Vote for Matthews in Thursday’s runoff election for SA president

Polls will be open for 12 hours Thursday for students to file votes in the Student Association’s first runoff election in seven years.

Junior SJ Matthews – the Residence Hall Association president who took second place in the initial election – and freshman Justin Diamond – a write-in candidate whose last-minute campaign largely based on the memes page landed him the most votes – will both appear on the ballot. While both candidates have outlasted two other presidential hopefuls in the initial race, only one candidate deserves your vote.

When The Hatchet first met with three candidates vying for SA president last month, we endorsed Matthews – and we stand by our endorsement. We did not initially meet with Diamond because he was not an official candidate registered with the Joint Elections Commission, the body that facilitates SA elections, and he launched his write-in campaign just days before students could cast their votes.

Once he advanced to the runoff election, we held a standard, one-hour hearing with Diamond to discuss his platform and plans to lead students, but we were not impressed.

Diamond ran his campaign almost entirely on one issue: to abolish the SA. During our meeting with Diamond, he made it clear that his 11th-hour bid for president was intentional to allow him to feed off the momentum from the student body to garner votes.

When asked about the number of people he spoke with since he announced his campaign, he first said he reached thousands through Facebook live. But he later revealed that he only held back-and-forth conversations with about a dozen students in person and engaged with some others on social media.

This answer is concerning because broadcasting on social media means he is speaking to students – not with them. Diamond cannot conflate social media engagements with understanding the needs of students, and his lack of time spent listening to concerns of students is troubling because his platform has little student input.

Diamond also explained in our hearing that if he successfully abolishes the SA, the majority of the organization’s responsibilities – like administering funds to student organizations – would be handed over to officials. His campaign goal may be an attempt to break down the bureaucracy that comes with any governing body, but giving administrators more power feeds into another giant bureaucracy and strips student representation.

This vow also relies on officials taking the time to meet with him, approving his plans and taking on new tasks, but he has not spoken with a single official. In our hearing, he said he believes officials are easily accessible and would agree to take on the SA’s tasks, but he should have first gathered administrative feedback before relying so heavily on leaders at the University for his plans for the future of GW without the SA.

Even if Diamond is elected and successfully abolishes the SA, he lacks tangible steps to follow through on his plans. Diamond has said without the SA, students can express their concerns to select student representatives or elicit change with petitions, but he does not have solid plans for how the student representatives would work and his petition plan has fatal flaws. Forcing students to referendum about sensitive topics like Title IX and mental health to make changes means only the loudest voices rise to the top.

It should disturb students that Diamond is running to erase the most efficient way for students to express their concerns. Without the SA, students would have inadequate representation and officials would be left without a group that can bring issues like food insecurity, diversity and inclusion, and affordability to their attention.

We know the SA is not a perfect system. As an editorial board, we have not been shy about criticizing SA President Ashley Le’s goals and the way the organization has functioned in the past. The SA should always strive to improve as an organization that is often viewed as slow-moving and distant from students, but that doesn’t mean it should be abolished.

Keep in mind all of the organization’s accomplishments. Without the SA, students wouldn’t be able to take a free 18th credit next academic year, fall break would not exist and freshmen would not be able to retake a difficult class they did poorly in. On the surface, the SA may appear broken, but eradicating the group would delegitimize all the initiatives they have worked on to make GW a better place.

Students who question the SA’s purpose or want to see changes in the organization should vote for Matthews. She is an SA outsider herself who recognized flaws in the body and highlighted ways to make it more transparent. In our hearing, she cited increasing students’ understanding of the SA as her No. 1 goal. It is clear from Diamond’s widespread support that students have not grasped the full scope of SA operations, but Matthews wants to address the issue in a productive way.

We backed Matthews before, and we remain firm in our decision. Matthews has a successful track record of working with officials to improve students’ lives, and a tangible platform students should trust will come to fruition if she is elected.

Recordings of the endorsement hearings are available here for SJ Matthews and Justin Diamond.

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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