How the Student Association works

As election season approaches, the Student Association (SA) is again becoming a major topic of conversation on campus. While many students are attentive to SA politics during the election and have a basic understanding of the organization, it can be easy to overlook how the SA works and its impact on the university.


The Student Association is organized into legislative, executive, and judicial branches and is governed by a Charter, Constitution, and bylaws. According to the Charter, the SA is intended to act as the “primary representative” of students at GW and derives its powers from the Board of Trustees.

The SA Senate is chaired by the Executive Vice President and includes 17 undergraduate and 19 graduate senators. These senators are selected in proportion to the The Senate has three permanent committees—Finance, Academic Affairs, and Student Life—which focus on policies specifically related to those areas. The primary roles of the SA Senate are to develop and vote on policies and resolutions and to allocate funds to student organizations.

The executive branch includes the SA President and the Executive Cabinet, which includes Vice Presidents and Directors. Vice Presidents are nominated by the President and require confirmation by a 2/3 vote in the Senate, while Directors are appointed by the President as needed. The executive branch also includes the Student Engagement Committee and other committees and task forces appointed by the President to focus on specific issues.

The judicial branch includes the Student Court, made up of five judges, which is designed to serve as a check on the executive and legislative branches.

For more information on the organization of the SA, you can watch this video.

Functions and Responsibilities

One of the SA’s primary responsibilities is that of the Senate Finance Committee to allocate more than $1.7 million to student organizations. Each spring, organizations submit their proposed budgets to the Finance Committee for consideration. These funds come from the Student Association Fee, paid by students according to the number of credits they take.

The SA’s other major role is to make recommendations to the university administration through the passage of resolutions. It is important to note that, while the SA’s resolutions are suggestions on behalf of the student body, the SA does not have the power to directly change university policy.

The SA also develops projects and initiatives, including GW Listens and Top Textbooks. These initiatives and others are detailed in the SA’s mid-year report, released in January.


The positions of President and Executive Vice President are elected by a plurality of at least 40 percent of votes cast according to the SA Constitution. All voting seats in the SA Senate are also open to election, including two at-large senators and senators to represent each school.

According to the GW Joint Elections Commission (JEC), which oversees elections for the Student Association, Program Board, and Class Council, the 2018 campaign period will be between March 2 and March 27. On March 20, there will be a debate for the positions of President and Executive Vice President. This year's election will be held on March 27 and 28.

Originally published on by Stephanie Gemmell on 3.4.18.