D.C.’s Other Presidential Election

Jason Lifton, the new Student Association president, to focus on reimbursements, Gelman Library, advising and food services.

March 1, 2010

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When he heard Jacob Chervinsky, chairman of GW’s Joint Elections Committee, announce, “With 51.5 percent of the vote, your next student body president is…,” Jason Lifton’s heart stopped. The results of the Student Association presidential election were clearly very close. But when he heard his name, Mr. Lifton’s dread instantly turned to elation.

“My fraternity brothers and my supporters, all dressed in their red ‘Vote Jason Lifton’ shirts, lifted me up on to their shoulders,” he says.

Mr. Lifton, a junior majoring in political science, is currently executive vice president of the Student Association. When he refers to his fraternity brothers, he means Sigma Chi. According to his campaign Web site, he is also an “active member” of GW Hillel and a member of the GW sailing team.

“The campaign was very tough, as expected. It’s hard to convince a group of college kids to give up two days to stand outside in the freezing cold to hand out campaign fliers,” says Mr. Lifton. But if one of the benchmarks of friendship is willingness to brave the elements to pass out palm cards reminding students to vote, Mr. Lifton’s friends definitely proved themselves.

One of the most challenging aspects of campaigning that is often overlooked, Mr. Lifton says, is the “absolutely insane” process of seeking endorsements. “I spent 10 hours on the Sunday before elections going between 14 different meetings,” he says. “The key to a successful election is getting your name out there, and you have to do a lot of running around to make sure that everyone knows who you are.”

Mr. Lifton considers being a “student face to administrators” his main responsibility in his new position. “While many aspects of GW are great, there are always policies and programs that need improvement,” he says. “It is the job of the SA president to communicate that message to those who have the ability to implement change.”

Some of the areas that Mr. Lifton intends to focus on are reimbursements, university support of Gelman Library, advising and food services.

“I will be working with the Student Association’s financial staff to make sure that we are getting people their reimbursements as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he says. In an interview, Mr. Lifton told The Daily Colonial that student organizations need to pay for their events up front, and it could take six to eight weeks for them to get reimbursed.

Gelman Library needs to be renovated and “brought up to the standard of other university libraries,” Mr. Lifton says.

According to Mr. Lifton, SA lobbying efforts have led to a university commitment to improve academic advising. “As president, I will continue to push for this until it is fully operational for all students.”

When it comes to dining, Mr. Lifton says he wants to examine expanding the GWorld program to incorporate healthier options. He also intends to survey students to learn where they shop most and try to bring those vendors into the GWorld program as well.

One key to Mr. Lifton’s success surely derives from his experience working with students and administrators as SA vice president, and he has given a lot of thought to unique circumstances that face GW students.

“On a campus full of politically active students, people hold the SA accountable and expect to see results from their elected student leaders. One unique aspect of GW, which presents a challenge for the SA, is that there are so many things that draw students off campus that students often don’t have time to participate in everything on campus,” he says.

“GW’s school spirit is found on Capitol Hill, in the State Department and up and down K Street, but often we don’t have that traditional ‘Rah, rah’ spirit found at big state schools,” he adds. “One thing that being in Washington does is give us access to many different student leaders from across the country. Many student governments from across the country actually come to D.C. as part of their annual lobbying trips and reach out to the GW SA because of our location and local knowledge of the city.”

The executive vice president is yet to be determined. Candidates Logan Dobson and Rob Maxim will face off in a reelection on March 10 and 11. Mr. Lifton will assume the SA presidency in the end of April.