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Saxa Politica: Git’ er done, GUSA

September 30, 2010


It’s a time-honored tradition for Georgetown University Student Association senate candidates—mostly well-meaning freshmen—to promise us better food at Leo’s and greater access to wireless Internet. But students who have been at Georgetown more than a month know that these issues are thornier, more bureaucratic, and more infuriating than they first appear. So this year, instead of vowing to improve our meal plan options, would-be GUSA senators should focus their energies on changes they can actually accomplish.

We learned during last year’s club funding reform process that under ambitious leadership, GUSA has the ability to be effective. But when senators take on fruitless causes and argue over the minutia of toothless resolutions, it’s easy to forget how useful GUSA can be.

In recent years, GUSA has passed resolutions welcoming President Barack Obama to campus, supporting Philly Pizza in its battle against the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and criticizing the students who protested General David Petraeus. These debates really belong at a Philodemic Society after-party. Students don’t benefit from GUSA’s opinion on these matters.

Likewise, while I appreciated that Senator Arman Ismail (COL ‘11) supported a cause that was popular among students, his ambitious project to eradicate rodents on campus would have been a job too difficult for even Bruce Wayne. Ismail had a little help from winter, but the rats won out in the spring.  It wasn’t GUSA’s place to take on that project.

Luckily, GUSA veterans have some workable ideas on the table this year. One of GUSA President Calen Angert’s (MSB ‘11) campaign promises was to get a Zipcar rental site near campus. With parking so hard to come by and the new Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue so close but oh-so-far, a rental car service would be a great addition to campus life. Last year, Josh Mogil (SFS ‘11) explored the possibility of forming a student advocacy group to help students navigate the disciplinary system. Mogil, back from study abroad and running for a contested off-campus seat, should try to make this idea a reality if elected. Also, last year, money for weekend GUTS buses and the College Readership Program dried up. GUSA should work with the administration to extend these vital programs.

There are already encouraging signs that GUSA will focus on achievable projects this year. Fortunately, the Finance and Appropriations Committee will be turning its attention to the $1.9 million of Student Activity Fee money invested in the endowment. When GUSA established the student activity fee in 2001, senators hoped that by funneling half of the $100 fee into the endowment, the fund would grow to $10 million and become self-sustaining by 2010 or 2011. But we’re still $8.1 million short.

Colton Malkerson (COL ‘13), a former Finance and Appropriations Committee member who is running uncontested for reelection, said the committee has definite plans to tackle this issue, although it won’t announce the specifics for a few weeks.

Since the fund will take too long to become self-sustaining, GUSA should begin to use all of the $100 Student Activity Fee to fund clubs and student organizations. As for the $1.9 million that has been saved, GUSA must tread carefully—there are already heated arguments over the $380,000 of student activity fee funding we have right now—but we should begin using some of that money for capital projects, such as student space initiatives.

For the past couple decades, students have remained largely skeptical of GUSA. Most usually considered it useless and some even called for its abolition. The current leadership says they represent a “new GUSA”—a new age of efficiency, transparency, and above all, usefulness. There’s reason to believe them. With total control over the allocation of the student activity fee and perhaps more funding to come, GUSA has the power to implement some very tangible changes—not just engage in meaningless debates or make wildly unrealistic populist promises. But now let’s see GUSA put its money where its mouth is.

Do you have a job too difficult for even Bruce Wayne? Email Kara at kbrandeisky@georgetownvoice.com



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