Over 30 Georgetown students have organized Students Against the Yard to oppose the proposed constitution of the Yard Student Association. SAY pledges to “educate the campus about the ramifications of enacting the proposed Yard constitution,” according to a press release.
“There are two sides to every story. While it is a good idea to unify student government, the Yard Proposal contains a number of troubling provisions,” said Aaron Polkey (CAS ‘02), a spokesperon for SAY.
Polkey said that although he would support reform of the Georgetown University Student Association, he found several aspects of the Yard constitution unacceptable
“We agree that GUSA needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, few students have had an opportunity to be a part of this process until after a vote was imminent,” Polkey said. “It would have been better to collaborate on these changes rather than creating a document in what appears to have been a closed process.”
SAY identified four major issues they have with the proposed Yard constitution.
If the Yard were to be approved, the current GUSA assembly, which includes four representatives of each class, would be replaced with the Yard Council. The Yard Council includes one representative from each class, each of the presidents of the Academic Councils of the College, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, Walsh School of Foreign Service and McDonough School of Business, the representatives of a body representing all dormitories and nine representatives of student groups.
“We agree that clubs and Academic Councils should have a seat on the table. However, this should not occur at the expense of class representatives that currently represent both the involved and the uninvolved. One class president voting for 1500 members of the respective classes is not appropriate,” Polkey said.
Doug Britt, President of Academic Council, said that he did not agree that the student government and the Academic Council should work on the same organization.
“I just believe there needs to be some distance between the Academic Council’s main vision, namely bettering the students’ academic life, and GUSA’s vision which I believe is to improve student life on campus,” Britt said.
“Of course there will be times where these two bodies’ visions overlap, but for the most part they should work as separate entities,” he said.
Britt also expressed concern that members of the Academic Council would not have time to serve as members of the Yard.
SAY also identifies a problem with the way in which money is allocated to student clubs under the Yard. The Yard would set up a system where students would individually direct money to student clubs through an on-line system.
“It is unclear whether the Yard earmarks enough money to protect smaller clubs that may not have political influence,” SAY member Thad Inge (CAS ‘02) said.
SAY also takes issue with the decrease in first year representation. Currently, there are four first year representatives in GUSA who provide equal representation as the sophomore, junior and senior classes. Under the Yard constitution, first years would only be represented by one out of 22 voting members, according to the SAY press release.
Many students have expressed concern that the administration will not support the Yard. “I think the division between GUSA and the Yard sends a negative message to the administration,” Britt said. “We, the Georgetown community, already have a hard enough time getting the administration to act on our demands, forming a new government will weaken our voice.”
SAY plans to hold open session to educate students about the Yard, according to their press release.
Polkey said he is encouraged by the recent attempts to open the process. “We are glad that the Yard has finally opened the process and are actively seeking suggestions,” he said.
“If we cannot reach a consensus with substantive changes and the Yard hastily asks for a vote, we will ensure that each student understands that this document is simply not the best way to reform student government,”Polkey said.
Yard spokesperson Matt Brennan (SFS ‘03) said that he had not yet heard anything about SAY. According to Brennan, Yard supporters had attempted to talk to members of the Georgetown community and GUSA in the fall and had little response.
“We all knew what was going on last semester … I offered to sit down and talk to people. We were welcoming all comments and open to discussion. We received some comments, which we added,” Brennan said. “Until we had the signatures, we had no credibility. That’s when GUSA finally said they wanted to talk.”