News and Analysis



Judy Lim | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Judy Lim | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Student Association is one step closer to elections after confirming three representatives to serve on the Joint Elections Committee.

The nominees, selected by SA President Nick Gumas, will work on the committee to oversee this year’s elections for the SA, Program Board and Class Council.

In an SA Senate meeting Monday night, all three candidates discussed plans to encourage participation in elections by reaching out to more of the student body, particularly graduate students.

Representative Alexandra Puig, who served on the JEC her freshman and sophomore years, suggested using social media to expand outreach. She added that the JEC could make efforts to contact students studying abroad.

“I didn’t work on the JEC my spring semester of junior year because I was abroad, and I definitely got to see it from a different standpoint of being away,” she said.

Zachary Speck, a representative who is returning after serving on the JEC last year, said the committee could work closely with different GW officials to make sure that elections run smoothly.

Because of delayed discussions with the housing office last year, candidates were only allowed to campaign by themselves in residence halls, even though they had normally been allowed to campaign with others. Speck said the JEC should reach out to housing officials earlier to prevent the same issue this year.

He also addressed difficulties that law school and medical school students faced while trying to access their online ballots last year.

Speck said “it wasn’t something the JEC themselves was responsible for,” but it could be resolved by “making sure from the IT standpoint everyone is on the same page.”

New representative Lisa Francis, who had never been involved with the SA before, said that being a part of student government was on her “GW Bucket List.”

“I think I represent a fresh face for the JEC and the SA as a whole,” she said.

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Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, and freshman Sen. Alyssa Weakley brought forward the “Give Me a [Fall] Break Act,” which the Student Association passed unanimously Monday.  Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, and freshman Sen. Alyssa Weakley introduced the “Give Me a [Fall] Break Act,” which the Student Association passed unanimously Monday. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

A fall break is definitely on the table, but may not happen until fall 2016 at the earliest, the University confirmed Wednesday.

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said a committee, including students, will meet in the spring “to discuss the 2016-17 to 2021-22 academic calendars.”

The news comes after the Student Association Senate passed a bill in support of a fall break Monday night, claiming it could potentially be implemented by as early as next fall. Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, and freshman Sen. Alyssa Weakley, who both introduced the bill, said they believe a break would help alleviate stress for students and improve mental health across campus.

By not offering a fall break, the University is an outlier among its peer schools: The senators found that 13 out of 15 competitor schools offer an average of two days off close to Columbus Day for students and faculty. The GW Law School offers a two-day fall break for its first-year students.

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Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 8:49 p.m.

Liveblog: Follow the SA election results


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Student Association Executive Vice President-elect Abby Bergren counts votes for next year's committee appointments with interim Chief of Staff Phil Gardner. Michael Boosalis | Hatchet Photographer

The Student Association Senate-elect selected its committee leadership at its first meeting Monday.

The incoming senators spent about an hour and a half assigning top leadership spots and doling out committee appointments for each senator.

In the lengthy appointment process, Alex Mizenko, SPHHS-U, Elizabeth Kennedy, U-At-Large, Alicia Rose, ESIA-U, and Michael Amesquita, GSEHD-G, were selected as chairs of the finance, student life, academic affairs and leadership committees, respectively.

Mizenko, Rose and Amesquita were the sole appointments for their positions, but Kennedy narrowly edged ahead of Anthony Bucci, CCAS-U, in a 16 to 14 vote.

Next year’s finance committee has equal representation of undergraduate to graduate students, compared to this year graduate-heavy board, which drew criticism for focusing on the graduate school populations.

Mizenko, the only returning undergraduate student to the finance committee and previous vice-chair of the group, said he will promote transparency in the allocations process –  a hot campaign issue during SA elections this year.

“There shouldn’t be any illusions of someone who sits in an office and can never be talked to. I want to be really proactive in getting to know student org leaders,” Mizenko said.

This year’s SA Senate will meet for the last time April 16 before the new senators officially assume their roles May 4.

- Kaya Yurieff contributed to this report
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Aria Varasteh, Student Association, town hall, gelman student liaison

Senior Aria Varasteh, seen here speaking at a Student Association town hall held in September, has been named the new student liaison for Gelman Library. File photo

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Katherine Rodriguez.

Have you seen a stash of cookies in the lobby of Gelman Library?

That’s the work of senior Aria Varasteh, the library’s new student liaison.

The Student Association vice president of student activities assumed the library position that links administrators and students earlier this month. He has spent this week helping to hand out free cookies to anyone who completes a survey about Gelman.

Varasteh – the first undergraduate in recent history to serve on a post that normally goes to a graduate student – said he decided to take on the role because he wants to learn “more of the ‘ins-and-outs’ of Gelman Library.”

He stepped into the post after graduate student Jenny Wiley left her role last month. Sources inside the library said Wiley – who held the position for two years – opted to pursue a job with the national nonprofit Heritage Preservation after receiving a degree in museum studies last spring.

As Gelman renovation plans start to take shape, Varasteh intends to gather as much student input as possible and use his role in the SA to create collaborative projects with the library.

“I hope to be a receiver for student input from thoughts on the handicapped entry ramp to the color of the soft seating furniture items,” he said.

Varasteh’s first priority is to let students know that their voices are being heard.

“I believe being a student affords me the opportunity to better connect with the library’s constituents,” Varasteh said. “Whereas administrators may have difficulty, I may be able to better empathize with the issues other students are having, being a student myself.”

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Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011 2:05 p.m.

DSC looks to social media for outreach

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Ashley Larkin.

The student-run Dining Services Commission is jump-starting its use of social media to solicit student input, after a semester of little outreach.

The DSC has struggled throughout the year to connect with students, and its Twitter and Facebook accounts have lain dormant for months.

“We’re working on getting it started, getting it bigger,” DSC chair Ben Leighton said. “We’ve been retweeted by the SA and by the GW Twitter. We’re mostly just publicizing the changes we’ve made.”

On its “GW Dining” Facebook page, recent posts include a photo album showcasing J Street’s improved salad bar, and an announcement about free dessert if the page reaches 300 “friends” by the end of February. As of Friday, it had 210. Several posts from January advertise new entrées and deals held weekly at the café.

But prior to the start of this semester, posting on the DSC’s Facebook and Twitter was sparse, with updates coming months apart. One tweet in October announced an X-Box giveaway if the Facebook page could reach one thousand friends. The Twitter account has 82 followers.

Leighton said the DSC’s main goal is to gain feedback through Facebook, Twitter and a website preparing for launch soon.

“Occasionally you can get a couple good meals, but everything else pretty much sucks,” freshman Hunter Scott said. “I think it’s funny how Sodexo works at prisons so I always joke that we’re getting prison food.”

While the DSC promoted its Twitter account on flyers and posters at the beginning of the year, Leighton said the most effective way to inform the student body of its existence is through word of mouth.

“If you go on Facebook and you see 50 friends have ‘liked’ GW Dining, I think that will do a lot,” he said. “When people notice the changes we’re making, they’ll be more interested and more supportive. People respond to changes and action.”

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The head of Program Board has come out against the Joint Elections Committee charter, a document currently at the center of a lawsuit the JEC has filed against Student Association President Jason Lifton.

Program Board Chair Wesley Callahan circulated an e-mail Thursday night to various student leaders stating that his organization disapproves of certain changes made to the charter – which lays out the ground rules for SA, Program Board, Class Council and Marvin Center Governing Board elections – at the SA Senate meeting Feb. 2.

In the e-mail, Callahan said Program Board objects to the amendment stipulating that JEC officers may not file campaign violations against candidates, a change from previous years.

“[I]it effectively takes the teeth away from the JEC, and reduces the probability that a candidate who violates the election rules will be caught,” Callahan said. “This will result in more violations, and more going unnoticed. The end effect is that more candidates will break the rules, which will only continue to muddy the reputation of the orginizations and positions involved.”

Callahan also objected to the change stating that unsolicited electronic communications promoting a candidate’s campaign may only be sent from that candidate’s personal account, as opposed to authorized agents on behalf of the candidate.

“Changes to this rules [sic] will result in the spamming of student and administration e-mail address [sic],” he said. “This will result in hundreds of necessary [sic] e-mails filling the inbox’s [sic] of students, who do not need to received [sic] campaign updates for a CCAS senator.”

In the e-mail, Callahan urged the JEC to remove both sections. Any changes to the JEC charter must be made by the SA Senate and signed by the SA president.

After the JEC filed suit against Lifton last night – alleging he signed the contradictory and unenforceable charter into law – SA Sen. Ted Costigan, CCAS-U, circulated an e-mail to his fellow senators this afternoon, asking them to support Lifton in pleading no contest and arguing that “dealing with internal court cases lawsuit is not in the best interest of any students.”

“Doing this will end this lawsuit and stop this whole unnecessary issue,” Costigan said. “[Lifton] is uncomfortable doing this without the consent of the Senate given that the bill was passed by our body.”

Costigan requested that any senators with objections to a no contest plea contact him within 24 hours so he can advise Lifton of the Senate’s opinion.

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Updated 12:45 a.m.

The Joint Elections Committee filed a lawsuit against Student Association President Jason Lifton, alleging that he signed a contradictory and unenforceable election rule charter into law.

The Senate approved the JEC’s charter Dec. 7 – the document that lays out the ground rules for SA elections. However, the charter stripped the JEC – the body that oversees the SA elections for fairness – of their power to file campaign violations against candidates.

The lawsuit – filed with the Student Court late Wednesday night – says this provision is problematic because the JEC members are the only people allowed to see candidate expenditures, and are unable file a violation when a candidate exceeds the spending limit. The JEC is filing suit to strike the parts of the provisions that do not allow the investigative staff of the JEC to file complaints.

On Feb. 1, Chief JEC Investigator Willard Applefeld informed the SA Senate of the charter’s inconsistencies. The Senate voted not to change the JEC’s charter, noting that in the past the JEC has overstepped its boundaries.

The following week, Student Acitivies Center Director and adviser to the committee Tim Miller addressed the Senate reiterating the inconsistencies, yet the Senate refused to budge.

Candidate registration begins Monday and, according to the JEC, “it needs to be determined by then whether or not the investigative staff will be allowed to file complaints.”

In a statement Wednesday night, Lifton said he had not yet been sent the complaint and is unsure of what the JEC’s grounds for filing are.

“Ultimately this is a bill that has been passed out of the Rules Committee, and the senators on that committee have deemed it constitutional,” Lifton said.

JEC Chair Galen Petruso reiterated in a statement that the charter prevents the JEC from properly investigating and enforcing campaign rules.

“It is the duty of the JEC to preserve the integrity of elections and to ensure that they are fair and free from corruption.” Petruso said. “Because President Lifton and the SA passed through this new charter even after ignoring our legitimate grievances and concerns, we felt the only option we had left was to initiate judicial proceedings against the SA in order to rectify these unconstitutional actions by the SA.”

Student Court Chief Judge Jen Goldstein did not immediately return request for comment.

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Students looking to run for a position in the Student Association, Program Board or the Marvin Center Governing Board can register their candidacy beginning Feb. 14, the University announced in an Infomail Monday morning.

Registration will last for a full week, from 9 a.m. Feb. 14 to Feb. 21 at noon.

Candidates who register will then meet with the Joint Elections Committee – the SA’s independent elections oversight body – Feb. 28 to determine ballot order.

Friday, March 4 at 7 a.m. officially marks the beginning of the campaigning period, when candidates are able to poster campus with their campaign signs.  The annual event is the first opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves to the student body through posters, advertisements, and their own logos. Putting up posters prior to this is prohibited.

Online voting will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on  March 9 and 10.  Election results will be announced the same night voting closes.

If necessary, voting for runoff elections for candidates that do not earn a plurality of the vote will take place two weeks later from March 23 to March 24.  Results from the runoff would be announced March 25.

Thus far, SA Sen. Jason Kaplan, CCAS-U, is the only candidate to publically announce his run for SA President.

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Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011 11:23 p.m.

SA senator announces plans for presidency

Student Association Senator Jason Kaplan declared his intent to run for SA president Tuesday night.

Kaplan’s declaration comes after thorough discussions with family, friends and other members of the GW student body, a press release, sent to The Hatchet and other media outlets and SA insiders, said.

“Many of my peers have told me that the SA needs to focus on student needs,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan, who finished fourth during the race for the Columbian College senate seats last year, is the first candidate to publicly throw his hat in the ring for the top student spot.

The dates for the SA election have not yet been made public but will likely be in March. The campaign season is not likely to begin for another month, but the chair of the Joint Elections Committee, Galen Petruso, declined to say if Kaplan’s announcement was a violation to election rules.

“I cannot say whether or not his announcement is a violation. Complaints are not allowed to be filed until the campaign begins and so it is far too early for us to start considering possible violations,”  Petruso said. “We don’t yet have an investigator appointed, and so until a complaint is filed, I can’t consider anything related to a violation.”

The first-year senator and vice chair to the Senate Rules Committee is looking to reach out to students, running on the perennial platform of ending “GW politics” and red tape for students.

“The current administration has not done enough to directly address the desires of the student body. The students aren’t looking for the next President of the United States, they’re tired of hearing about the so called ‘GW politics’, they want a real student with practical solutions,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan calls himself a “sincere reformer” of the many broken institutions within the GW community. He made headlines earlier this year when he confronted SA president Jason Lifton over an e-mail Lifton sent to the GW Patriot – a student run blog – about the Patriot’s behavior at a Senate meeting.

“GW students are engrossed in school work and extracurricular activities and don’t have time to worry about SA politics. Our university [sic] needs an advocate who will cut through the red tape and wasted time in order to get to business,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan is a brother in Zeta Beta Tau and former president of GW Acting Politically for Israel. He also wrote four articles for The Hatchet his freshman year.

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