News and Analysis



Tuesday, April 14, 2015 10:39 a.m.

SA Senate votes to lower campaign spending limits

Sen. Carlo Wood sponsored a unanimously-passed Student Association Senate bill that slashed campaign spending limits for the next election cycle. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Sen. Carlo Wood sponsored a unanimously-passed Student Association Senate bill that slashed campaign spending limits for the next election cycle. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Student Association unanimously passed a bill Monday night that will slash the amount of money students can spend during elections.

Students running for SA president, executive vice president, and top positions on Program Board will only be able to spend $750 on their campaigns, a 25 percent drop from the past election. At-Large senators’s spending limits were cut by a third to $500, and the spending cap for students running for all other SA senate and Class Council seats was cut in half to $250.

Sen. Zachary Graybill, SEAS-U, who sponsored the bill with Sen. Carlo Wood, SoB-U, said he determined the spending caps by analyzing how much each candidate spent during the most recent election cycle. Andie Dowd and Casey Syron, who won the two top SA spots, both spent the least out of all candidates running for their positions.

Wood, who lost his bid for executive vice president, spent $200 on his campaign last month. He said lowering the limits can help students who are on federal work study run for positions without worrying if they’ll be outspent by their opponents.

Sen. Victoria Goncalves, CCAS-U, who introduced a similar bill in January that proposed cutting spending caps in half, said the cuts to spending limits didn’t go deep enough.

“I’m offended at the notion that having these cuts is enough to make campaigns affordable,” she said.

The Class Council and Program Board will have to approve the changes before they can be instated.

The senate also unanimously passed a resolution supporting a Faculty Senate resolution that would let current student-employees keep their tuition benefits. The University started to rollback tuition benefits for student employees in September.

Sen. Frank Fritz, CCAS-U, urged senators to “stand together” with the 46 staff members laid off by GW last week.

“At comparable institutions, they currently pay 100 percent benefits to staff,” Fritz said. “When we’re in such a difficult fiscal situation, we have to stand together.”

The senate also passed a bill that changed the criteria student organizations would have to meet to receive funding for events. Student organizations will now receive funding based on how necessary the funding is to hold the event, instead of the prestige of the event.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

Updated: April 13, 2015 at 10:26 p.m.

About 30 students, including members of Students Against Sexual Assault, marched across campus Monday, demanding that administrators implement mandatory sexual assault education at Colonial Inauguration.

The protest followed the announcement that officials would have sexual assault education in an online-only format.

The protest began in Kogan Plaza, and students walked through campus to Rice Hall, where University President Steven Knapp’s and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski’s offices are located.

Students carried mattresses and chanted phrases like “This is what democracy looks like” and “”GW stop stalling, rape culture is appalling.” Some students also fastened red tape over their mouths.

Last month, 92 percent of students voted in favor of having a mandatory sexual violence education session at CI.

SASA Co-Presidents Ariella Neckritz and Kirsten Dimovitz and Vice President Laura Zillman met with Knapp’s chief of staff in the building while other students stood outside.

“Thank you for coming out today in solidarity and support for survivors and saying this is an issue you care about,” Neckritz said to the crowd of students.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, sponsored a resolution passed by the Student Assocation Wednesday night calling for more security after swastikas were posted in International House. Elizabeth Lane | Hatchet Photographer

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, sponsored a resolution passed by the Student Assocation Wednesday night calling for more security after swastikas were posted in International House. Elizabeth Lane | Hatchet Photographer

The Student Association Senate passed a resolution Monday asking the University to install more security cameras in residence halls after swastikas were posted two times in International House within three weeks.

Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CCAS-U, said the bill would provide necessary security measures in public spaces, like near elevators and in residence hall lobbies. He said he will ask GW and the University Police Department to install cameras in those locations.

“Moving forward, this resolution would encourage the University to take a more active approach not only to prevent instances but also make sure we can increase the safety of our students that live in residence halls,” Falcigno said.

In February, three swastikas were drawn on the walls of International House, which houses students in sororities and fraternities. Three weeks later, a member of Zeta Beta Tau posted a swastika on the fraternity’s floor in International House.

Falcigno added that after the first incident, the University installed a security camera in the lobby of International House.

“In the first instance of 3 swastikas posted, if we had security camera we could find out who did this and UPD would not have to go through hours of footage to see who entered,” Falcigno said.

The bill also asked the senate to formally condemn the postings of the swastikas. The Metropolitan Police Department is now investigating both incidents as hate crimes.

Sen. Ben Pryde, U-at-Large, said while it may seem “redundant” for the SA to condemn the acts after the University issued a similar release, it is important “that students say this is not okay as well.”

The SA also passed a bill that allows graduate student organizations to include more groups in their umbrella organizations in order to better distribute funding. More than a half-dozen graduate student leaders attended the meeting and spoke in support of the bill.

Stuart Portman, president of the Public Health Student Association, said the bill would better help his organization and others plan events around the schedules of graduate students.

“Being a graduate student at GW doesn’t mean we’re trying to sanction ourselves off, it means we’re trying to make ourselves the best that we can be so we can collaborate with the entire GW community,” he said.

Joseph Cordes, the chair of the Faculty Senate’s finance committee, also addressed the SA Senate in preparation for a resolution the group will vote on next week regarding the University’s tuition benefits policy for staff members. It was the first time a member of the Faculty Senate spoke to the SA Senate in recent history.

Staff began protesting last year after GW administrators rolled back tuition benefits for those employees, which staffers used to take GW courses at a discounted rate. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution in December that would allow student employees to keep their current benefits and University President Steven Knapp launched a task force looking into the University’s current benefits in January.

“You all benefit from this,” Cordes said, encouraging senators to approve the resolution at the next meeting. ”I’m sure they can appreciate similar support from students.”

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Sen. Frank Fritz (CCAS_U) introduces a bill that would allow GW students to vote on whether or not they believed the University should divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. The bill failed by one vote. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

Sen. Frank Fritz (CCAS-U) introduces a bill that would allow GW students to vote on whether or not they believed the University should divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies. The bill failed by one vote. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Photographer

A bill that would allow GW students to vote on whether the University should divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies lost by one vote in the Student Association Senate Monday night.

The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass. Exactly two-thirds of the senators present voted in favor of holding the referendum, leaving Executive Vice President Avra Bossov to cast the final “no” vote after 45 minutes of intense debate.

Multiple amendments had been debated, including a request for the University to disclose all of its investments, which failed. Only one amendment did pass: To make the wording of the referendum more understandable to students.

“The question at the end of the debate was different – due to the amendments – than when we began,” Bossov said. “And because of that, I could not support it.”

Sen. Frank Fritz, CCAS-U, who introduced the bill, said he planned on re-introducing it at the next SA meeting in two weeks.

“Of course I’m disappointed but democracy’s a messy thing,” he said. “I think that both Nick and Avra thought that the debate had been too controversial and that’s why they decided not to pass it on such a controversial note. Hopefully next time now that everyone’s aware of the bill, we have debated every facet of this bill, I think that we can pass it when everyone has fresh eyes.”

Sen. Alfredo Joseph Pelicci, Law-G, called for a vote of no confidence on Bossov because she had consulted with SA President Nick Gumas before casting her vote. No other senators joined him and he later said he had overreacted.

More than thirty students, many from Fossil Free GW and wearing orange felt pins with black X’s, attended the meeting in support of the bill.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

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.

  • Permalink
  • Comments

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.

  • Permalink
  • Comments
Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 8:49 p.m.

Liveblog: Follow the SA election results


  • Permalink
  • Comments

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
  • Permalink
  • Comments
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.”

  • Permalink
  • Comments (3)
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.”

  • Permalink
  • Comments