The Forum

Commentary

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 2:16 a.m.

Hatchet endorsement: Ben Leighton for executive vice president

Ben Leighton. Michelle Rattinger | Senior Photo Editor

Although the pool for Student Association executive vice president was small this year, the candidates still presented a diverse array of ideas and goals. With distinct resumes and leadership qualities, each candidate would surely make his or her own unique impact on the SA.

Two of the candidates demonstrated extensive knowledge of campus issues, and all raised awareness of differing leadership styles and methods of achieving their goals. The Hatchet’s editorial board reviewed platforms, questioned the candidates during endorsement hearings and considered their performances at the student media debate before making its decision.

The choice came down to who was both knowledgeable about the pressing issues on campus and who will be able to motivate and lead the SA Senate to represent the student body next year. For those reasons, we endorse Ben Leighton for Student Association executive vice president.

Leighton has an impressive understanding of the University and how to best execute his goals. And he understands and is keen to rise to both roles required of the executive vice president.

He clearly knows the right administrators to speak with when issues arise, has an extensive understanding of the Marvin Center fourth and fifth floor changes. He also has a clear commitment to driving forward reforms students call for. His time on the Marvin Center Governing Board would bolster his lobbying for student collaborative space in the Marvin Center.

Leighton said in his endorsement hearing that advocacy is all he has done while at GW, and he boasts an impressive track record with last year’s dining overhaul. This is an important quality in an executive vice president, as the person holding that title serves as one of the student body’s chief lobbyists. That Leighton already has a history working with administrators to achieve student life focused goals shows he has the know-how to be executive vice president.

Leighton’s plan to keep the SA Senate accountable for its campaign promises by meeting with each senator one-on-one and motivating him or her is also a strategy we were glad to see he emphasized, considering the SA Senate has historically been mired by lethargy and inefficiency. He clearly possesses natural leadership qualities that will help him command the respect and aid of the SA Senate.

That said, some elements of Leighton’s platform, such as his plans to promote the D.C. experience through increasing student access to sporting events and city attractions come off as too programming-heavy. This hardly seems the best use of time or focus for one the chief student lobbyists.

Abby Bergren’s platform demonstrated her awareness of the important balance an effective executive vice president must strike – that of a manager of the SA Senate and a lobbyist for the student body. She offered up her own plans for how to involve student advocacy in many of the administrative leadership roles that are shifting. For example, she spoke during her endorsement hearing about wanting to be one of the first people to work with the new Center for Alcohol and Drug Education director Alexis Janda.

The efforts she would focus on, such as student space, would have long-term benefits for the student body. But her platform doesn’t just take a panoramic view of University issues; she also provided small-scale, easy-to-accomplish goals, such as improving outreach and working to reduce transcript fees first.

Bergren’s answers were logical and measured; she focused on creating a list of achievable action items rather than pledging impossible or vague promises – something many candidates did this year. That said, the fact that Bergren was so soft-spoken and passive during the debate leads us to worry that she will not be able to effectively lead the SA Senate and hold it accountable. While her ideas were thorough, she did not project a strong leadership quality and this is discouraging, as motivating the SA Senate is a tough task for even the most commanding of executive vice presidents. Her holistic platform and campus knowledge are overshadowed by these concerns.

Junior Austin Brewster brought an interesting perspective on leadership to the election, and his dedication to being a supportive executive vice president is laudable. He did not present a platform of issues he plans to address, but instead promoted the fact that he would work as an effective team member and foster compromise among senators. But in talking to him, we found that he simply does not understand what it takes to both manage the SA Senate and lobby effectively for student causes.

Brewster, when pushed on which issues he’d address, said he would lobby to turn the fourth floor Marvin Center space into a tutoring initiative, but he could not outline plans of how he’d achieve that. He said the executive vice president is “just a title.”

But we don’t agree. A vote for him would disregard the importance of the student body’s second highest lobbyist.

We believe Leighton will work tirelessly to address campus issues with an eye toward the future and a focus on student well-being. Vote for Ben Leighton for SA executive vice president Wednesday and Thursday.