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Diversity, equity official to leave GW in July
By Jenna Lee, Assistant News Editor • June 8, 2024

SJ Matthews for SA president

While the best candidate for Student Association president typically boasts years of experience in the organization, an SA outsider beats out the competition this year.

SJ Matthews should get your vote for SA president. After meeting with all three candidates, Matthews showcased the most realistic platform with creative solutions to long-standing problems and will bring a fresh perspective to the SA.

Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

It is always concerning when a candidate rolls out a platform of 15 to 20 large goals because it is important for leaders to be realistic about what they can accomplish, but Matthews took the time and effort to address each problem she sees on campus with both a short-term solution she can implement right away and a longer-term solution she can shoot for over time.

Matthews’ platform also stood out because of her creativity. Food insecurity has been a buzzword in the past couple SA elections, but students have presented the same solutions time and time again. Matthews’ platform to tackle food insecurity by teaching students how to cook affordable meals and avoid buying expensive food on a day-to-day basis is by far the most hands-on approach, and the editorial board was impressed by her unconventional ideas.

Matthews also brought issues to the table that often go unnoticed. Other candidates focus on the student experience outside the classroom, but Matthews was the only one to include a platform point about the classroom, promising to ensure that all rooms are equipped with basic technology like whiteboards, document cameras and projectors.

As an outsider, Matthews was also the only candidate to include reforming the SA in her platform. Matthews said many students do not have a strong connection with the student government and while her plan to create transparency is not tangible and largely consists of efforts the SA already does – we appreciated that she recognized this hurdle that is often not talked about.

The two other candidates presented platforms that were filled with unrealistic or poorly-researched platform points.

Underwood had a platform that lacked preparation. While she had ideas the editorial board liked including adding Multicultural Student Services Center programs to the Mount Vernon Campus and creating a leadership program for students of color, in our conversation she admitted that she did not reach out to the necessary officials to get adequate feedback and assess the feasibility of her plans.

While some points seemed under-researched, other ideas simply did not make sense. Underwood discussed a program that would encourage students to take paper they want to recycle to their specific SA representative, but recycling bins can be found all around campus and there is no need for a middle man.

Underwood also said she wanted to reduce the buy-in for new restaurants that want to take GWorld as payment, but encouraging the University to further cut back its profits isn’t realistic and this doesn’t address the issue of food insecurity, it just increases the number of restaurants that students can spend their money on.

Cennamo has solid research to back up a few of her platform points but considering her experience, we were disappointed that her platform and hearing fell flat because she was unable to articulate the reasoning behind some of her central platform points.

Many of her goals were symbolic and the editorial board was puzzled about how they would actually help students. She said creating a financial aid compact would hold the office accountable, but her plan is simply to put words on paper. She also said she wanted to push for transparency on why housing costs at GW are so high, but she also acknowledged in our conversation that administrators told her it wasn’t feasible, but she left it on her platform anyway.

While Matthews’ platform was stronger than the others, it is important to recognize that she did have weak points. The editorial board believes that diversity and inclusion is a major issue on campus, so it was disappointing that it was not a point on Matthews’ platform. But in our conversation, she explained that she buckled down on having a diverse group of leaders as president of the Residence Hall Association and now she wants to carry that expectation on by appointing diverse members to her cabinet.

While none of the presidential candidates had all of the answers to our questions during their hearings, Matthews brought creative solutions to the table. As a student who has experience leading a large organization, is well-versed in University operations but is also a stranger to the SA, Matthews is uniquely positioned for the role of president.

Vote Matthews for SA president on Wednesday or Thursday.

Recordings of the endorsement hearings are available here for SJ Matthews, ShanTorrian Underwood and Nicole Cennamo.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Renee Pineda and contributing opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of managing editor Matt Cullen, contributing social media director Zach Slotkin, managing director Elise Zaidi, sports editor Barbara Alberts and culture editor Lindsay Paulen.

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