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Saxa Politica: Slow but steady progress?

November 29, 2012


Writing this column has yielded copious amounts of startling conclusions regarding the state of Georgetown’s internal structure. As expected, most of said revelations revealed the University as ideal porn for fans of institutional ineptitude, self-imposed and self-aware bureaucratic asphyxiation, and inexplicable breakdowns in otherwise intuitive communication structures.

Far more startling, however, is the progress that the administration has made over the course of the fall semester of 2012, in spite of its best efforts–conscious or otherwise–to avoid doing so.

GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ‘13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ‘13), of course, are free to claim credit for a portion of the improvements. After all, the Georgetown community got access to Zipcars on campus, two food trucks Thursday through Saturday outside of Lauinger Library, and an evidentiary standard raised to a “clear and convincing” burden of proof, though only for on-campus violations.

But bringing BBQ pulled pork to drunk students at 2 a.m. is hardly worthy of the title of an improvement; the true benefits came into the world from the University’s administrative offices.

Even the change in the burden of proof was ultimately in the jurisdiction of Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson. GUSA merely led a nonbinding referendum, the impact of which was largely symbolic.

Combined with the 2010 Campus Plan’s removal of the unpopular party registration system, the above alterations to the administration’s policies towards the student body, if respected by students, can ensure that on-campus life becomes increasingly vibrant.

Organizational life of students, too, scored a number of major victories; the Center for Student Programs, in a welcome display of initiative, played a major role in this revival. Along with the Center for Social Justice and Campus Ministry, CSP launched The Blueprint program to kick off the move towards a less strangled administration, giving student groups a preliminary roadmap for combating the red tape-strewn wasteland of Georgetown’s numerous administrative offices.

In a more surprising instance of practicing what the office preached, CSP appears to have improved its internal structure to a noticeable extent. Reimbursements, payments, and orders have become more streamlined and are completed in a timely manner. The CSP staff has become more responsive to student needs. Even the Office of Campus Activity Facilities, once known for misplacing and botching orders both as a result of a lack of student knowledge of OCAF operations and occasional incompetence, has become more transparent.

No list of Georgetown problems is complete without the most lacking feature of the University’s existence: technology. Deteriorating infrastructure and aging systems are all too present on campus, a concern which at last appears to be being taken seriously by students and staff members through a series of firsts and completed projects.

Connection quality aside, SaxaNet and GuestNet WiFi networks have finally eclipsed the unsecured HOYAS, which University Information Services removed on Nov. 14. In spite of grumblings relating to the lack of push technology support on GuestNet, internal security is certainly necessary to protect privacy and prevent phishing of thousands of accounts.

The most promising technological progress, however, came from h.innovation, a collaborative effort between alumni, faculty, and current students dedicated to “facilitating an ecosystem of innovation” at Georgetown. From Nov. 18-19, the group organized the first Georgetown Hackathon, a two-day, 100-student competition focused on identifying and resolving innovation-related issues on campus. Participants in the event had no trouble identifying issues or creating feasible solutions, foreshadowing the impact that even small, dedicated teams can have in the future of Georgetown’s innovation strategy, especially if they include students in leadership roles.

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud; none of the enumerated changes are in any way perfect or complete. The University continues to bend to the will of the neighbors, countering the gains of eliminated party registration by increasing the rate of crackdowns on off-campus festivities; CSP still attempts to fit student organizations to a stifling administrative mold; and technology on campus is just barely staying ahead of obsolescence. Even so, the progress made this semester is palpable; perhaps with renewed efforts on the part of both the student body and the administration, the Georgetown experience will truly be worth $200,000.

Reminisce with Kirill at kmakarenko@georgetownvoice.com


Kirill Makarenko
Former Assistant Leisure Editor


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