Students might not be spending much time thinking about Student Association elections next week. But now more than ever, they should.
Students are away from campus, and issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, like finding housing and keeping jobs, are overshadowing the election. But the SA has stepped up to help students in a stressful time, and students should pay attention to the people they are choosing to represent them next year. The SA has kept students informed about University announcements, directed them to financial resources and organized community assistance for students who need support during the pandemic.
Now, candidates are trying to show that they can step up and help students in times of trouble. Candidates have continued campaigning, using social media to promote their platforms and answer questions about the virus to help clear up confusion during the pandemic.
The panic surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed the SA to show its value and demonstrates why students should be paying attention to the upcoming election. Students can and should vote virtually on April 8 and 9 to ensure the right people continue to lead through the ongoing crisis.
Two SA leaders created a spreadsheet that allows students to request help or provide resources to others who are struggling because of the pandemic. They also compiled a guide for students to find information about topics like housing, financial support and internet access for those impacted by the spread of the virus. They communicated with students through as many platforms as possible, including the Overheard at GW Facebook page, Instagram and a weekly newsletter.
During a difficult time for all students, the SA’s leadership is incredibly relieving. Students might still be worried about the pandemic, but the SA’s outreach demonstrates exactly why the organization is valuable to students. It is easy to criticize the SA for doing nothing – for some, it was even easy to vote for a candidate who wanted to abolish the SA. But the organization’s response to this crisis has been exceptional. SA members have prioritized informing and assisting students and have made themselves accessible through email, social media and virtual office hours.
On the other hand, candidates vying for leadership seats have used their platforms to inform students on how to handle the crisis. Candidates are reaching out to peers, holding information sessions on Instagram and directing students to resources. Students should pay attention to the candidates showing leadership during this difficult time and should decide which candidate can best take on a crisis.
Students should also want to vote as soon as possible. SA Sen. Jake Corsi, CCAS-G wants the election to be put on the backburner during the pandemic, claiming that holding a virtual election discriminates against low-income and international students who may not have access to vote. Corsi wants students to be able to vote this fall when everyone is back on campus. But moving elections to the fall would drag out the campaign process and take away crucial time for newly elected leaders to foster relationships with students and administrators. A delayed election would cut their terms short and prevent the winners from picking up where current SA leaders left off.
Holding elections while students are away from campus is not the ideal scenario, but it is the right choice. The University has provided students with internet access for online courses, and those students should be able to vote. Elections were planned to be online anyway – the only difference now is that students will vote from home. The SA is too important to delay elections and risk losing months of progress. The next leaders of the SA will need to be ready to start helping students as soon as they are voted in. When SA President SJ Matthews’ term ends this spring, leadership will still be needed over the summer – especially if the COVID-19 pandemic is still happening.
The SA’s response to the pandemic has shown its ability to work directly with students, even if leaders are not sitting in their Marvin Center office space. Holding an election away from campus is not perfect, but postponing it is the wrong move. Students should look forward to next week’s election and prepare to vote.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a junior majoring in political science and psychology, is the opinions editor.
This article appeared in the March 30, 2020 issue of the Hatchet.