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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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FRESHFARM workers ratify union agreement
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 15, 2024

Students should abstain from this year’s referendum

This year’s sole referendum would update the SA’s constitution with amendments that are fairly inconsequential for most students.

We believe none of the proposed constitutional changes deserve students’ attention, and for that reason, we abstain from endorsing this referendum.

This bill would add, remove or change language dealing exclusively with the SA’s inner workings, like the process to remove and impeach the SA’s president, the independence of the Joint Elections Commission that oversees SA elections and the SA’s sources of funding.

A referendum can change the course of GW’s history. Students voted on three referenda in 2019, one of which asked them if they supported replacing the Colonials moniker. A narrow majority of students – 54 percent – ultimately voted to change the moniker. But this year’s referendum, which asks students to sign off on legalese, likely won’t have much of an impact.

Past referenda have focused on fossil fuel divestment and the creation of an urban studies minor. We don’t expect to see such high-profile questions go to a vote every year – last year’s referendum dealt with the SA’s budget. But questions about officials’ final moniker options or GW’s new dining halls could have allowed students to weigh in on topical issues. A referendum ought to be a way for the SA to gauge students’ views, not a test of their legal understanding.

To be clear, students absolutely deserve a say on how the SA is run. But we fear that students may not be aware of what exactly they’re voting to change in the SA’s 20-page-long constitution. Is the average student familiar with the SA’s sections and subsections or its articles and amendments? If they’re not, then asking them to approve or disapprove of these changes is futile.

In theory, closing loopholes and eliminating ambiguities should set the SA up for smoother operations – and less drama – in the coming year. But when the SA’s summer antics made headlines both in this newspaper and other local publications, it’s going to take more than constitutional amendments to set things right. So whether it succeeds or fails, the referendum is the perfect ending to a year of turmoil in the SA – a deeply internal matter thrust before students who likely don’t know or don’t care enough about it.

SA Senate Chairperson Pro Tempore Demetrius Apostolis, who chairs the group of senators that’s been hashing out these changes, said they’ve been working on the amendments for between four and six months. For comparison, the convention that gave this country its constitution lasted a little under four months from May to September 1787. Either way, that’s a lot of work for a fairly uncertain reward – striking lines of text or spilling red ink can only go so far to restore stability to GW’s student government.

Despite the SA’s obligation to review and revise its constitution every three years, the internal procedures and institutional safeguards this year’s referendum proposes are a last resort. To put it another way, the SA doesn’t need better rules – it needs better members. And when students vote April 13 and 14, they’ll have a chance to pick two candidates to guide the SA through the next year.

We hope you’ll consider our endorsements when you decide to vote. And if you disagree with us, we hope we’ve at least offered you a differing perspective that’s challenged or even confirmed your own opinion. If nothing else, we hope you vote this week – only 10.4 percent of students turned out to vote last year. Whether you view the SA as a punchline, a piggy bank or the start of your political career, it belongs to you.

Students should keep whoever wins this election accountable for their promises. The Hatchet’s editorial board certainly will.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Opinions Editor Ethan Benn and Contributing Opinions Editor Julia Koscelnik, based on discussions with Sports Editor Nuria Diaz, Managing Editor Jaden DiMauro, Culture Editor Clara Duhon, Design Editor Grace Miller and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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