With Student Association elections coming up in March, running for a position is an attractive option for many students.
Becoming a member of the student government is a straightforward way to pad your resume and it is increasingly easy to do so. Only a single senate race was contested last spring and 14 seats failed to yield even a single candidate. Odds are if you want to join the SA, you can.
Even though the SA has an admittedly limited set of powers, its mission is as important as ever and students need to take these positions seriously. As we move into SA election season and candidates consider launching campaigns, they should take into account that joining the SA is not just a way to boost career prospects – it is an important job that should only be filled by individuals who are ready to work hard to improve the lives of students they represent.
While the SA does have limited power, it serves as a vital platform to amplify students’ voices to the administration. The group also is tasked with doling out more than $1 million to fund student organizations.
In past years the SA Senate has struggled to remain effective, which could be attributed to the lack of interest in positions. Last semester the group passed just four pieces of legislation – the fewest in at least four years. At the same time, high turnover has continued to plague the body and forced the body to spend time they should be legislating filling vacancies instead.
GW needs student leaders who are willing to put in the time and effort to sit down and debate the issues, not people who are going to quit the job halfway through the year, or just stop showing up to meetings altogether. Constant turnover diminishes the SA’s capacity to actually focus on doing its job of representing the student body.
But while the organization’s power is limited, when the SA speaks – administrators listen.
When the SA is actually working productively, positive change can be accomplished. The Board of Trustees voted last October to allow students to take an 18th credit for free starting next year. This change was only made after the SA published a report on making the change and pushed for months to get it passed. Without student advocacy, there is no telling when or if GW would have implemented this policy.
There are countless other examples of University policies that students might not even know originated as SA initiatives. If you are a freshman who is going to retake a class as part of GW’s first-year forgiveness policy, you can thank the SA for introducing that policy. If you enjoyed the extra time off students get in October for fall break, that originated as an SA proposal, too. This academic year, the amount of dining dollars students receive went up for the third consecutive year – an increase that has been called for by the SA for years as they continued to discuss food insecurity. All these changes were only possible because of the hard work of student leaders. That is the kind of leadership the SA needs.
The issues that are important to students cannot be solved by a student government that is plagued by turnover and a lack of commitment from members. The SA can be a significant force for making positive changes at GW, but only with dedicated people at the helm. The problems of high turnover and vacancy rates can be solved by having seriously motivated students in office. If you are planning to run for a position in the SA, don’t do it because you can win easily, but because you’re ready to work hard on behalf of the student body.
Like all governments, the SA is only as effective as the people within it. For students who have a real vision for GW and a yearning to represent their peers, you should run for a seat in the SA.
But if students are only looking for another leadership position to add to their resumes, they should sit out of the upcoming elections.
Marc Chaaban, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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