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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

First-years in SA share optimistic vision for GW

First-year legislative assistants joined committee meetings last week.
From+left+to+right%2C+first-year+Student+Association+legislative+assistants+Reena+Gupta%2C+Aryan+Mirchandani%2C+Mia+Diewald%2C+Jacob+Brittingham+and+Rebecca+Bartus.
Sage Russell | Assistant Photo Editor
From left to right, first-year Student Association legislative assistants Reena Gupta, Aryan Mirchandani, Mia Diewald, Jacob Brittingham and Rebecca Bartus.

First-year students who joined the Student Association Senate as legislative assistants this year share an optimistic outlook on pushing for positive change at GW by connecting with students through their respective committees.

Similarly to previous years, the SA Senate welcomed 23 first-year students to serve as legislative assistants — students who work in small groups within an assigned committee to assist SA senators with tasks like brainstorming policies and taking minutes of meetings — across the Senate’s 10 committees and one assembly. SA Vice President Demetrius Apostolis said first-years involvement in the SA will help them learn about the student governing body and the University because first-year students don’t have seats in the senate.

“Making sure that first-years have a voice because there isn’t any first-year senate seats normally is really crucial to having that representation,” Apostolis said.

Apostolis said more than 200 first-year students filled out the senate’s interest form, which received roughly 50 applications — “exponentially more” than the roughly 100 interested students from last year, when the SA barely had enough applicants to fill each position. He said applicants had to submit a form explaining what University-wide differences they wanted to change and what committees they felt they could make the most impact in, leading to Apostolis’ team assigning them to the committee they felt would best suit them.

He said last week legislative assistants sat in on committee meetings to begin to learn the inner workings of the SA and meet the senators they will be working with. He said his team will continue to work with them on how they can create the biggest effect on the University.

“They will be formally trained on all the things that they’re able to do, and then we’re looking forward to seeing the impact they make after that,” Apostolis said.

Mia Diewald, a legislative assistant on the Committee on Physical Facilities and Urban Affairs, said she was motivated to join the SA because of frustrations with the Student Health Center’s lack of open appointments when she was sick in September. Diewald said she hopes to improve accessibility and find better urgent care alternatives when appointments at the SHC are weeks out.

“I was interested in seeing if there was anything I could do to just make that smoother for anybody else who has some sort of health issue,” Diewald said. “I know that I’m just a legislative assistant, but I thought you have to start small and work your way up.”

Diewald added that some fellow residents are “frustrated” with the lack of cleanliness in Thurston Hall, where she lives. As part of the committee that oversees building facilities, she said she will push for community cleanliness after she experienced full-floor bathroom closures and empty soap and toilet paper dispensers.

“The bathrooms are definitely an issue where a lot of them are often unusable because they are very dirty or somebody did not clean up after themselves,” Diewald said. “That’s probably everybody’s main frustration.”

Jacob Brittingham, a legislative assistant in the Committee on Community, Advocacy and Inclusion, said he was motivated to join the SA because he felt a lack of cultural representation at GW after coming from a small town on the Choctaw reservation in Oklahoma. He said he wants to be the voice for Indigenous students — who make up just 0.1 percent of the undergraduate population — by advocating for respectful dialogue around the systematic oppression of Indigenous people, including police violence and access to clean resources. He said in the long term, he wants the University to include a land acknowledgment at commencement ceremonies.

“Being an Indigenous student at GW, I knew that it was maybe not my duty, but my responsibility to advocate and represent, especially when we have such a small population here,” Brittingham said.

Reena Gupta, a legislative assistant in the Graduate Education Policy Committee, said she has been brainstorming policy that pertains to international graduate students in her time serving on the committee. After being assigned to work with SA Sen. Adriana Sandoval (CPS-G), an international graduate student, Gupta said she hopes to prioritize policies that pertain specifically to these students on campus.

Rebecca Bartus, the legislative assistant for the Special Committee on Dining — the SA’s newest committee the Senate voted to create in May — said she wants to put health as her main focus. After sitting in on a senate meeting where SA Sen. Izzy Brophy (CCAS-U) said she found a small rock in her food from Shenkman Hall dining, Bartus said she wants to brainstorm policy that ensures a high quality of food within GW Dining. She said she also wants officials to prioritize meeting students’ health and safety needs in the dining halls by ensuring employees follow all protocols.

“Being at a private university in D.C., I think we’re expected to provide a certain quality that doesn’t go below a certain standard,” Bartus said. “So health as a main focus, as well as making sure that we have variety.”

Aryan Mirchandani, who works in the Committee on Graduate Student Life as a legislative assistant, said he is “excited” to be a part of an organization that wholly impacts GW’s campus. He said he admires the atmosphere of GW, which is “completely different” than his home in Las Vegas, and that his first experiences with the SA have been supportive after Apostolis and a few senators provided encouragement before his interview for his legislative assistant position.

“It seemed like a very positive, uplifting environment when I walked in, and it was very open,” Mirchandani said. “I was able to speak with the Vice President Demetrius and really have an open conversation.”

Mirchandani said running for an elected senate position may be in his future, but he wants to gain experience as a legislative assistant and to understand the SA’s influence to ensure he makes an impact as an elected senator.

“Our end goal should always be to do whatever it takes to benefit the student body because that’s what we’re here to do at the end of the day,” Mirchandani said. “If we can’t provide clubs with funding correctly, if we can’t take care of our campus correctly, what’s the point of us even being in elected positions?”

Hannah Marr contributed reporting.

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