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Fact check: Assessing candidates’ policy ideas

Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor
This year’s Student Association races mark the first in-person elections since the pandemic, but some of the normal campaign traditions haven’t quite bounced back.

In the first fully in-person Student Association elections race in three years, delays and a lack of specifics in candidate proposals have made this year unlike those before the pandemic – but the few candidates running are hoping to tackle a wide range of issues facing students.

Many of the candidates’ goals include plans to expand the role of the SA in students’ lives, but a number of those plans are sparse on details for how they plan to achieve them. Many plans also lack context that would allow potential voters to determine how likely it would be for the candidates to implement their policies.

Candidates running for the top two posts overall have been relatively slow to publicize their platforms and ideas to the student body, with most not posting any ideas online until within a week of election day. One of the four candidates has not posted any ideas on their campaign Instagram pages at all.

The Hatchet reviewed the candidates’ ideas for misleading, inaccurate or incomplete information to provide additional context as students gear up to vote this week. Here is what we found:

Candidates for president

Dasia Bandy
Bandy, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, made her platform available to the public in three posts to her Instagram campaign page Saturday – less than a week before the election.

Bandy had submitted an outline of those goals last week to The Hatchet before posting the more detailed list over the weekend.

Platform point:
In her platform, Bandy calls for including a transparent and anonymous section in the bias reporting form of the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement’s for reporting professor bias.

Check: Students are already able to report on discrimination from faculty and teaching assistants through the ODECE bias reporting form. They may also choose to report anonymously if they wish.

Platform point:
In the profile The Hatchet ran on Bandy’s candidacy and her platform, she called for diversifying the counselors available in Counseling and Psychological Services to relate to the experiences of students from different backgrounds.

Check: Officials said at a Faculty Senate meeting in December that they would be looking to add six additional counselors to CAPS to keep in line with national standards, but the office faces a “significant challenge” in making new hires as GW looks to tap from a limited pool of D.C.-based therapists along with an increased demand for mental health services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christian Zidouemba
Zidouemba, a senior studying international affairs and international business, released a public platform in a post on his personal Instagram page on Friday in a slideshow.

Platform point:
Zidouemba said in his detailed platform specifically provided to The Hatchet that he’ll create a director of student athletes within the executive branch of the SA.

Check: The SA’s executive branch already has an assistant secretary responsible for overseeing athletics.

Platform point:
Zidouemba also said in his platform to The Hatchet that he will work with Richard Jones, the president of the GW Alumni Association, to create a mentorship program that will be mandatory for freshmen and optional for all others to connect students with alumni in the fields they’re interested in pursuing.

Check: Richard Jones is no longer the president of the GWAA. Christine Brown-Quinn, an alumna of the School of Business from 1992, took over in May. The association also already offers a program called “Career Connect” that connects students and alumni with similar interests for networking and mentorship opportunities.

Platform point:
In his platform to The Hatchet, Zidouemba called for the development of a Financial Aid Student Advisory Council to provide student input to the financial aid office.

Check: The council formed last year following collaboration between officials and SA leaders like President Brandon Hill with plans to begin meeting this past fall.

Candidates for vice president

Yan Xu
Xu, a sophomore in the Elliott School of International Affairs, was the first candidate for the SA’s top two spots to publicly release a platform just less than a week before voting opens.

Platform point:
Xu said he would work to pass constitutional referenda to establish senate seats for first-year, part-time and certificate-seeking students and smaller sub-schools like the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

Check: Earlier this academic year, the Student Court struck down a referendum planned for the fall that sought to return first-year seats to the senate. Associate Justice Zamin Raza wrote in the ruling that first-year students are already represented by their school-specific senators and adding these seats would go against the “essential representational equality” requirement of the University Statement on Student Rights and Responsibilities. The court also struck down seats apportioned for Corcoran, the School of Media and Public Affairs and the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration last year for being inconsistent with the SA Charter and SRR.

Platform point:
Xu also said in his platform that he wants to expand student representation on the Board of Trustees to at least increase student membership on its committees and subcommittees, recognizing that the Board has been opposed to “increased and more meaningful” student membership on the Board.

Check: Xu’s platform point isn’t inaccurate but needs context. The student body voted overwhelmingly in favor of an undergraduate and graduate voting position on the Board, but Board Chair Grace Speights declined to take a position on the referendum in 2020.

She said officials have addressed and will continue to address student concerns moving forward. Trustees convened a task force in 2016 to research options for student representation on the Board, and Speights said in 2020 that the task force recommended adding the SA president and the Faculty Senate executive committee chair as nonvoting observers on the Board.

Alfredo Granados
Granados, a sophomore studying international affairs and economics, submitted a platform to The Hatchet but did not make it available publicly on his Instagram page.

Platform point:
Granados said in his platform that he will oversee the “financial process in the Student Association” to advocate for “fair distribution” of funding for student organizations. In The Hatchet’s candidate profile on Granados, he said he plans to work with the senate’s finance committee to achieve this goal.

Check: The SA vice president can work with the senate’s committees in their capacity leading the senate, but the finance committee is ultimately responsible for determining the allocation of funding to student organizations. It is not clear how the process would be different under Granados’ vision compared to how it has worked in the past. The vice president of the SA does not have direct power to oversee committees on the SA’s legislative branch, according to the SA’s constitution.

Platform point:
Granados plans to create the “first ever Student Body Engagement Advisory Group” to connect student organization leaders to the SA and help identify issues like accessibility that students are passionate about.

“The goal is to develop reports that then would be presented to the Senate and Executive Branch to push SA members to take action in response to the issues,” his platform states.

Check: Though he would be able to create such a group as vice president, SA leaders already added a community liaison position in the fall with a similar responsibility to improve relations between student organizations and the SA.

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