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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

SA Senate votes to request Board of Trustees add two student trustees

Chuckie Copeland | Staff Photographer
Student Association Sen. Dan Saleem (CCAS-U), the sponsor of the Accredited Valor Act, listens in on an SA meeting this semester.

The Student Association Senate unanimously approved legislation Monday that will request the Board of Trustees add the SA’s two top leaders as voting members of the Board.

The Student Empowerment Act requests that the Board grants the SA president and vice president access to meetings and all committee sessions as full voting members — an expansion in representation from the SA president’s current report at Board meetings and nonvoting membership to the Board’s Academic Affairs Committee. SA Sen. Ethan Fitzgerald (CCAS-U), who sponsored the legislation, said the president and vice president have a “mandate” to speak up for the entirety of GW.

“Oftentimes, students have felt unheard,” Fitzgerald said. “That needs to change and it needs to change now. As students, we’re on the ground, we understand the University experience — the ups and the downs.”

The Board oversees the University’s academic, fiscal and overall operations, and has made key decisions like arming some GW Police Department officers and changing the University’s moniker from the Colonials to the Revolutionaries.

Fitzgerald said he wants GW to be a leader in student representation on the Board since it is “not vastly common” among governing bodies of other higher education institutions. Among the GW’s 12 peer schools, two — the University of Miami and Wake Forest University — have student trustees with full voting power on their universities’ Boards of Trustees. Syracuse University has student trustees, but they do not have full voting powers.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian did not immediately return a request to comment about whether or not the Board will consider adding student trustees.

While the SA has the power to make recommendations to the Board, it is up to members of the Board to make the final decision on whether to add the student seats proposed in the bill. Fitzgerald said he has spoken with Dean of Students Colette Coleman, Assistant Dean of Student Life Brian Joyce, the SA’s adviser David Bonilla-Ciferria on the next steps for the Board to add the seats.

“I’d also like to emphasize that we are just getting started,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re going to have further dialogue along the way.”

The Senate also unanimously passed the Accredited Valor Act, which asks the University to consider accepting Joint Service Transcript credits — credits that members of the military earn for training and education completed during their service, which the GW does not currently accept.

The bill’s sponsor, SA Sen. Dan Saleem (CCAS-U), said he was inspired to create the legislation because of his personal experience when he and other students affiliated with the military tried to apply their JST credits to the Office of the Registrar.

Saleem said when he spoke with officials on the issue, University Registrar Kate Cloud said officials enacted the policy before her time with the office and that she didn’t know why GW doesn’t accept the credits. Cloud has worked in the Office of the Registrar since 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“We discovered that George Washington University accepts not one, not two, not even three, but a grand total of zero joint service transcript credits,” Saleem said.

Baxter Goodly, the senior associate vice president of facilities planning, construction and management, outlined the residence hall projects for each of the next five fiscal years. He said his department is budgeting changes in fiscal year 2024 like elevator modernization, bathroom renovations, HVAC repairs and kitchen removals in FSK Hall to make more room for beds. GW allocated roughly $25 million for these projects, according to his slideshow.

Jacob Brittingham, a first-year legislative assistant for the senate Committee on Community Advocacy and Inclusion and a member of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma, shared a presentation for Native American Heritage Month.

He urged students to increase Native American representation on campus by encouraging professors to welcome Native guest speakers, to ask for new courses about Native history and culture and to add land acknowledgements to GW’s graduation ceremonies, the latter which is a goal this year for the student organization GW Students for Indigenous and Native American Rights.

“It is the minimum,” Brittingham said. “We say it with pride because we want to honor the ones who have been displaced, harmed or negatively impacted by colonization and its effects.”

SA Vice President Demetrius Apostolis said in his report that he spoke with University President Granberg about rerouting emergency phone numbers to to the GW Police Department and the GW Emergency Medical Response Group when GW community members try to contact emergency services because their services are free.

Fitzgerald, one of the co-chairs of the Mental Health Assembly, said the assembly voted to recommend officials add two mental health days to class syllabi for students. Fitzgerald said the recommendation will include suggested accommodations professors should make for students if they use the days, like sharing class notes and office hours.

SA senators will hold their next meeting Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. in the University Student Center Grand Ballroom.

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