Meet SA presidential candidate SJ Matthews

SJ Matthews, a junior from New Jersey majoring in classical studies, is running for president of the Student Association (SA) with a platform focused on “building a supportive, inclusive community” at GW.

Matthews emphasized her intent to focus on improving the experiences of students already at GW. Her candidacy coincides with the LeBlanc administration’s focus on improving the first-year experience.

“It’s been impressive to watch the steady improvement, but I want to try and expedite some things to make sure we are prioritizing the needs of the students right now, and not trying to make it great for the students six years from now,” Matthews explained.

Platform and Policies

Matthews’ approach to improving the student experience would involve working to update community and study spaces across campus while preserving the spaces that already exist. Matthews is also committed to ensuring that all classrooms are updated with the technology necessary to meet the needs of 21st-century students. Additionally, she wants to make sure that classrooms are accessible to all students, including those in wheelchairs or on crutches.

Combating food insecurity is another focus of Matthews’ presidential campaign. In her view, increasing the value of meal plans is not enough to combat the insecurity that many students face. Instead, Matthews proposes a short-term and a long-term strategy to addressing food insecurity. The short-term strategy involves ensuring that students continue to have access to pots and pans in their residence halls, introducing cooking classes, and expanding the meal deals program. The long-term strategy involves forming a committee of students, faculty, administrators, and vendors to investigate the causes of food insecurity—both at GW and within the broader community.

“It’s a systemic problem, so we have to figure out what’s causing it in order to fix it,” she said.

Mathews believes that her year-long tenure as president of the GW Residence Hall Association (RHA) has provided her with valuable experience that would be easily transferable to the role of SA president. As RHA president, she worked to get residence hall tap access for all first-year, on-campus students, which she hopes to extend to all students as SA president. Matthews said that her role as RHA president influenced her decision to run for SA president, and she believes that the positive relationships she has built with administrators would allow her to easily transition into the position.

“I know the same people that the SA talks to,” Matthews noted.

She also hopes to focus on inclusion and diversity as being “more than just buzzwords.” Matthews’ efforts to increase diversity within the RHA involved changing the recruitment process and advertising more heavily. If elected to the position of SA president, Matthews would use a similar approach in recruiting her cabinet.

“I want to make sure that people aren’t just seeking us out, we’re seeking them out,” she emphasized.

Another component of Matthews’ campaign is her commitment to ensuring that the SA is more transparent and accessible to students. She also emphasized a dedication to working with GW administrators to reach solutions to issues through compromise.

“A lot of times, we want to paint the administrators as the bad guys, but they’re really not,” she explained. “They want the same things that we do, they just don’t know the best way to do it.”

Matthews’ overall love of GW has fueled her passion about trying to change things for the better.

“I’m passionate about the student body,” she said. “I want to make sure they feel empowered.”

She also encourages all students to make their voices heard in the upcoming election.

“We’re at a defining moment here at GW,” Matthews emphasized. “Your voice in this election is going to matter, so you’ve got to make it heard.”

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series profiling this year’s candidates for SA president. The Rival does not endorse any candidates for student office. Student Association elections will be held on March 27 and 28.