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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Staff editorial: Can next week’s elections fix the SGA?

As the saying goes, “No news is good news.” And in a reprieve from the turbulence of past years, this year’s Student Government Association has felt awfully silent.

From “open forums” to “open doors,” this year’s SGA candidates seem to recognize the student government’s lack of effective communication — or its inability to make most students care about what it does. There’s no shortage of noise, yet students are tuning out: We doubt most students read to the end of the SGA’s weekly newsletter, for instance.

And yet, SGA President Arielle Geismar, Vice President Demetrius Apostolis and senators can claim several accomplishments from the past year. They changed the name of the governing body, worked with officials to add LGBTQ+-inclusive housing and expanded contraceptive access on campus, to name a few examples.

The SGA is neither all-powerful nor powerless. It can only ask, not force, officials to implement the resolutions its members pass. But when officials, student organizations and the SGA work together, they can change the University for the better. Officials, members of GW Reproductive Autonomy and Gender Equity and Geismar collaborated to reduce the cost of on-campus contraceptive pills, for instance.

But, you don’t have to be an expert to know this cooperation happens less frequently than it should — the SGA is better known for causing drama than marching toward progress. With its reputation as an insular, ineffective institution, is it any wonder that only 2,190 out of 25,600 eligible voters participated in last year’s SGA elections?

2023 marked the lowest turnout in a decade, but the vast majority of students haven’t voted in SGA elections since at least 2012. Forget “of, by and for” the people — the SGA represents and rewards a sliver of campus. There’s no incentive for students to weigh lofty resolutions or referenda when they’re busy juggling classes, filing FixIt tickets or rationing their meal swipes.

So as much as GW’s student government can get done, it seems to spend more time focused on itself than on students. The initiative to change the Student Association’s name to the Student Government Association did matter to students, at least some of them. But no matter how impactful renaming the organization was, it exemplifies that tendency to turn inward — by and large, bureaucratic procedures don’t change the day-to-day experience on campus.

Or, look at the pair of councils the SGA created for Jewish and Israeli students and Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students in December, which Geismar said were open for applications in a January meeting. Creating cultural programming, gauging students’ sentiments and meeting with officials all sound good in theory, especially as a means to lower tensions and address incidents of hate on campus. But more than three months later, we have to ask: Who’s on these councils? Where and when do they meet? And what have they actually achieved?

Despite all the people involved in the SGA, from Geismar’s 60-member executive cabinet to the sprawling staff that supports the senate, not much comes to fruition. From the outside, it looks like it owes its greatest successes to a handful of people who work with student organizations and the officials who hold the real power over the University’s future.

As the candidates and voters gear up for the election next Thursday and Friday, it’s worth thinking about that future — and what role, if any, the SGA can play in it. Student government should be more than a club, resume fodder or the butt of a campus-wide joke.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Editorials Assistant Paige Baratta and Opinions Editor Ethan Benn, based on discussions with Contributing Culture Editor Jenna Baer, Contributing Social Media Director Anaya Bhatt, Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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