How to vote on referendums in this year’s Student Association election

In addition to selecting who will hold the top two posts of the Student Association, students will cast their vote in three referendums this week. This year’s referendums cover two SA administrative changes and a hotly contested topic: whether to change the University’s nickname.

Vote yes on: SA non-discrimination clause
The only student organization on campus that does not currently have a non-discrimination clause in its bylaws or constitution is the SA, even though all student groups were mandated to include the clause on their constitutions since last March.

Voting yes on this referendum is a no-brainer. The non-discrimination clause mandates that organizations cannot deny positions to students on the basis of race, religion or sexual orientation. Like all other organizations on campus, the SA should be held to the standard of treating all students – regardless of their background – fairly and equally. The SA is already full of students from diverse backgrounds, but adding this clause means if students feel like they have been discriminated against, they have the backing of the bylaws to take action and make a positive change.

SA President Ashley Le has said that putting this referendum on the ballot is a way for the SA to make sure student government is a “welcoming place.”

The sole reason this update made its way to the ballot is that the SA cannot make changes to its bylaws without a referendum. So while this measure is largely symbolic, it is important that students support the SA in putting their commitment to all types of students in writing.

Vote yes on: Expanding community affairs position
With so much going on around the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, it can be easy for students to have blinders on when it comes to what is happening around D.C. But students play a vital role in the community and local political decisions can have a big impact on students.

Students should vote yes on renaming and expanding the SA’s community affairs position. Rebranding the position would put having a stronger awareness of local governing bodies like the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Foggy Bottom Association into the job description for the student who holds the position.

Students, whether they live on campus or not, should be aware of the issues that are affecting nearby residents. Even though most students aren’t on campus for more than four years, our presence at GW makes an impact on individuals and families that call Foggy Bottom home. The relationship that residents have with students isn’t always cooperative because of the disruptive nature that transient college students can have on a residential neighborhood, so this strained relationship calls for a student leader to engage with residents and advocate on behalf of students.

In addition to creating a clear advocate for students, if this referendum is approved it will drive home the fact that the student body must be engaged in local politics. While students are known for being politically active on Capitol Hill, ensuring that our local neighborhoods are functioning well is an equally noble cause.

Votes yes on: Changing the Colonials nickname
Of all the referendums on the ballot this year, it is clear that this issue is the most controversial. For many students, the University’s nickname is a sore and unwelcome reminder of colonization, while for others, changing the nickname is along the same lines of erasing history from a textbook.

Students should vote yes on changing the Colonials nickname because while some may personally not find it offensive, it is a problem that we cannot proudly represent our University in all contexts. Students who have traveled abroad with GW are familiar with the notion that wearing school attire that says Colonials is highly discouraged due to its historical connotations – and that is a problem.

When the conversation about changing the nickname began last spring, The Hatchet’s editorial board applauded students who spoke out and encouraged administrators to pursue whether this criticism was widely held by students and alumni. While not all members of our editorial board feel strongly that the name should be changed, we all think it is important to have a nickname that all students can be proud of and aren’t particularly tied to the Colonials. We also can all agree that voting yes will have another important outcome.

If students show that they support this measure, administrators will be forced to comment on the topic – which they have failed to do so far. Administrators need to either move forward with a nickname change or stand their ground and explain why we should all be proud to be Colonials. An administrator’s most important job is to advocate for and represent students, but by flat out ignoring one of the topics students have been most passionate about this year, they are failing to do that job.

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, design editor Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts and culture editor Lindsay Paulen.

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