Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Presented to the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, February 7, 2020 by Student Association President SJ Matthews:
Good morning Trustees, President Leblanc, and members of the GW Community,
My original plan for this address was to highlight the accomplishments that the GW Student Association has made thus far in our terms. We recently published our mid year report and I have taken the liberty of printing it out for you and I hope you will take the time to read through it. I would instead like to use my time today to talk about something I personally find much more important and that is the GW community. The GW community is incredible and it is composed of some of the most dedicated and creative people I have ever met. When I talk about the GW community I see everyone at this table and in this room as an important part of that community.
Trustees, I am constantly in awe of you and your dedication to GW and the time and energy you put into making our campus better. And I want you to know that I respect you and the important role you have in our community. But our community is hurting, our students are angry, and personally I am frustrated.
I am frustrated that incidents of racism, intolerance, and violence continue to happen on our campus. I am frustrated by the lack of response by the people in this room. And I am even more frustrated when there is a response that it is a short copy and paste statement. I am frustrated that we say GW is a place for everyone and yet now more than ever students feel as though it is a place for no one. I am frustrated that GW uses the words diversity and inclusion as nothing more than buzzwords to distract from their inaction. I am frustrated that time and time again the student voice is met with silence by the GW administration. I am frustrated that all too often my weekends and nights are spent drafting statements condeming things like racism and anti-semitism only to be met with Univerisity silence. I am frustrated that students felt the need to record a conversation with the President because the trust between student and administrator had so clearly been broken. I am frustrated that students put themselves in harm's way in order to make a statement and I am frustrated that the people who are charged with protecting the GW community were the ones to harm them. I am frustrated that the student body rallied behind a metal statue of a hippo but failed to collectively condemn the racist and amtisemtic acts that took place just a few short days before.
I am frustrated that students have lost all trust in the administration and that the idea of conversation with administrators about important issues is seen as a pipe dream. I am frustrated that time and time again students are kept out of the discussions and decisions that impact us directly. I am frustrated that the student voice has become nothing more than a token buzzword. I am frustrated that me being here today speaking to you but being asked to leave when decisions and discussions occur still counts as having a student voice.
I am frustrated but I am also tired. I am tired of having to defend the administration when they fail to condemn acts of intolerance on this campus. I am tired of having to explain things on their behalf because there are administrators who don’t speak with students. I’m tired and I think you all are too, which is why I have a proposal. Let us in. Let us in the room and let us be apart of the solution and not the problem. Let us offer the student voice, let us hear your ideas fully and offer our feedback. Let us in. There is an old saying that if you’re not at the table you’re probably on the menu. Let us in and let us be at the table, we only want to help. We want to offer our experiences so that you can have all the information possible when making the decisions that affect us directly.
Let us in. What do you have to fear? The GW community can only get better if we are all apart of the conversation. So I ask one final time let us in, what do you have to fear? I am deeply grateful and appreciative of the work you all do but we must all admit that we can and should be better. So let's come together on the eve of our bicentennial to turn this page in our university’s history and ensure that GW will forever be an institution for all. Thank you.
President SJ Matthews, GW Student Association