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The GW Hatchet

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Philanthropist gifts SEAS two endowed professorships
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Line-itemization would unveil secrecy

When Student Association President Carrie Potter and I took the helm of the SA in May, we inherited an organization with both organizational and institutional problems. To President Potter’s credit, she has solved many of the organizational problems. Her administration is tackling others, such as our dysfunctional student group finance process.

But the more profound institutional problems still remain, and that is what the “accountability throughout action” campaign to line-itemize the SA and Program Board fee on tuition bills is all about.

The culture in the SA has always been a bit like a utilities monopoly. We know that we will get our funding from the administration whether we are effective or not, so most SA leaders, especially those involved in the funding process have been less than motivated to really perform for students.

Historically, the most effective SA leaders have been those who know they will be held accountable to students when they seek re-election. If they did not do their jobs, the students will reject them.

There is no reason why the SA should not work like this as an institution. If we are not performing, students should have the ability to reject the entire organization. But students will never have this ability so long as the SA hides in the University fee.

Currently, the SA and PB receive a combined four percent of the $34.50 per credit hour University fee. But no student would know that, nor would they know the SA/PB allocation equals $1.38 per credit hour ($20.70 per semester for a full-time undergraduate) because no one bothers to tell them.

This secrecy works great for the administration because it would rather you not know that it keeps 96 percent of the University fee. Keep in mind that of all the money you pay to GW, it is only the money allocated to the SA and PB (the Residence Hall Administration and Marvin Center Governing Board are funded separately) that students have direct control over.

But the secrecy also works great for the SA because, frankly, do you believe you are receiving $20.70 a semester in service from the SA?

The issue of administrative deception aside, I believe the most important thing the SA Senate can do during its term is to regain the confidence of students so that our successors do not inherit an impudent organization.

Louis Brandies once said: “sunlight is the best antiseptic.” I truly believe this. If the SA is to regain the confidence of the students, we can’t be risk-adverse. We can’t hide in the University fee. Students need to know what their personal share of our budget is and they need to demand the requisite amount of service.

If we SA members fail to provide it, then students should reject the entire organization. I have faith that future leaders will straighten the organization based on the interest generated with the line-itemized SA/PB fee and students will be more than happy to provide their contribution to the SA.

I also hope the SA can serve as an example of accountability to the entire University. There exists at this University a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude about money. The administration would always rather that students don’t know how much something costs, and that students don’t care to know. That attitude of non-accountability and non-approachability permeates almost everything financial at GW, from the high cost of meal plans to the lavish salaries of administrators.

I don’t run the entire University, but I am second in command of an organization that operates under similar deceptive principles. I want to end that. Line-itemizing the SA and PB fee on tuition bills is a step in that direction.

-The writer is Student Association executive vice president.

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