Meet SA presidential candidate Justin Diamond
Freshman Justin Diamond may have launched his bid for Student Association (SA) president on the GW memes page, but after gaining the attention of the student body he’s been emphatic about the seriousness of his campaign.
“There’s a great Gandhi quote that someone has used to characterize it for me: ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,’” said Diamond, an international affairs major from New York. “You gain popularity by being funny, but soon enough you win the first round of elections and people realize that your platform is more than a meme.”
Diamond described the decision to launch his campaign how and when he did as “a mixture of fate and explicit choice.” He explained that he didn’t intentionally wait until the last minute to announce his candidacy, but said that he thinks the timing ultimately worked in his favor.
“It was definitely good timing as far as I’m concerned,” Diamond said.
Diamond ran as a write-in candidate, earning 27 percent of the vote according to the GW Joint Elections Commission (JEC). SJ Matthews, his opponent in the runoff election to be held this Thursday, earned 25 percent of the vote.
Platform and Policies
Diamond’s platform is focused on eliminating the SA, which he views as “a cesspool of political toxicity.”
“I’ve always hated the bureaucracy at GW, so this has festered in my mind for the longest time,” Diamond explained. “It’s not a fresh idea, and I think a lot of people agree—which is why people have come out in droves to support me.”
Diamond cites three reasons behind his decision to target the SA, which are detailed in his campaign document “The Diamond Standard,” published over the weekend. Diamond asserts that “dialogue in and around [the SA] will inherently become politicized,” and he says that the SA frequently falls short of the promises its members make to students.
Diamond also describes the SA as “a wasteful bureaucratic institution” that “complicates funds allocation and impedes grassroots student activism.” Diamond believes that the stipend given to the SA president should instead be given to “high-priority and often underfunded” student organizations, like GW’s food pantry.
“As soon as you give students the chance to run for seats that are elected by their fellow peers, they’re going to politicize it—especially at GW,” Diamond emphasized.
Diamond said that he has spoken with current SA members about how his plans could be executed.
According to the SA Constitution, dissolution of the body would follow referendum procedures, requiring either a two-thirds vote in the SA senate or signatures from 10 percent of the student body. Once a referendum is called, it would be voted on by members of the SA.
Diamond emphasized that more than 10 percent of undergraduates have already supported his candidacy as a write-in candidate. Based on JEC election results, the number of students who voted for Diamond as a write-in candidate is equal to more than 11 percent of GW’s undergraduate population.
But the student body also includes roughly 16,000 graduate students, according to recent university statistics. Based on these numbers, Diamond received votes from just under 5 percent of GW’s student body.
Diamond said that he believes the same students who supported his candidacy would also support a referendum.
“Even people that don’t support me would perhaps support the referendum itself,” he said.
Diamond noted that many opponents of his platform have argued that students would lack an advocacy voice if the SA were dissolved. He said that people have also expressed concerns that student organizations would experience a decrease in funding if the SA were no longer responsible for funds allocation.
“Both claims people have made baselessly against my campaign because they haven’t listened to the nuances of my policy, nor have they asked, nor have they paid attention,” he stated.
Diamond said he would keep the existing referendum process in place as a means for maintaining students’ voices.
“We have seen that the most effective way to get GW to actually make a change is to get a majority of the student body on your side,” he said.
Diamond explained that the existing structure used to fund student organizations, detailed in the SA’s bylaws, would also remain in place. Rather than being administered by the SA, funds would be allocated by the Center for Student Engagement or a similar branch of GW.
Diamond highlighted his leadership experience in the Residence Hall Association (RHA) as president of Madison Hall as an example of his qualifications for the role of SA president.
“I think my leadership in RHA has proven that I’m not just a capable leader, but I’m a relatively impressive leader,” he said, stating that his residence hall has been the only one to complete an advocacy project this year.
“Not to toot my own horn, but advocacy projects are not easy to complete in such a complicated system, and people who understand complicated systems know exactly how to get around them or circumvent them, or in this case, I’m seeking to destroy them,” he explained.
Diamond said that he hasn’t been especially surprised by positive responses to his candidacy, and he explained that it was his goal to gain support from students in the way that his write-in campaign did.
“I hope that I can keep achieving goals for the student body,” Diamond said.
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. The runoff election between SJ Matthews and Justin Diamond will be held on April 4.