The Student Bar Association Senate voted to host two town halls with law school administrators to voice “grievances” in response to COVID-19 academic and financial procedures.
The resolution, which passed with 21 in favor and one abstention, asks law school officials to host two, nonconsecutive SBA-led town halls before Nov. 20 that are open to all GW Law students. Members of the SBA said students must be able to speak their minds in real time at the town halls instead of a previous format of meetings where students were required to submit their questions in advance.
SBA Sen. Rurik Asher Baumrin, who presented the act, said the bill recognizes “storytelling” as a powerful advocacy tool and the need for all students to be involved in policy changes. Law students have not had the opportunity to speak with administrators about COVID-19 concerns in a public forum since March, he said.
He said students will be able to share their own personal stories of why a tuition decrease for the academic year would benefit them. Officials offered a 10 percent tuition cut for all undergraduates not living on campus, but they only chose to not raise tuition for graduate students.
“At the end of the day, winning a fair grade tuition policy is not something that the SBA can do all by itself,” Baumrin said. “That kind of change is really big and it happens when the student body rises up, speaks and demands to be heard.”
Baumrim said the town halls serve as a space that is “opposite” of what administrators have offered to students in the past because meetings typically consist of updates from deans with an opportunity for students to respond. The SBA-proposed town halls aim to give students an “active” role in speaking with administrators by asking questions during the meetings that concern them, he said.
“We don’t disparage those town halls, and they have been useful,” he said. “But in those town halls, administrators control the narrative. Students are given a passive role of asking questions, which may or may not be selective.”
The resolution states administrators have “inadequately” addressed concerns regarding education for the law school and refuse to reverse its grading policy for the 2020-21 academic year, even though the pandemic is still affecting students’ education. Law school officials implemented a mandatory Credit/No Credit policy for courses last spring, but they have not adopted any grading or exam accommodations for the academic year, according to the resolution.
Senators confirmed Brandi Tennant, a first-year law student, as a member of the SBA’s academic affairs and policy committee. The Senate also approved $36 for GW Law Soccer to purchase sanitation supplies for a soccer tennis event.