GUSA executive establishes Georgetown Day committee

March 29, 2012

Since news of the lack of Georgetown Day planning hit campus last week, the GUSA executive has spearheaded an effort to salvage this year’s festivities and put the event on firm footing for the future.

Once campus media revealed that Georgetown Day would be scaled back this year because no one had yet signed up for the planning committee, GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) began an effort to create a one, hoping to push students to volunteer to run the event.

“Maybe there has been miscommunication on what’s needed,” Gustafson said. “Hopefully in this short amount of time we can accurately communicate to the student body that we all love this day, so let’s all make it happen together.”

For the past ten years, Georgetown students have celebrated the end of the academic year on the front lawn enjoying free food, games, and performances by student groups. The University has provided financial support for the festivities, with donations from Aramark and the Corp.

“Georgetown Day has never been a GUSA-oriented endeavor,” Gustafson wrote in an email. “Georgetown Day has been run by an ad-hoc committee of administrators and students every year, and has no institutional home.”

An application was sent out for anyone interested in planning the celebration, and Gustafson said she has looked through those to connect applicants to the appropriate sub-committee planning groups. According to Gustafson, this year’s ad-hoc committee includes “a lot of seniors who have been involved in planning the day before and some underclassmen who are really excited about getting a cappella groups.”

To ensure that planning begins in the fall semester, Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount hope to establish an institutional home for the celebration. “The idea is that after Georgetown Day this year, we’ll put together administrators and students and have a conversation about what the day was, what we think the day is, what we think the day can be,” Gustafson said.

She also proposed meeting with administrators, including Director of Student Programs Erika Cohen-Derr, Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson, and Associate Vice President Jeanne Lord, as well as other Georgetown students. The conversation would be a chance to talk about “all of our different expectations for the day and our hopes for it in the future,” Gustafson said.

Rachel Pugh, University director of media relations, wrote in an email that “the university is supportive of an end of year celebration and is hopeful that collaboration with students in reimagining Georgetown Day will lead to meaningful celebrations for years to come.”

Gustafson did not offer a possible group or current institution within which to establish the planning for Georgetown Day, but thought that the meeting would provide an appropriate forum to discuss this question. Gustafson suggested that at Georgetown, “if there is no institutional home for something, it can very easily be overlooked just because there is so much going on.”

The executive emphasized the importance of volunteers for the success of this day.   “Volunteers are the life blood of Georgetown Day and necessary to its success,” Kohnert-Yount wrote in an email. Gustafson added “the day relies upon volunteers to keep it going, by setting up, staffing any activities, and cleaning up afterward.”

In response to Lord’s comments that Georgetown Day had changed from a celebration of the community to a celebration by the student community, Gustafson did not emphasize the negative sentiment. “I think many of the frustrations from the administrative end, and student side, was a lack of volunteers and participation,” she said. “There are those students that are willing to do that, but we just have to figure out a better incentive structure to make sure that the day is a fun, awesome celebration for everyone.”

The administration’s concerns, however, do not entirely match those articulated by Gustafson. University leaders “recognize the need for a day that is appropriately celebratory at the end of the year, that is student-owned, and that addresses the very real concerns of health, safety and congruence with our community values,” Pugh wrote.

Whatever the future of the event, students upset at the initial news that the day would be scaled back can take comfort in the fact that Georgetown Day will still happen this year. “Georgetown Day will not be cancelled and we will work with the administration in the future to find an institutional home for the day so that planning can always start earlier,” Gustafson said.

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There’s something quite incongruous about the administration saying that Georgetown Day needs to be a celebration of Georgetown’s entire community and then coming back and say that it needs to be “student-owned.”