This year, both of the candidates for Student Association president are qualified for the job. Although it was a difficult decision for The Hatchet’s editorial board, ultimately one candidate edges out.
Imani Ross should be your vote for SA president. She was not fixated on past candidates’ platforms and pinpointed unique ways to improve campus when developing her campaign, like implementing mandatory cultural competency courses. She discussed wanting to be a candidate who will “break out of the GW shell” by not simply including lofty goals we have seen year after year. Although certain aspects of her platform fit the mold of what past SA candidates have advocated, altogether her platform does effectively communicate how she would take her own approach to improving campus.
She also demonstrated more flexibility in her platform points than her opponent, appearing prepared to adjust to what administrators believe is feasible. Although SA presidential candidate Ashley Le also showed some willingness for flexibility, Ross stood out with a smaller platform that featured more tangible goals, which gives her more room to take on other projects.
With Ross’ 13 platform points and Le’s 20, both candidates have platforms that are too large and realistically cannot be fully accomplished within their term. Yet, Ross’ points were overall more specific and thought out, while Le incorporated several less-developed ideas, like simplifying the GWorld program, which she was unable to expand much on in her hearing.
The size of both candidates’ platforms meant there were bound to be weaker, less attainable platform points. Ross’ experiential credit – which would allow students who are executive board members of their student organization to receive course credit – comes with potential problems, like the ability for executive board members to abuse this opportunity. But Ross showed her ability to adjust her ideas when questioned about weaker plans. After speaking with a housing administrator, her proposed VILLAGE program – which would house students with similar interests in closer proximity to each other – was revised. This was a significant and positive change from her original plan of having specific floors being dedicated to one value or hobby, and shows her willingness to retool her points to be more feasible while still advocating the general vision she wants. But she should have updated her campaign website to reflect these changes.
Le responded differently to concerns about her weaker platform points. Her first-year experience course, where first-year students would be required to learn about how to be successful in college, would require extensive development and coordination. This makes it unrealistic to accomplish during her tenure if elected. When asked if she would still push for the class if the entire student body was polled and an overwhelming majority did not want it, she said she would still push for it. Although we were impressed that she was unwavering on a platform point she worked on, some of us found it concerning that she wasn’t willing to adjust to what the student body might want. The president is supposed to be a voice for students, so hearing that she would be willing to go against the majority opinion was disheartening.
Meanwhile, Ross created a course requirement that we supported. Ross’ proposed cultural competency general education requirement is a tangible and effective idea. This requirement could be fulfilled by a range of already existing classes, like ones on racism and women’s studies, and students would be able to take it without it burdening their schedule. Unfortunately, she was not able to provide some key details, like what would determine a course as being able to fulfill this requirement.
There were strengths to Le’s platform that should be adopted by whoever assumes the position. Le’s international and domestic student pairing program – which would match domestic students with students from the country they want to study abroad in – is a strong and feasible platform point that many students would likely utilize. However, this is one of 20 points on her platform. And she strongly suggested that she saw each point as equally important, which made us question whether strong proposals like this would be able to come to fruition if she simultaneously prioritized 19 other action items. When asked if she was concerned about whether some of her smaller platform points – like highlighting the GroW garden – would get in the way of accomplishing her loftier goals, like the first-year course, she answered that they wouldn’t and that she would instead delegate smaller projects to her staff.
But Le had one major strength over Ross that made our endorsement decision a difficult choice. Le’s answers to questions on most of her platform points, like the creation of a diversity council to address racism and discrimination and the first-year experience course, showed she had done a large amount of research, and was the more prepared candidate for our hearing.
In contrast, Ross responded to several questions by saying she did not know the answer, like when asked about the financial feasibility of installing lockers on the Foggy Bottom campus for students to pick up packages. Although it is refreshing that Ross did not try to cover up her uncertainty, she showed that some of her platform points still require more research. As an accomplished senator who has been on the SA for three years, we also expected her to talk more about how her experiences on the SA make her qualified to be president, but she did not do that.
Both did not have the answers to everything, though. When asked about the Program Board referendum that proposes adding an additional fee to students’ tuition, both seemed unfamiliar with the specifics of the referendum the student body will be voting on, and neither expressed support or disagreement with it.
Although the candidates have flaws, they both show passion and knowledge of the job and have some strong and tangible platform points. Ross may not have had an answer to every single question and would have benefitted from more research, but her willingness to work with others and a smaller, more well-thought out platform distinguishes her as the stronger candidate.
Vote Ross for SA president on Tuesday or Wednesday.
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.