George Washington University Student Association

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The George Washington University Student Association
Institution The George Washington University
Established May 24, 1976
President Ashley Le
Members 27,000 students
Executive Vice President Ojani Walthrust

The George Washington University Student Association, colloquially known as the Student Association (SA), is the student government of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Modeled after the United States federal government, it consists of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.[1]

The Student Association is responsible for advocacy on behalf of the student body at The George Washington University. The first form of student government at GW can be traced back to a system of class officers in 1909. The Student Council, the precursor to today's student government, was first established in 1930. After some changes to the structure it was dissolved following a student body vote in 1970 after being deemed unworkable. The constitution that ushered the creation of the current Student Association was ratified in 1976 after a university wide referendum.


Prior to the Student Association, the student governing body was the student council. The student council was established in 1930 to replace the system governed by various class presidents or officers, which began in 1909. All schools in 1930 were to receive one representative for every 500 students. In 1938 the constitution was changed. The new Council was composed of 9 members elected of the student body at large and 5 members from various student groups. It was given the following powers: 1) to make rules governing elections, 2) to classify activities as "major" or "minor," 3) to require major activities to file prospecti covering their programs for each year, 4) to prescribe systems of accounts and records for any activity, and, 5) to make rules providing appropriate penalties for violation of any rule, regulation, or order of the Council. The Council system, with modifications (it later became known as the Student Assembly), continued until February 27, 1970, when 69% of the student body voted in a referendum to dissolve the student government. Student Assembly president Neil Portnow ran for reelection with the abolition of the Assembly as the major plank of his platform. He won, and on February 17 read a statement to The GW Hatchet and other press announcing the abolition of GW's student government.[2]

It wasn't until 1974 that a referendum to bring back some form of student government was initiated, and in January 1975 students voted to create a new governing system by a five to one margin. The George Washington University Student Association came into being in April 1976 when students ratified a new constitution by a vote of 1,343 to 241. On May 24 of that year the Board of Trustees ratified the Student Association charter. Membership included all full-time, part-time, graduate, professional and undergraduate students who were registered for academic credit. Today, the Student Association is made up of the executive, senate and judicial branches.[2]

Executive branch[edit]

The President and Executive Vice President (EVP), elected on separate tickets by the 25,000 graduate and undergraduate students, oversee the Executive Branch, which consists of the Executive Cabinet and several subordinate entities. The 2017-2018 SA President is Peak Sen Chua and the 2017-2018 SA Executive Vice President is Sydney Nelson. They began their terms after a swearing-in ceremony on 2 May 2017.

The President appoints ten Vice Presidents to the Cabinet upon confirmation by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. The President also holds the power to appoint Directors at will and create or eliminate director positions at will.

Several President and EVP alumni have been successful in post-graduate pursuits, such as former SA president Edward "Skip" Gnehm, who was the Ambassador to Kuwait during the Gulf War and received the Presidential Distinguished Service Award and two Presidential Meritorious Service Awards. Edward David Burt became the youngest ever Premier of Bermuda.

Legislative branch[edit]

The Senate of the George Washington University Student Association holds the power to approve bills that are sent to the President, as well as control the Student Association's $1,778,704 budget.[3] The Senate consists of thirty Senators representing their respective schools within the university, as well as three non-voting freshmen Senators. The Senate consists of four standing committees that include the Finance Committee, Student Life Committee, Academic Affairs Committee and Senate Leadership Committee.[4] The Senate has the mandate of making recommendations on issues that affect student life, give general direction to Student Association policies, collect a student fee from tuition and subsequent disbursement, and passing of bills as it sees fit among other powers.[5] The current President Pro Tempore of the SA Senate is Brady Forrest.

Finance Committee[edit]

The Finance Committee is in charge of the funds that the Senate collects from student tuition to fund the Student Association budget, collecting just over $1,700,000. These funds are primarily doled out to the over 500 student organizations on campus at The George Washington University in addition to funding the operational budget of the Student Association. The Committee is responsible for setting criteria for disbursements and working with the Vice President for Financial Affairs, a member of the President's cabinet. In 2012 the Finance Committee put a Student Fee Increase to a student body referendum. The proposal sought to increase the amount the SA collects from students to $3.00 per credit hour from $1.50 per credit hour, boosting the SA budget to an estimated $1,750,000 over nine years.[6] The referendum was ratified by the student body with 66% voting in favor.[7]

Student Life Committee[edit]

The Student Life Committee is responsible for advocating on issues that affect students. Primarily, the Committee raises these issues at Senate meetings and proposes bills to be used as the basis for advocacy efforts.

Academic Affairs Committee[edit]

The Academic Affairs Committee primarily focuses on issues that relate students academics. The Committee works closely with the Faculty Senate and university administration to address relevant issues.

Judicial branch[edit]

The Judicial Branch consists of the Student Court, composed of five members, two of whom must be undergraduate and two graduate students. Members of the Court serve for their entire academic career after being appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The court has jurisdiction over any cases the involve suits brought between parties within the Student Association and between other student organizations suing the Student Association.

The Court is not very active, but was shown to still be relevant when it decided the outcome of a Presidential election in 2009. Presidential candidate Kyle Boyer won the popular vote, but was charged with a violation of election rules for failing to report the market value of a car used during campaigning. Julie Bindleglass lost the popular vote, but became President of the SA when the Joint Election Committee, active during elections, threw Boyer off the ballot.[8] Boyer then sued the Joint Elections Committee in the Student Court.[9] The Court used a 1992 precedent in which Presidential candidate Christopher Ferguson alleged he was thrown off the ballot in an "arbitrary and capricious manner", criteria for bringing a case to the court, as precedent for hearing the case. The Student Court upheld the disqualification from the ballot and effectively decided the outcome of the election.

Advocacy issues[edit]

The Student Association has taken up a plethora of advocacy issues, and there has been criticism leveled at the Student Association that it seems to change focus from administration to administration with no continuity, as well as large turnover in the Senate.[10] The Senate is usually the start of advocacy by passing bills to express support for an issue and the President follows through with lobbying to the University administration.

In the past few years, the Student Association focused largely on fee reduction for students. Starting in 2010 the SA focused on reducing printing fees after charges were leveled that the University was profiting off of students.[10] After having little success the issue was again taken up in 2011 with the formation of a joint committee of students and faculty after stonewalling from the university administration.[11] Second semester of the 2011-2012 academic year there was again another vow to renew the fight against student fees.[12] Eventually, the fee was reduced.

Other advocacy efforts have included the restoration of free news papers to student after they were cut by the University.[13] There was also a push to ban smoking on campus by the Senate that led to a campus wide referendum that passed overwhelmingly, but needs to be enacted by the administration. The Student Association has also successfully lobbied for the installation of condom dispensers in residence halls.[14]

The Student Association has not been immune to infighting, notably between the 2010-2011 Administration of John Richardson and the Legislative Branch. Richardson repeatedly called the Senate out for lack of action in the beginning of the spring 2012 semesters.[15] He later retracted his comments and apologized.[12]

Timeline of SA Leadership[edit]

Term President Executive Vice President Notes
2018-2019 Ashley Le[16] Ojani Walthrust[17] Terms began on 2 May 2018.
2017-2018 Peak Sen Chua[18] Sydney Nelson[19] After the Presidential election was delayed and later cancelled, Chua, then EVP-elect assumed the presidency and nominated Nelson to be his Executive Vice President. Chua and Nelson were opponents in the race for Executive Vice President. Chua and Nelson previously served as SA Senators and were both sophomores when they were elected. Chua, who is from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was the first international student in recent history to serve as President.
2016-2017 Erika Feinman Thomas Falcigno Feinman and Falcigno previously served as SA senators.
2015-2016 Andie Dowd Casey Syron/Thomas Falcigno Syron resigned during the spring semester. As Senate Chair Pro Tempore, Thomas Falcigno immediately became acting EVP. Dowd nominated VP for Judicial and Legislative Affairs Zachary Speck to serve the remainder of Syron's term. The Senate did not confirm Dowd's first nominee. Thereafter, Falcigno was nominated by Dowd and confirmed by the Senate to serve out the remainder of Syron's term.
2014-2015 Nick Gumas Avra Bossov Gumas first openly gay student elected president. First non-Greek student elected in recent history. Gumas previously served two terms in the Senate. Bossov previously served in Susuni's cabinet.
2013-2014 Julia Susuni Kostas Skordalos Susuni previously served in Narla's cabinet. Skordalos elected without previous SA experience.
2012-2013 Ashwin Narla Abby Bergren Narla elected without SA experience.
2011-2012 John Richardson Ted Costigan Richardson elected without SA experience.
2010-2011 Jason Lifton Rob Maxim Lifton previously served as EVP.
2009-2010 Julie Bindelglass Jason Lifton Bindelglass received 1,565 of the 3,018 votes cast that year.
2008-2009 Vishal Aswani Kyle Boyer Aswani first SEAS student elected in recent history.
2007-2008 Nicole Capp Brand Kroeger Capp and Kroeger both sophomores when elected.
2006-2007 Lamar Thorpe Josh Lasky
2005-2006 Audai Shakour Morgan Corr
2004-2005 Omar Woodard Anyah Dembling
2003-2004 Kristopher Hart Eric Daleo
2002-2003 Phil Robinson Eric Daleo
2001-2002 Roger Kapoor Joshua Singer
2000-2001 Edward David Burt Later became youngest ever Premier of Bermuda.
1999-2000 Caity Leu
1998-1999 Carrie Potter
1997-1998 Kuyomars Golparvar
1996-1997 Damian McKenna
1995-1996 Mark Reynolds
1994-1995 Alfred Park Scott Slifka
1993-1994 Scott Adams
1992-1993 Jonathan Tarnow
1992 Michael Musante Jon Tarnow
1991-1992 Kyle Farmbry
1990-1991 Frank Petramale
1989-1990 John David Morris
1988-1989 Raffi Terzian
1987-1988 Adam Freedman Freedman first to serve two terms as SA President.
1986-1987 Adam Freedman
1985-1986 Ira Gubernick


  1. ^ "  About the SA by The GW Student Association". Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Student Organizations: Student Government". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "Student Association Senate - GW Student Association". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Senate Committees". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Fee hike would boost SA budget to $1.75 million, cost about $90 per student within decade". Newsroom. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Student referendum approves fee increase". Newsroom. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Boyer appeals disqualification to Student Court". Newsroom. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b "SA senators seek to lower printing costs". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Fees on the table for SA task force". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  12. ^ a b "Student Association leaders renew fight against fees". Newsroom. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "SA returns free New York Times to campus". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "Senators call for free condoms in residence halls". Newsroom. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  15. ^ "Student Association executive, senate clash". Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  16. ^ "SA President-elect Ashley Le". George Washington University Student Association. Retrieved 29 March 2018. 
  17. ^ "SA Executive Vice President-elect Ojani Walthrust". George Washington University Student Association. Retrieved 29 March 2018. 
  18. ^ "SA President Peak Sen Chua". George Washington University Student Association. Retrieved 19 December 2017. 
  19. ^ "SA Executive Vice President Sydney Nelson". George Washington University Student Association. Retrieved 19 December 2017. 

External links[edit]