Saxa Politica: Georgetown students need to work together

October 14, 2010

The closer we get to the midterms, the less Democrats and Republicans can agree on. The Republicans are the party of no; the Democrats are the party of “maybe, after I’m reelected.” National leaders could use a lesson from our peers in the Georgetown University College Democrats, the Georgetown University College Republicans, and the Georgetown Israel Alliance.

The three groups recently announced their cooperation in outlining a common set of principles about Israeli-Palestinian relations. The resulting document, which will be fully revealed in an upcoming ad campaign, recognizes the state of Israel, calls for a two-state solution, and opposes Iran’s nuclear program.

According to Kevin Preskenis (COL ’12), the chief of staff for the College Republicans, the GIA approached the two political groups about the idea last spring. Over the past semester, the executive boards of all three groups had a series of meetings to draft the document.

The move is, of course, mostly symbolic. College students have little to no influence over foreign policy. The document does not even necessarily represent the majority of members in College Republicans and College Democrats—the executive boards of each group, not the general memberships, voted on the proposal. But I still consider the document a very positive step, if for no other reason, because it draws attention to the need for student groups at Georgetown to overcome divisions.

Georgetown is a very fractured campus. Many student groups keep to themselves or in rare cases partner with groups who have similar interests. United Feminists may work with H*yas for Choice, MeCHA may work with the NAACP, and GU Republican Women may work with Women in Politics. But rarely do two groups with diametrically opposed goals decide to work together and find common ground.

In times of crisis, Georgetown’s fractures start to show. Whenever there is a bias-related crime, student protest, or incidence of insensitivity, the same groups come out and ask us to have a dialogue. Then, despite their efforts to engage the rest of the student body, those groups mostly talk amongst themselves.

Many of us looked forward to college because we wanted to meet people who were different from us and encounter new perspectives. Georgetown in particular trumpets its history as a center for interreligious dialogue. But as a campus, we don’t live our values. “Pluralism in Action” shouldn’t just be a slightly awkward New Student Orientation event. It should be a lifestyle—but it isn’t.

Georgetown as an institution can only go so far in promoting dialogue and common ground among its various student groups. It’s easy to point a finger at the University for failing to foster a better community spirit—but current students need to accept some responsibility for actually engaging with their peers on important issues that affect campus life.

Kudos to the student leaders who reached across the political aisle to engage their opponents and find things they could agree on. We would all do well to follow their example with substantive projects that will make a difference in student life.

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