“Obnoxiously Optimistic”: A Conversation with SBA President Sandor Callahan

 It seems unnecessary to introduce our SBA president, because you probably already know who he is.  I’ll do it anyways. Sandor Callahan, a 3L, is everywhere: outside playing soccer on the quad, working at the Office of Residence Life at Gewirz,  hanging out in Hotung lobby, shouting a hello to you as you come through the revolving doors at Sport & Fitness (Do you know him?  Doesn’t matter.).  Sandor, who describes himself as “obnoxiously optimistic,” is standing at the helm of an award-winning Student Bar Association and frames his service as the highlight of his time at Georgetown. I believe him.  As last year’s Vice President, he’s familiar with the SBA’s capabilities and has several overarching goals that shape his presidency.  Chief among them is the development of a forum for students to participate in an ongoing dialogue regarding current events and concerns within the community.  The SBA’s form and function make this and other goals attainable possibilities.

I.            What Does the SBA Do

Georgetown’s Student Bar Association is, quite literally, the best.  Based on criteria such as budget, programs and events, internal structure, communication with the student body, interaction with faculty and administration, and improvements made to the Law Center, our SBA received the ABA award that “[r]ecognizes the efforts of an SBA to create a better law school environment and positive image.”  Last year’s slate of accomplishments  formed the basis for the nomination and subsequent award.  It included partnerships with various new student organizations (such as the Mental Health Alliance), provision of funding to those organizations, and social events such as Wednesday Wind Downs, weekly Bar Reviews, the annual Fall Float, Barristers’ Ball, the January student ski trip, and Octoberfest.  These activities fall neatly within what Sandor identifies as the SBA’s threefold purpose: (1) to represent all students, (2) to support student organizations, and (3) to put on social events to foster a sense of community.

Often one of the SBA’s programs will unite all three of these aims.  For instance, If/ When/ How—the resident campus reproductive justice organization—is neither sponsored nor recognized by the school.  In its capacity as a representative body, the SBA allocated a Bar Review to the organization to assist with fundraising efforts.  The role of student advocate, it seems, is not one that representatives take lightly.  Last year, the SBA received constituent complaints about the timing of the pass/fail deadline (which was at the time the same deadline as the add/drop period).  This year, you may very well have taken advantage of the extended pass/fail deadline, which is now two-and-a-half weeks past the last day to drop a class.  For this you can thank the SBA’s Academic Standards Committee.

This is not to imply unlimited SBA jurisdiction. Often student concerns will fall under the purview of one of the many student-faculty committees (such as Academics, Clerkships, Professional Responsibility, and Rank & Tenure).  As the name implies, these committees comprise faculty members and students who typically meet two to three times per semester and discuss topics outside the scope of the SBA.  Because of the unity of purpose that unites the student-faculty committees and the SBA, students with questions or concerns may do just as well to approach the entirely student-run SBA with its regularly-scheduled bi-weekly meetings and accessible representatives.

   II.            What’s Changing This Year?

The SBA’s charge to represent student voices weighs heavily upon Sandor this year.  Current events and subsequent student reactions have compelled the SBA to enable some sort of haven for students to hear, voice, and exchange opinions with one another and the outside world.  The SBA’s Speakership Series—”in pilot mode”—aims to provide this haven.  Spearheaded by SBA Delegate Joshua Branch and Sandor, the Series will bring in 8 speakers over the semester to speak to their own experiences and act as sounding boards for students during brown bag lunches. Sandor is careful to note that the program’s success will not be measured by student attendance, but rather its impact upon those who do attend.  It’s likely that either metric would do for the third speaker: Khizr Khan will address the student body on October 6 in Hart Auditorium.  His speech represents a departure from the standard format of the series, as overwhelming attendance will necessarily limit the dialogue that can take place.  Regardless, the event falls directly in line with Sandor’s yearlong goal of providing a space.

The provision of space is also a literal concern for the Association this year.  Over the summer, student organizational offices have been replaced by OPICS, and impending renovations to the John Wolff International and Comparative Law Library raise questions of student communal space.  The SBA encourages students to approach their representatives with input regarding the changes while in the meantime working towards a long-term goal of exclusive student space

   III.            Weigh in

This ability to contact student representatives is one that students should keep in mind; the SBA works to maintain as many avenues of communication as possible.  All SBA meetings (held every other Tuesday at 9pm in Hotung 2001) are open to the public, recorded, and made available to any interested student.  Representatives in every class are more than willing to respond to student requests or direct those requests to the appropriate channels, be they SBA, student-faculty committee, or the administration.  The accomplishments, national recognition, and enthusiasm of the current Association should provide adequate insurance that your voice will be heard.




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