The District is a place like no other. Students who live on campus find themselves blocks away from the National Mall, the White House and a Metro station that can whisk them away to nearly any corner of D.C.
But living in D.C. also means that you are one of the more than 700,000 residents who are unrepresented.
Residents of D.C. currently lack senators who can advocate on their behalf and are left with a singular delegate who cannot vote on the House floor and shadows senators who can lobby but are not members of the Senate.
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., reintroduced a bill last month that would make the District the 51st state and would give residents the same representation as any citizen in any other state. The bill revived conversation about statehood and now Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who recently announced a presidential bid, is also advocating for the District to become a state, amplifying the conversation and shifting a national spotlight on the issue.
Students may spend a short amount of their lives in Foggy Bottom and may not plan to live in D.C. after they graduate, but students must prioritize advocating for statehood because they have the power to make an impact.
Without statehood status, residents are disenfranchised. Plain and simple. In addition to taking away their right to representation in legislative bodies, Congress must approve local laws and because of that power, the group has historically treated the District as its guinea pig for testing legislation on topics like marijuana and abortion laws.
While voter disenfranchisement, especially against communities of color, is not a new issue, 45.9 percent of D.C. residents in 2017 were black and those voices have been silenced at the voting polls simply for living in a region that is not recognized as a state.
Since its inception, D.C. has been seen as a place of national governance and therefore should not belong to one state or another. But time has changed the District and it isn’t just home to policymakers and lobbyists.
Students demonstrate this perfectly. While most students are not residents, many go on to lay their roots in the District, but the real possibility of losing your voice in our country’s democracy may prevent some students from officially making the switch to living in D.C.
Many students likely feel that statehood doesn’t affect them because their time at GW is transitional. But regardless of whether students decide to stay in D.C. after college, it is important to advocate for the region they are a part of now, even if they are connected to D.C. for just four years.
For those that don’t remain in the District after graduation, the lack of representation still affects them. Local businesses that students interact with every day do not have proper representation in Congress and cannot weigh in on issues that affect them like raising and lowering taxes and legislation on topics directly tied to particular businesses.
Students have a powerful history of political action, especially at GW. They were at the center of protests against the Vietnam War and protested to end segregation in the District – and at the University. Students joined the March on Washington, just blocks from campus, to protest for equal rights.
In recent years, students have protested against police brutality and the inauguration of President Donald Trump. This past year, students flocked from campus to the Capitol, where hundreds of thousands of people protested to end gun violence.
It is clear that students have the power to make change and we must use our voices to advocate for those in the District. There are fewer than 400 undergraduate students from the District enrolled at GW, but if all students raise their voices to preach the importance of D.C. statehood, we can be a driving force to spark change.
It’s time for D.C. to achieve statehood. We cannot continue to withhold representation from 700,000 individuals when states that have smaller populations have a voice in Congress. Just as students rallied for the rights of women and the black community and for the end of gun violence and police brutality, students must come together and use their collective voice to push statehood to the forefront of conversation.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Renee Pineda and contributing opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of managing editor Matt Cullen, contributing social media director Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts and culture editor Lindsay Paulen.