As Election Day draws closer and Georgetown students head to the polls in what may be one of the most hotly disputed elections in U.S. history, the two names that come to their minds will undoubtedly be Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. However, come Nov. 6, Hoyas voting in the District may be surprised to see the names of two of their classmates: Advisory Neighborhood Commission Student Commissioner Candidates Craig Cassey Jr. (COL ’15) and Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14).
Next Tuesday, Cassey and Prindiville will both be running unopposed to represent Single Member Districts 4 and 8, respectively. Despite Georgetown’s politically active student body, student representation on the ANC is in short supply.
Serving as a Student Commissioner is a sizable commitment that requires students to jump through innumerable bureaucratic hoops and forgo the opportunity to study abroad. Even so, student representation in the ANC is vital to student life on the Hilltop, as the commission deals with town-gown relations, off-campus leasing contracts, and transportation, including the GUTS bus and WMATA Metrobus services.
Even though its policies have a significant impact on student life and students make up 42 percent of the residents under the ANC’s authority, Hoyas are only allocated two seats on the Commission. This lack of representation, along with the common divergence of student and neighborhood issues, can often create tension both within the governing body and between the University and the commission.
When reflecting upon his time serving on the ANC, current Student Commissioner Jake Sticka (COL ’13) said, “The biggest challenge [for me] was dealing with the passage of the Campus Plan. It created a somewhat contentious environment on ANC2E that made work on issues regarding students difficult.” Sticka went on to say, “However, the ANC has slowly improved its relationship with students, and I am pleased with the results of the 2010 redistricting work that the ANC participated in and that created two student districts.”
Both Cassey and Prindiville affirm the importance of student representation on the ANC, and have used the concerns of their peers as an important resource when constructing their individual policy goals.
“My highest point [while campaigning] was a recent door- knocking session with some freshmen who were stoked to find out they could still vote if they registered in D.C. the day of the election,” Cassey said. “The more they learned about the impact they could have, the more onboard they were, and it’s moments like that which really get me excited for the campaign and the future of civic engagement for Georgetown students at a local level.”
Despite the current underrepresentation of students, Sticka hopes the presence of two students on the ANC will increase the weight of student opinions on the commission’s decisions.
“It will certainly change the dynamic for the better,” Sticka said. “I think that having two students will allow for greater collaboration and understanding on issues involving campus.”
If elected, Prindiville plans to make this new dynamic a reality. “Through the petitioning and campaigning process, I’ve heard many stories and concerns from both student and long-time residents. I’ve heard how long-time residents feel disenfranchised and how students feel vilified and unwelcome in the process of local governance,” he said.
Like Cassey, Prindiville has sought to engage with community members to find out what is on the minds of voters.
“I have made a point of reaching out to every single registered voter in my district,” he said. “I have been fairly successful, and this has made the experience quite interesting and enjoyable. When you can put a face to a name on a voter roll, it really makes the whole democratic process come to life. I know that actively campaigning will make me a better commissioner and allow me to better represent my constituents… In the end, commissioners represent their constituents. If you don’t know your constituents, it’s hard to do a good job.”
Ultimately, Sticka thinks the ANC is ready for change, and that Cassey and Prindiville are up for the challenge.
“I can say that both Peter and Craig are immensely qualified to serve on the ANC, and that both of them will bring very valuable perspectives to the table,” he said. “I think that together they should be able to achieve quite a bit for students. They have both run strong campaigns and I have no doubt that they both will be elected easily… I’m sure that Peter and Craig will be ready for whatever comes their way.”