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Saxa Politica: GUSA: a leaner and meaner legislature

September 17, 2009


The Georgetown University Student Association is coming back to campus better, faster, and stronger than before.

That was the message the student senate sent when it met for the first time this year. As the Voice’s editorial board points out, the senate’s structural overhaul promises a bright future for GUSA. However, in order for it to effectively adjust to, and work with, this new senate, the day-to-day rules need to be firmly in place.

A slew of updated, tighter regulations, passed on September 8, are a promising step towards efficiency in the months to come: a cap on the GUSA operating budget, approval of all expenses over $100, new campaign rules and appointment procedures, and a conflict of interest policy that prevents students from serving on both branches of GUSA at once.

Some changes are long overdue, such as the monitoring of GUSA’s internal spending. When an organization is as self-analytical as GUSA, it is hard to believe that in the past, it has “never had a record of where [its] money went,” according to Transition Team leader Nick Troiano (COL ‘11), who represented Village A last year.

Moreover, the Senate and the Executive now have a limit on their operating costs: 25 percent of GUSA’s annual funding. It’s wonderful to see that GUSA’s pizza parties and rampant copying expenses won’t surpass a quarter of their budget, but the regulation needs to go further.

Currently, the money allotted for internal spending is divided in half: GUSA members have come to an unofficial agreement that each branch can use 12.5 percent.

However, this division could cause bickering later in the year, since there is no official acknowledgement of each branch’s limit or a punishment for overspending. Coming at a time when the senate is already grappling with a new design, tension over internal spending would be disastrous.

In order for the new structure to have its intended effect on senate efficiency, it is critical that the process of involving new students in GUSA is streamlined and clearly regulated.

Fortunately, two new policies vastly improve the cumbersome task of becoming a part of the organization. One mandates that campaign activities now have to comply with University policy.

The other allows the senate to confirm executive appointments en masse, a change that saves senators and new executives valuable time.

Another new rule mandates that senators who are appointed to the executive branch must immediately resign their senate seat.

Although Troiano insists that the regulation is not in direct response to anything, it coincidentally solves a problem the Senate ran into last spring, when members of the Senate Finances and Appropriations Committee were also appointed to Calen Angert’s (MSB ‘11) team. The new bylaw makes sure there will be no such conflicts this time.
GUSA is off to a good start. Heading into a new year with a fresh system of representation, GUSA cannot afford to let its old loopholes be. Amidst all the adjustments the association will need to make this year, there is too much potential for important policies to fall through the cracks.

Think GUSA’s not all it’s cracked up to be?  Let Lily whip you into shape by e-mailing her at lkaiser@georgetownvoice.com.



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    “However, this division could cause bickering later in the year, since there is no official acknowledgement of each branch’s limit or a punishment for overspending. Coming at a time when the senate is already grappling with a new design, tension over internal spending would be disastrous.”

    Not quite. The Senate Finance & Appropriations Committee–and the Senate as a whole–is the only branch that can allocate money. They could choose to do it on a line-item basis, but instead have allotted (perhaps informally) 12.5% of the operating budget to the Executive as already approved.

    Anything over 12.5% needs to be passed through the F&A committee. Indeed, even if the Senate itself wanted to vote itself more money, that would have to go through the F&A committee.

    So there’s no real tension, as long as the Senate and Exec keep a line on who’s spending what.