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

Students will vote on five referendums in the upcoming election. Some should receive overwhelming support, while others are a bit misguided.

The referendums will ask students if they support fossil fuel divestment, graduate student unionization, giving voting power to the SA president on the Board of Trustees, making reforms to the SA constitution and breaking the SA into separate bodies for graduate students and undergraduates.

Here’s how students should vote on the referendums.

Vote yes on: Fossil fuel divestment
Divestment has always been a pressing issue on campus, but it has received heightened attention this semester after University President Thomas LeBlanc revealed GW’s investment profile for the first time. Students should use this vote as an opportunity to show student support for fossil fuel divestment. Hundreds of students have already participated in protests to show the need for divestment, and by now the entire GW community should understand that it is in the University’s and climate’s best interest. Divestment is the morally right thing to do – students should support it at the polls.

Vote yes on: Graduate student unionization
Students should vote in favor of graduate student unionization. It is unlikely that support for the referendum will change the University’s stance on unionization, as previous efforts from the Progressive Student Union and graduate students have proven futile. But the issues graduate student workers face, like low wages and poor health care benefits, have not gone away. Supporting the issue will help demonstrate that graduate students deserve better working conditions from the University. The University may have turned them away, but that does not mean we cannot continue pushing for change.

Vote yes on: Voting power for the SA president
It is also in the best interest of students to support providing the SA president with voting power on the board. The SA president currently sits on the board but cannot participate in executive sessions and does not have the power to vote. There is little harm in giving the top student leader at GW a greater voice – there are 18 trustees as it stands, and one more vote would not significantly affect trustees’ votes. Trustees are responsible for deciding on initiatives that affect students, like financial aid allocations, freshman forgiveness and a free 18th credit. The SA president should not just sit on the board to make speeches – they should be able to vote. 

Vote yes on: Constitutional reform
Students should support the constitutional changes proposed by the SA. They are relatively minor changes that will do nothing but help the SA function better. These changes will merely clarify many logistical and bureaucratic issues that senators encounter when trying to interpret the SA’s governing documents and write legislation. Updating the constitution will bring clarity to certain positions and streamline much of the change-making processes of the SA.

Vote no on: Splitting the SA into graduate and undergraduate bodies
Students should not support the splitting of the SA into two bodies. In theory, dividing the organization between graduate and undergraduate students could increase representation on both sides. But it’s questionable in practice. The SA is responsible for dishing out funds for all student organizations, including graduate ones. Cutting the organization would confuse the budget allocation process and cause division between the two bodies. In addition, student leaders who support the issue cannot be certain that creating a separate group for graduate students would increase representation. Graduate and undergraduate students need to be able to work together, and the SA should instead focus on pushing for issues that uniquely affect graduate students instead of dividing itself. 

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah and contributing opinions editor Hannah Thacker based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of copy editor Natalie Prieb, managing director Leah Potter, design editor Olivia Columbus, sports editor Emily Maise and culture editor Sidney Lee.

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