – and whether freshmen and first-year graduate student senators should have voting capabilities in the senate during their second semester.
Yannick Omictin, a freshman senator, said he sponsored the bill calling for the 18th credit referendum to ensure that students are given the opportunity expand on their academic pursuits and graduate in a four-year span. Currently, most students must pay about $1,500 extra to take 18 credits in one semester.
“We pay a lot of money to go here, we pay a lot of money to live in D.C. and we pay a lot of money to come to a university that’s supposed to encourage us to reach out in our academic pursuits and explore different things – and we just can’t do that with 17 credits,” he said.
Omictin also sponsored the bill proposing the referendum to allow freshman and first-year graduate senators to have voting capabilities during their second semester. Freshman senators can attend SA meetings and participate in projects, but currently cannot vote for bills or resolutions.
Under the proposal, the freshman and first-year graduate senator positions may be converted to undergraduate-at-large and graduate-at-large seats in the spring, granting them voting capabilities.
Matthew Ludovico, another freshman senator who sponsored the bill, said the change would allow freshmen senators to better represent their constituents by giving them a larger voice in the senate. He said the SA’s governing documents already recognize that freshmen need representation in the senate, which is currently “not sufficient.”
“We, in the senate – we’re all about fair representation, and personally for me, I don’t feel like the freshman population is fairly represented by us right now,” he said.
Sen. Will Raderman, U-at-Large, sponsored the sustainability vice president referendum because he said it will give the SA a permanent representative to check in with administrators about major projects including the newly announced sustainable investment fund, which invests $2 million from the University’s endowment into eco-friendly companies.
“It’s good to make sure they’re as qualified as possible and to make sure we have a check on that and make sure that position exists every single year,” Raderman said.
The senate also passed a bill allowing online or off-campus senators to participate virtually in senate meetings. The change will go into effect next academic year. The SA has made increased efforts to move online this year and began live streaming all senate meetings last month.
Sen. Alvin Lam, SEAS-G, and an online student, said he sponsored the bill because there are more than 10,000 students that are enrolled at GW but live off-campus, which hinders their ability to come to senate meetings or participate in student government.
“We are leaving out a whole bunch of constituents that we could be representing,” he said.
Also at the meeting, Jacob Smith, the chief of staff to SA President Peak Sen Chua, announced his resignation from the role. He said he is stepping away from the SA “to focus on other commitments that I’ve made to myself and to others.”
Smith is Chua’s second chief of staff to resign during his term. In September, Ezra Alltucker, who was initially appointed to the position last spring, stepped down unexpectedly.
“I am proud of the work that we were able to accomplish in the executive cabinet this year, and I am really optimistic about Peak’s ability to maintain that momentum,” Smith said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the bill allows senators to vote electronically. That provision was taken out in the final version of the bill. We regret this error.