As GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ‘16) and Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ‘16) prepare to leave office, the Voice’s Lilah Burke sat down with the pair to reflect on their time in the Executive. [Disclosure: Rohan is a former Voice staffer.]
Lilah Burke: Are you ready to leave GUSA?
Joe Luther: It’s been a long year, full of many good things, but as we get closer to graduation we are ready to hand the reins over.
Connor Rohan: Over the last month or so, I’ve felt very tired. And we’re starting to back away, which is nice because during the transition those people start transitioning into the role, obviously.
JL: I think we’ll both be very happy to get some more time back into our schedules.
LB: And you guys said you wanted to do comedy writing [after graduation]. Is that true?
JL: The road less travelled. There’s even a poem about that.
LB: Oh, really? I’ll look it up.
JL: It’s called, “Oh Captain, My Captain.”
CR: Robert…Robert Snow?
LB: Robert Snow.
JL: Robert E….no.
LB: Would you be able to update those of us who don’t know, or who don’t follow GUSA—
JL: —or care
LB:—or care, on what’s been going on since we last talked to you, since I last talked to you [in October]?
JL: I mean we’ve really stuck with the main focuses in terms of policy. Another big thing, …is we really wanted to re-focus ourselves back to communication. And we’ve done a lot of videos, a lot more non-traditional messaging. We’ve shifted to a more campaign style now that I think is having really good impact in terms of how we’re communicating with people. But in terms of what we’re actually working in behind the scenes, we’re still working on the sexual assault [Memorandum of Understanding]. We’re still doing a lot of work with CAPS and mental health and the master planning conversation continues.
LB: So the things that you guys have been working on, the MOU for sexual assault, Project Lighthouse, adding students to the Georgetown Steering Committee, do you guys have high hopes for these or do you feel like they are small gains?
CR: I feel like the sexual assault MOU is a huge gain.
JL: The way I would characterize all these is that they’re steps. I don’t think Connor and I came into this executive thinking we could solve all of these problems in one year, but I think you look at Project Lighthouse, you look at the MOU, you look at the students on the Steering Committee, that’s all progress. And so I think each year we have the opportunity to build on this progress and move closer to solving it.
CR: But there’s no end point. There’s no “We solved it.” Well, on little things there is, but those are rare.
JL: There’s never going to be a GUSA administration that can close out the year saying, “We did it. We solved all these large, systemic, and cultural issues. The End.”
CR: A lot of the job, which people don’t understand, is we punt a lot of things. We get shit thrown at us and it’s our job to react. A lot of what we’ve done is preserve campus against proposed changes.
LB: Such as?
CR: The third year meal plan.
LB: I guess something else you guys would have had to deal with were the sit-ins for the renaming of Mulledy and McSherry, among other things, and the process of memory and reconciliation the University was going through. So do you guys have any thoughts on that? How were you involved, if at all?
CR: Well, we were only tangentially involved. We had a lot of people on our cabinet who were involved just because they were in a lot of these different organizations as well as GUSA.
JL: And, in all honesty, the whole issue is one that is so steeped in history and things. And the best way that we’re trying to solve it is with the people we appointed to the committee for Memory and Reconciliation, in terms of, there’s so much there that people don’t know. We have a lot of hope for that group that going through the history and all the things that we don’t understand that they will be able to bring forth recommendations that will make Georgetown the best it can be for years to come.
CR: And, at the end of the day, that’s a conversation that I’m not so sure Georgetown’s black community wants GUSA involved in.
LB: So when I interviewed you guys [in October], one of the main things we talked about was your dissatisfaction with your own ability to make GUSA into a transparent and more engaging institution. So how has that come along?
CR: I’d say we’ve done better. You witnessed a major change in our trajectory.
JL: A seminal moment if you will. But no, I think that it’s important that we re-oriented in the way that we did, and kinda quoting what we said the last time, we in that six months got really good at doing GUSA things, but we were neglecting to do Joe and Connor things.
LB: And so you feel like your new communications strategies have helped with that?
JL: Well, yes. I think the biggest issue with GUSA and student activism and things like that is there’s such a large segment of the population that doesn’t know. And ultimately there’s going to be a ton of people that just don’t care about what GUSA does and that’s no matter what you do. And that’s totally fine, but we should always be trying to to reach out to people who might care.
CR: We came in with the understanding that GUSA is not very good at promoting itself and being accessible, but at this point I kinda feel like a lot of that comes from students a) loving to hate GUSA, and b) not caring about what GUSA does, and students being inundated with so much information from so many other things that they don’t pay attention to what we’re doing regardless of whether or not we tell them. So we can always be doing more, but most people don’t care about being reached.
LB: So you guys came in with a sexual assault platform and a mental health platform. Those were the serious parts of your campaign. What would you say to people who might say that those things are all you’ve focused on, or all you’ve done?
CR: I would say that they are DUMB.
JL: I would say, “Go to our website.”
CR: I would say that they are the kind of people who love ragging on the organization without taking even the smallest step to learn what we’re actually doing.
LB: Are there things you would consider failures of your administration?
CR: I wish we had gotten rid of the Senate…. (to Joe) Now you have to say it.
JL: I wish we had abolished the Senate. I wish had done more radical structural things, because eventually we did turn our focus towards that, as we kinda reoriented ourselves in the middle of the year, but by then it was hard to take on such a big task.
CR: There are some issues I feel like we wasted our time dealing with.
LB: Like what?
CR: Bulldog Tavern: that big fucking inefficiency… Over the summer we spent a lot of time in meetings with them and they took our advice on some things, but they still haven’t gotten their act together and that felt like a waste of time.
LB: How do you feel about [Enushe and Chris’s] restructuring plan?
CR: I have a lot of reservations in that it removes a lot of power of the executive to form their cabinet as they see fit, and I think I would have liked to have seen the Senate go away.
JL: Right. I mean so much of what I think the problem is in terms of the Exec and Senate is that it’s so decentralized, and a lot I think of what GUSA needs is a very unified and cohesive organization structure. And I have some concerns that this might be a step in a wrong direction in terms of making GUSA as unified and central as possible.
CR: I also think there’s some merit to the plan. I don’t want to just be negative about it because I believe there’s a lot of good there as well. I think it makes for a more transparent organization. I think it makes for a more inclusive organization. And I can’t say right now which would be more effective in policy, because I can see ours being more effective and I can see theirs being more effective,
JL: What we know now is that there’s a lot of problems with how GUSA operates so maybe that will alleviate some of those issues.
LB: How do you think the election went? There was only one ticket. Do you think that your success as joke candidates had anything to do with that?
CR: No, no, no. And the reason that I think that is because people— I mean, the Hoya’s poll said that people now, ten percent more students were engaged this year then they were last year. Ten percent more students had an opinion on GUSA and the majority of that was positive. So I don’t know how you could say more people know about GUSA now and more people have a positive perception of GUSA and yet there has been some negative residual effects of last year’s election. Additionally, you still have this stated interest in even the election process because Chris and Enushe had a massive team—200 people actually. So I just think that this year there was a strange confluence of factors that led to what is essentially a single ticket race.
LB: Is there anything else you want readers to know?
JL: I had a lot of fun with Youtopia. I hope you did too.