Saxa Politica: Let SCUnity Go

February 26, 2009

The Georgetown University Student Association is supposed to be a forum for public discussion and informed action, but their relationship with the Student Commission for Unity—arguably one of the most important projects GUSA has undertaken in recent years—has been marked by impatience and apathy. Given GUSA’s dereliction of their oversight duties, SCUnity is justified in its decision to split from GUSA.

SCUnity spent 10 months collecting and analyzing data and developing eight policy recommendations, which they formally presented in Gaston Hall on January 27. Even though the date was set in October, only five Senators showed up to the presentation.

When SCUnity came before the GUSA Senate to explain the recommendations, they were again given short shrift.

“We had an hour to present our research to President DeGioia,” SCUnity Chair Brian Kesten (COL ’10) said. “We couldn’t get more than five or 10 minutes to present the full research to the GUSA Senate.”

Given GUSA’s disengagement, it is no surprise that SCUnity chose to sever ties with the association—not because two of their recommendations were shot down, but because the Senate voted without giving the recommendations the attention they deserved.

Most Senators voted based on a five-page pamphlet that condensed SCUnity’s research into simplified explanations. With information this complex, however, skimming the broad points is simply not enough.

Senator Nick Troiano (COL ’11) defended his peers by asserting that Senators cannot be expected to read through 300 pages of data, but this is flat-out wrong. When the students of GUSA took their offices, they took on responsibilities to devote themselves to improving student life on campus. This means participating in public debate and taking in all the information possible—especially information produced by commissions under GUSA’s auspices. If the senators were unwilling to read through the report, they should have at least made the time to show up at the presentation in January.

“Regardless of what was in the report, our job is to advocate on behalf of the students,” Troiano argued.
But again, Troiano is dead wrong. GUSA Senators shouldn’t be making important decisions that will affect the entire student body based on their gut feelings; they need to analyze the data.

GUSA’s main complaint about SCUnity independence is that there would be no oversight. However, for the past year GUSA has completely neglected their oversight duties. Not passing the recommendations may have been reasonable, but refusing to carefully study the research and insisting on stifling discussion at the meetings is inexcusable. Unless GUSA is willing to demonstrate greater competence as an oversight body, their commissions cannot be blamed for seeking independence in order to escape the Senate’s hostile ignorance.

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Nick Troiano

I’m unsure what this piece is doing under “news” and not “editorial”, and why I was “interviewed” by this “journalist” without knowing his intentions.

In any case, I have to disagree. The whole point of creating a commission is to do the extensive research and recommendation-making that would be too time consuming and inefficient for the entire Senate to engage in. Their job is to present recommendations. Our job is to review them, and to pass and advocate for the ones we feel are in the interest of all students.

I stand by my assertion that one cannot expect members of the Senate to read hundreds of pages of research. This is especially the case when there literally is no direct correlation between such research and the actual recommendations.

The conclusions drawn were very subjective. In my view, the members of the Senate are just as unqualified as the members of SCUnity to use this data to support specific recommendations. The distinction is that the Senate has the responsibility of representing the entire student body.

For example, mandating new courses to be taken or residence floors to fill diversity quotas – nothing in the research directly supports this. While the Commission decided this recommendation furthered its agenda, the majority of the Senate felt that both recommendations were not in the interest of the student body for very good reasons (the law, not our gut, being one of them).

To your second point, the SCUnity presented twice to the Senate and were able to answers questions before the vote on every recommendation. In my recollection, no one asked for more time to present. And I am certain our conclusions (approving 6/8 recommendations) would not have changed.

That said, we did fail in oversight in many ways. I commend the effort the SCUnity put into its work. Going forward, I hope they continue. If they do not wish to remain under GUSA and receive many of the benefits of doing so, I do not believe we should force them.