Sasha Gilthorpe '17: Candidate for SG President

Her Campus American: Tell us a little about yourself. What made you decide to come to AU? 

Sasha Gilthorpe: I’m a sophomore majoring in Political Science. I grew up in New Jersey, but I was actually born in London. I’m a dual citizen because my mom is American and my dad is British. I decided to come to AU after doing an overnight the April of my senior year in high school. AU wasn’t the plan I had laid out for myself, but when I stepped foot on campus it hit me: This is the place I belong. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.

HCAU: What made you decide to run for President of Student Government (SG)?  

SG: I spent the last year fighting for Student Worker Rights on campus. When I talked to RAs about the way they were treated by this university, I was horrified. These students work hard every day to keep their residence halls together. They are on the front lines of sexual assault, mental illness, and substance abuse. They work more than 30 or 40 hours a week, and then, they often lose financial aid based on their compensation from AU. When I realized how helpless and voiceless they felt, I knew I had to do something to help them. But then, I realized how many students feel that same helplessness and voicelessness. Not just RAs or Student Workers, but survivors of sexual assault, students with mental illnesses, students of color, and students who have left AU because they can no longer afford their education. I decided to run for Student Government President because I want to give the power and the voice back to the student body.

HCAU: What issues are important to you?

​SG: Truthfully, I have a hard time deciding on just a few issues that are important to me. There are far too many I feel passionately about, and every issue on this campus is important to someone. I believe SG has focused too closely on only a few areas, which means we aren’t looking at the bigger picture. SG shouldn’t be a place for political agendas. As SG President, I would fight to make sure that every issue on campus is being tackled.

HCAU: “Let's Get Things Done.” How did you come up with this tagline?

​SG: I’ve been frustrated with how much SG says they’ll get done but don’t actually accomplish. When candidates run on vague platforms, they aren’t able to be held accountable by students. I wrote the most extensive and detailed platform for SG President ever at American University. This wasn’t for bragging rights, but because I wanted to explain my positions and specific policy ideas to fix the issues on campus students face every day. When I came up with “Let’s Get Things Done” it was in the same spirit at my platform. I’ve got real ideas that are both ambitious and pragmatic. I won’t sit around the office in MGC 270. I’m getting things done.

HCAU: What things do you want to get accomplish and why?

​SG: I will improve conditions for student workers by protecting their rights with a bill of rights, and creating barriers so student workers can’t be fired for voicing their concerns to their supervisors. I will continue the fight against sexual assault by mandating consent-based training, not just bystander intervention. I will increase care for survivors by expanding counseling center services. I’ll also reform the student conduct code so it reflects our values… “yes means yes” instead of “no means no.” I’ll also work with leaders in Greek life, not against them. I’ll make sure that textbooks at AU aren’t an undue burden for our students when tuition is already so high. I want a ban on requiring textbook purchases during add/drop period, textbook assignments posted online before courses begin, and expanded course reserves. I also want to ensure that Academic Grievance Policy, something that is supposed to protect students from unfair grading, is easy to understand, well enforced, and protects more students than it ever has before. I want students to be able to make smart decisions about their finances and education. AU Central doesn’t have all the answers. I’ll create an online resource guide so students can be sure that they have all the information they need. I’ll also increase privacy in AU Central and hold the staff accountable for the services they provide.

I will be a partner with Greek life at AU. I’ll empower an active liaison to work with fraternity and sorority leaders. I’ll expand cosponsorship of philanthropy events, because Greek life deserves recognition for the good they do in our community. I’ll also make a push for dedicated Greek spaces, because 30% of our campus wears letters and it’s time they get the resources they need. I will never be silent on issues related to diversity and inclusion. I plan to appoint a Director of Diversity and inclusion to fight for the needs of students of color and other diverse groups on campus every single day. I want to increase diversity-related events on campus. I will also work to bring the conversation about race back into the residence halls through partnerships with HDP. I support turning the third floor of MGC into a student union. Unfortunately, that is a long term solution that many of us won’t get to fully enjoy the benefits of. I want to open up the classrooms on the third floor of MGC and reform the room reservation system so students can actually use the spaces we already have. I want to expand the counseling center so that wait times are reduced. I want to help the counseling center do outreach and programming. I will create a Mental Health Taskforce, that will publish a report to pressure the administration to create aggressive change. I’ll also push for trigger warnings on syllabi. For club sports, I will increase concussion awareness and education, and help restructure funding to account for higher costs.

HCAU: What do you think are some of the current problems within SG? 

​SG: SG isn’t open. The door to the office in MGC 270 is closed, not just to regular students, but to campus leaders and even members of student government. In order to actually get things done, SG needs to be an open and inclusive place that empowers students, not itself.

HCAU: Why do think it’s important for women to have a voice in government? 

​SG: Women need a voice in government because we can’t afford to accept the leadership of those who don’t see us as equals. When we talk about gendered issues like sexual assault and reproductive healthcare, we need women to lead the charge, not men who haven’t walked the miles in our shoes. But women are constantly barred from participating in government. It may not be against the law anymore, but women have to fight every day to make their voices heard. In SG just this year, I faced harassment because I am a woman running for President. That is absolutely unacceptable. When women face backlash for their strength and ambition, it feels like a man is telling you to shut up and stay home, because your voice doesn’t matter. But we can’t shut up and stay home. There are women and men counting on us to make the changes in the world that we believe in.

HCAU: What other activities are you involved in, on or off-campus?

​SG: Last year I was a Compass Fellow, which is a social entrepreneurship program for freshmen. I began working as a TA last semester for Comparative Politics. Being the Director of Student Rights has been my most intense involvement at AU. Other than that, I try and prioritize studying and spending time with my friends.

HCAU: What's something most people don't know about you?

​SG: I’m an adventurous eater. One time I ate a jellyfish.

HCAU: Your loved ones sit down in a room and are challenged with the task of describing you in three words. What would they come up with and why?

​SG: Devoted. I’m a loyal friend and I’m very close with my extended family. But I’m also devoted to the issues I care about. Blunt: I will always let you know what's on my mind because I respect people’s opinions too much to not be honest. Funny: I always try to keep a good sense of humor about things, and I am frequently in the business of making horrible jokes.

HCAU: What’s been your proudest moment at AU?

​SG: I could never pick just one moment. Packing up to leave at the end of my freshman year felt very powerful for me. I was excited to go home to my bed and eat some Jersey bagels again, sure. I realized how much I had accomplished, and how much I truly loved AU. When I packed up the car, I was already ready to come back to campus, to come home again.

HCAU: Where do you see yourself in five years?

​SG: I’ve never been the student with a really specific plan post-graduation. I love my major, and I know it will take me somewhere that I’m passionate about. I have a feeling I’ll be in grad school in five years. I’ve always loved learning, and I can bet that four years at AU won’t be enough for me.

HCAU: What advice do you have for other students trying to make ignite change in the AU community?

Never take no for an answer. Fight for what you believe in every single day. You might be the only one fighting, but your voice matters. You do have the power to make a change here. 

Follow Sasha's campaign here