Yard referendum challenged

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February 8, 2001

Andrew Katz (CAS ‘01) plans to make a request that the Georgetown University Student Association Constitutional Council not allow the Yard movement to hold a referendum that would replace GUSA with the Yard Student Association.

“I am against the way [the Yard supporters] got the signatures. They said, if you like the Yard, sign here. At that time, the Yard constitution was in constant revision … This is not a valid way of presenting a referendum,” Katz said.

According to Chris Ray (SFS ‘01), a member of the GUSA Constitutional Council, the Yard members may make procedural changes to their constitution. Ray said no substantive changes could be made because the Yard members had collected signatures from students based on the content of their original constitution.

“If they did anything that we perceived to inherently alter the essence of what they were trying to do, then that would be illegal,” Ray said.

The Yard members were not expecting a challenge from the Constitutional Council. “When we handed in the petitions, I asked if we could make changes to the Yard constitution. I received a yes, unless we changed the structure of it,” said Matt Brennan (SFS ‘03), the spokesperson for the Yard.

“It is my understanding that from now until Sunday students leading the Yard movement and students that have reservations about the Yard will meet to discuss potential changes,” said Marty LaFalce (CAS ‘03), a GUSA representative.

Supporters of the Yard announced last week that they had collected over 1,700 signatures from students pledging their support of a referendum proposing that the GUSA be replaced with the Yard Student Association.

According to Brennan the three central benefits to the Yard constitution are to create a clear student voice, to make funding quick, easy and on-line and to ensure accountable leadership.

Katz’s challenge is not the first opposition the Yard has received. Yard members attended Tuesday’s GUSA meeting in order to get feedback on the Yard constitution from GUSA members.

Over the past week, supporters of the Yard met with GUSA President Tawan Davis (CAS ‘01) to discuss the Yard constitution. “The Yard asked me to take a look at their proposal and give them the suggestions that I had … They have been wanting to talk to [GUSA] about it and I didn’t feel comfortable without discussing certain clauses,” Davis said.

Davis identified problems such as the clause stating that the Yard president next year will be the candidates who receives the most votes in the Feb. 26 GUSA presidential election and has also signed the Yard petition.

“I am also uncomfortable with their funding structure and with the pre-designation of funds,” Davis said. “They also have some strong ideas such as their approach to representation that expands class representation from class to a broader spectrum that includes student activities and academics.”

Yard members revised the constitution so as to incorporate Davis’ suggestions to gain support from other GUSA representatives and campus leaders. Yard members also worked to include aspects of the funding proposal voted on last week for a student activities endowment and fee.

“I thought [the GUSA meeting] was very productive and intelligent. Pertinent questions were discussed and I was encouraged by the discussion,” Davis said.

Davis said that, although he found fundamental difficulties with the Yard proposal, he thought there were also considerable good points at the GUSA assembly meeting Tuesday.

The Yard members announced that they would consider the changes GUSA members had suggested. A final draft of the referendum must be submitted to GUSA by Monday.

“Last night at the meeting it was clear that substantive changes had to be made in order for there to be widespread support,” LaFalce said.

The referendum is currently scheduled to take place on February 26, the same day as the GUSA presidential election.

“Frankly, we are willing to push the date of the referendum back to open debate and discussion. That’s why we were at that GUSA meeting,” Brennan said. “However, I do feel it will be difficult to separate the presidential election and the referendum and get the turn-out we want.”

The Constitutional Council has not announced the number of affirmative votes the Yard constitution will need to pass. “Either a quarter of the students need to vote yes, or a quarter of the students need to vote and a majority of that quarter will need to vote yes,” Ray said. “That, in my opinion, is a bigger issue than the changes.”

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