Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Full transcript of Phil Robinson interview

Senior Phil Robinson, a business major, was voted SA president in a close run-off in the spring. Running on a platform to improve student life by reaching out to students, Robinson has promised to make the SA more open and visible to students, and take problems to the Board of Trustees if administrators fail to hear student concerns.

At the same time, Robinson has said he will focus on attainable changes for students, and will become involved in debate over a new library and computer lab printing fee in the fall.

Robinson won the run-off after losing the regular election by nine votes to then-SA Executive Vice President Josh Singer. Singer ran on a platform with several senatorial candidates and EVP candidate Eric Daleo, who ran unopposed. Thirteen of these candidates became senators, and the election went to a run-off after two controversial Singer votes were discounted, eliminating his 40 percent of the vote needed to win.

Robinson was a School of Business and Public Management senator last year, and served as president of the Black Student Union for the last two years.

The new SA head recently sat down for an interview with The Hatchet in his fourth floor Marvin Center office.

Hatchet: How do you plan on reaching out to students during C.I.?
Phil Robinson: Just being around, introducing myself, not being overbearing but just being accessible enough that a freshman can walk up to me and say ‘my name is such and such’. I’ll do the initial speech that every year the president does and we have the open houses where I’ll talk to students and get them involved. We’re hiring new office assistants, we want to be able to hire some eager freshmen.

H: What is it that you’re pretty comfortable with going into the year?

PR: I think I’m comfortable with the overall responsibility that I have – only because I’m experienced with working with student organizations, being in charge of one, working with the administration, communicating with them, knowing the good and the bad and how to get around it. I even think the Senate is starting to come around in certain regards. I still realize it’s tough, but Eric has been great. We actually have been working a lot better than people thought we ever would. That’s been awesome. I’m feeling pretty comfortable that we can get things done. We have issues to rally around, so it’s kind of like the petty stuff, you gotta kind of forget about it and keep going.

H: What about that Senate that has ten members that were in a slate that you ran against?

PR: My feeling is, eventually, students are going to get to the point where they’re going to start to get fed up. I’m coming in there working for students. If they are too, then at the end of the day, you really don’t have to like me, but you can work with me. That’s what I really want to try to get across, because if they’re passing legislation it’s my responsibility to go banging on every door to get it done. That slate, I kind of feel like it shouldn’t be as strong come fall, the election is over with, the tension should be done with, we should now start focusing on what issues we need to get done. And I also think the fact that Eric and I have been willing to put aside any differences and get started on working on things this summer has built a healthy relationship that the Senate will see.

H: Another common complaint about the SA is all the politicking that goes on. How can you as a president address that?

PR: I think the first thing is to admit that there is politicking going on, but it has to be for the right purpose – and that’s you’re politicking the administration. You know, we lobby. You come to us and we’re that piece that lobbies to the University, and if that doesn’t happen then we go to the Board of Trustees. And we are political, because if you go into a room with Trachtenberg, you’re not going yell, but at the same time you’re going to try to work him into a corner where you can say okay, this is where I want to go and how to get there. When it comes to just being students and working with students and being around students, you subtract that garbage, then I think students will say ‘okay.’

H: I was talking more about the inner workings, people just standing for things or making statements just to advance their political career in the Senate.

PR: I hope this past election proved that doesn’t work. The end of politicking, I’ve already made several speeches about that to senators. I’ve pulled senators aside, and said if you’re going to turn this into a political slugfest all year, you’re not really even hurting me so much as you’re hurting yourself in the long run. If we don’t work together, then any policy that happens that we don’t do anything about, we have to live with the fact that on our watch, that happened.

H: As president of the BSU, what kind of changes do you want to make working with student groups? What was your basic complaint about the SA?

PR: It’s always a problem with student organizations, because you go to (the Student Activities Center) to get registered and all that stuff, but for some reason, we’re in charge of doling out the money. So that always confuses student organizations. We need to reach out to them, not in October when the bill passes for the initial allocations, then it’s too late to start forming relationships. We’re working on getting listservs up now, reaching out to them now, seeing their complaints, working with them. Being liaisons to make sure they keep funneling in their complaints so we can fix them. Having seen the other side, I know how you may look at this side and say it’s just a bunch of bureaucracy and red tape, so I take that into account. If someone wants to talk to me, you don’t have to go through five channels, my door is open, just walk in and say ‘I’ve got a problem, I want to figure out how to fix it.’

H: The SA held a referendum last winter with 300 people turning out. Is stuff like that a problem with student apathy or is it something the Senate is doing wrong?

PR: A little bit of both. It’s student apathy because we can only meet students halfway. They’ve got to get involved. And they can’t get involved on that one issue they get mad about and then back off. Like if they just get mad about the printing, then another issue they’re not as gung-ho about, and they just kind of say whatever, then we can’t go to the administration and say ‘students want this’ because they’re not stupid. They’re going to say ‘well, I read the last Hatchet, or I glanced at the Blitz, and only 50 people voted in this.’ It’s embarrassing, because how can you communicate that you’re speaking for students? On the other hand, we can’t pass stuff that a) doesn’t make a difference at the end of the day and b) we can’t do it at the last minute and c)it can’t be politically-motivated for several people. I guess both sides have to kind of compromise and we can actually get something done. A referendum should only be a last resort. I think some senators last year just didn’t understand that.

H: That was my next question, did you really think that referendum was necessary?

PR: A referendum should only come if the president, the Senate, everybody in here just can’t figure it out, so they say okay we’re going to go to the students. They trust us that we’re supposed to get those things ironed out and just do it. If I see six referendums (sic), I’m going to be disappointed because basically, what the whole Student Association is conveying is we have nothing better to do than just say well, we couldn’t agree on my idea, so vote on my idea to get it passed so we can do it.

H: But the election did happen to pass a third, non-voting freshman senator. What benefits do you see of this?

PR: I don’t really see it as really changing anything, honestly, because they can’t vote. It’s kind of just a third person to hear. If the argument well, it’s a third person to bring a third perspective, great. I’ll live with that because I can’t change it. But at the same time, I would challenge that instead of adding another fourth or fifth freshman senator in the next two years, encourage more freshmen to come to Senate meetings, because that’s when you start to hear their voices.

H: What would you say is the role of a freshman senator?

PR: To really get involved and I look at them not so much as representing freshmen as in working with each senator to make sure the freshmen in their particular school gets connected with what’s going on. For instance, I’m a business school senator, and I don’t know all the freshmen in the business school because of the way the program is set up, you don’t meet them until sophomore or junior year. That freshman senator should be a lightning rod to get those students involved. Then we do freshman town hall meetings so we can just hear concerns or things of that nature, to let us know what’s going on in Thurston or Mitchell or overall, are our freshmen happy here? Are too many trying to transfer? That’s kind of where I look at them going, but so far as dynamically changing the Student Association, no they probably won’t.

H: What about a voting freshman senator?

PR: It’s come up. I would entertain debate over it. I actually think it’s a good issue to debate because there’s basically two arguments. One is, freshmen don’t feel like they’re represented enough, so they want a vote. The other argument is they’re getting two votes, because they already have a school senator, and that’s kind of the side I lean on, only because I don’t want that pressure put on all the senators to reach out to freshmen.

H: What about the “freshman curse?”

PR: I actually have heard a lot about that. I don’t know, it’s kind of true, actually. Actually more people who are denied freshman year for freshman senator get involved. Eric was denied and he’s EVP, I think Dan Moss was denied and he’s finance chair. Omar (Woodard) was denied and he’s Elliott School senator. I think it almost does motivate you, if you really want to do it, to begin by going out there, campaigning and trying to get in. And maybe automatically getting handed the position the first couple weeks of school, not only maybe are you a little bit complacent, but you get wrapped up in all the garbage that happens that year, so students of course they don’t want to vote for you. It’s kind of a catch 22 on that one.

H: Any other issues for freshmen you would like to discuss?

PR: I guess let freshmen know my door is open when they have complaints. For instance, I remember I was running last year and someone told me the heat didn’t work and the air didn’t work in Mitchell. That’s an issue that easily SA and (Residence Hall Association) could have combined and got on top of who was in charge in (the Community Living and Learning Center) overlooking Mitchell and got it changed. Those kind of things they’ve got to kind of let us know and conversely we’re going to outreach to them, with town hall meetings where they can just complain or have suggestion boxes put in all their dorms. Let us know what’s going on and it’s up us then to take the next step and get it fixed.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet