At this week’s Student Association election, students won’t only be casting their votes on candidates. Ballots will also give the student body the chance to express their opinion on five different referendums, ranging from academic affordability and the SA’s internal structure to changes in how Program Board should operate.
Vote yes on: 18th credit referendum
GW is currently the only one of its peer schools to not allow students to take 18 credits per semester without paying an extra fee per credit, which is currently about $1,500 per credit. Advocating to include an 18th credit in the price of tuition is a popular platform point this year, as it can be found in SA presidential candidate Ashley Le’s and both executive vice president candidates Ojani Walthrust’s and Brady Forrest’s platforms. But students will be able to cast their vote directly on the issue with a bill advocating the inclusion of an 18th credit as a referendum Wednesday.
The Hatchet’s editorial board has supported this platform point in the past and supports this referendum. The need and helpfulness of an 18th credit goes beyond students in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the University Honors Program and freshmen taking a University Writing course, who are currently the only ones allowed an 18th credit at no extra charge. An 18th credit would help students graduate earlier as well as fulfill all course requirements more easily. Tuition will only continue to rise and just increased to more than $55,000 for the next academic year. Students have struggled to get an 18th credit included in the cost of tuition in the past, but this is still a feasible step that would help address affordability and make a considerable difference in students’ lives.
Vote yes on: Internal SA referendums
This year’s referendums also include two on the internal structure of the SA that most students will not feel like they have a personal stake in, but do make a difference for the SA.
The first referendum proposes making the sustainability director a vice presidential position, which would make it a permanent part of the SA. This would make it a part of the constitution and allow the senate to approve nominees, while directors are simply nominated by the president. In last year’s election, a referendum asked students to vote on whether the SA should turn the director of campus operations and the director of diversity and inclusion into vice presidential positions. We supported this move because turning these positions into vice presidential posts gives the SA a consistent reminder about the importance of these areas. Similarly, turning the sustainability director into a vice presidential position will ensure the SA keeps recognizing the value of continuing to push sustainability initiatives like the Save a Million campaign that encourages students to print double-sided, and the Sustainable Investment Fund that was created this month.
The second referendum hopes to grant freshman and first-year graduate senators voting capabilities in their second semester on the SA. Currently, they cannot vote in their first year. There are senators who are very active from their first year, like freshman senator Yannick Omictin, who sponsored both the 18th credit and this bill. These students deserve voting rights in return for all the work they put into the SA. Without the ability to vote in their class’ interests, freshman and first-year graduate senators cannot fully represent them.
Vote no on: Program Board $1 fee referendum
The final pair of referendums were put forward by Program Board, marking the first time a student organization besides the SA has been able to propose a referendum for students to vote on. This comes after changes to Joint Elections Commission rules that allow Program Board and Class Council to propose referendums. But one in particular sets a dangerous precedent.
Program Board will be asking students whether they would support adding a $1 fee per credit hour to their tuition bills to go toward events like Fall Fest and Spring Fling starting with the Class of 2022. Although this fee sounds small, it demonstrates how these events are not actually free. If students take 15 credits per semester, that is an extra $30 added to their tuition bills a year. Students would be better off spending money on a concert they know they will want to go to in D.C., instead of an act they may not want to see.
Additionally, the referendum creates a slippery slope where these student organizations can propose changes like this that would involve students paying more than they already do. Students should never propose anything that would require raising tuition if it is not absolutely essential. Affordability is already a major concern on campus that candidates try to address year after year, so we shouldn’t be adding extra costs for entertainment.
Finally, Program Board also wants to hear from students about whether they should organize more events than they currently do, or organize fewer to attract bigger names. This seems unnecessary to include as a referendum, but it would be more sensible to scale back on the number of events they plan. With one major event a year instead of two or more, Program Board may be able to attract larger crowds, especially if they use this opportunity to attract bigger acts.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Irene Ly and contributing opinions editor Renee Pineda, based on discussions with managing director Melissa Holzberg, managing editor Tyler Loveless, sports editor Matt Cullen, copy editor Melissa Schapiro and design editor Zach Slotkin.