Two weeks ago, the Voice Editorial Board laid out our priorities for Georgetown University Student Association executive candidates this year, naming among our key issues the expansion of the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard to off-campus incidents, reform of the sexual assault reporting system, student engagement, and social justice. After interviewing each of the teams who granted us an interview, we have decided to endorse Nate Tisa (SFS ‘14) and Adam Ramadan (SFS ‘14) for the GUSA presidency and vice presidency this coming year, as their understanding of what Georgetown’s student body needs best aligns with our values.
Realistically, given the bureaucratic and term constraints of GUSA, tickets can only expect to accomplish a limited number of the policy goals enshrined in their ambitious platforms. Keeping this in mind, the Voice asked each ticket to identify two issues they would not want to leave GUSA without addressing. Tisa/Ramadan chose changing the way sexual assaults are handled on campus and expanding Georgetown’s free speech policy. These are priorities this paper shares.
According to national statistics, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted during their undergraduate careers. Here at Georgetown, sexual assaults are largely underreported, which is why Tisa/Ramadan hope to increase the visibility of these crimes by reforming the code of conduct to clearly define sexual assaults, establishing an amnesty policy by which survivors are free to report assaults without fear of incurring alcohol-related sanctions, and, more broadly, educating students and student leaders about how to recognize sexual assaults.
With regards to free speech at Georgetown, Tisa/Ramadan believe an expansion of student expression plays a crucial role in empowering students and fostering dialogue about contentious issues. They call for the entire campus to become a free speech zone—with certain respectful exceptions—and for allowing currently-unrecognized groups such as H*yas for Choice, sororities, and fraternities to have increased access to benefits. Allowing them access to University spaces but stopping short of funding, a position on which the administration is unwilling to budge, Tisa/Ramadan see greater institutional support for these groups as necessary for the preservation of the pluralistic ideals of a Jesuit university.
Having built their platform by listening to students and assessing their needs, Tisa/Ramadan consistently place the needs of students first. In response to the lack of student space during the interim construction period of the New South Student Center, Tisa/Ramadan promise to go further than other tickets by creating a Secretary for Student Space position charged with finding the groups a temporary home during the work.
Tisa/Ramadan’s commitment to promoting sustainability on campus is also admirable, particularly their plans to enact a campus-wide plastic water bottle ban. Coming from a ticket with deep ties to the Corp, the prime culprit of wasteful plastic bottle sales at Georgetown, this pledge appears sincere. Beyond bottles, by budgeting $4,000 to distribute recycling receptacles in campus apartments, Tisa and Ramadan display a more significant commitment to the environment than other candidates.
A strong GUSA ticket, however, is not just about ideas; experience matters, too. Tisa currently holds the third most important elected position in GUSA as speaker of the Senate, a larger role than that of any other candidate involved in student government. He also has tangible achievements to his name within GUSA, most notably doing much of the legwork behind outgoing GUSA president and vice president Clara Gustafson (SFS ‘13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount’s (SFS ‘13) hallmark “clear and convincing” reform.
Ramadan, on the other hand, is a GUSA outsider, with experience in a variety of student groups such as the Corp, Hoya Blue, and Blue and Gray. Ramadan’s enthusiasm for improving student life at Georgetown and his understanding of how everyday students interact with the administration will prove invaluable for GUSA leadership. Ramadan, like Tisa, is charismatic and a good communicator, crucial skills for the student representatives who will actively engage with the administration. We believe no ticket is better prepared to implement the reforms it so passionately pursues than Tisa/Ramadan.
The rest of the field, though qualified in some areas, fails to appropriately balance a knowledge of the issues most disaffecting students with the leadership skills necessary for enacting lasting change.
Jack Appelbaum (COL ‘14) and Maggie Cleary (COL ‘14) are two qualified Georgetown insiders who, through their leadership roles as chair of the Student Activities Commission and chair of Georgetown University College Republicans, have experience working closely with the administration. But the primary focus of their ticket, student group funding reform, is radical in all the wrong ways.
Appelbaum/Cleary would shift funding power to a newly-created commission that would control the entirety of the Student Activities Fund and be comprised of representatives from each student group. Groups would appeal to this body with their funding requests, which would then be voted on by representatives of other groups. Although it has the trappings of democracy, such an approach would pit student groups against each other, making every club’s funding contingent on the preferences of representatives who may not understand or care about the club’s mission. This would be a sure advantage for large, visible groups like the IRC, but could be damaging to smaller associations. Though funding reform is certainly important, subjecting the finances of each group to the power of the mob is not the way forward. On other issues, Appelbaum/Cleary defer to empowering student groups to act on their own. This paper prefers a more active approach to broad-based reform than that which Appelbaum/Cleary seem likely to provide.
While we applaud Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson (SFS ‘14) and Joseph Vandegriff (COL ‘14) for their commitment to transparency and their progressive agenda, we find their leadership style lacking, and do not see them as being able to implement their ambitious agenda. In our interview, they seemed less informed about what students need and how GUSA functions institutionally than Tisa/Ramadan or Appelbaum/Cleary.
Continuing down in our preferences, although we find the outsider perspective of candidates Spencer Walsh (MSB ‘14) and Robert Silverstein (SFS ‘14) refreshing, they also did not exhibit the appropriate knowledge and experience required of the GUSA executive.
Lastly, the Cannon Warren (SFS ‘14) and Andrew Logerfo (COL ‘14) ticket, while entertaining, failed to show up to our scheduled interview and lacks the substance necessary for serious consideration.
Ultimately, Tisa/Ramadan strike a good balance between understanding the most important issues facing students and possessing the skills and experience necessary to fix those issues. We’re impressed with the commitment Tisa/Ramadan have shown to the students at this university and the concrete plans they have to solve the greatest issues threatening student wellbeing. Adept in both policy and personality, Tisa and Ramadan are the best candidates for GUSA president and vice president. We hope you will check their name first when you head to the polls on Thursday.
Members of the Editorial Board associated with a GUSA campaign recused themselves from the endorsement process and were neither present during the candidate interviews nor did they have a vote in the internal selection process.