Saxa Politica: Why you should care about the GUSA election

By:
02/20/2014

Last week, as I was fulfilling my duties as the Voice’s crisis-manager-in-chief, I had a meeting with my ethics professor. He asked how I was and I told him—this week was bad. He asked me if I had to deal with controversies a lot, and I told him about some of the particularly contentious stories I’ve pursued in the past. When I brought up the Stewards controversy of February 2013, he burst out laughing.

I don’t blame him. For an election in which some 3,000 ballots are cast, there are secret societies, anonymous tipsters, televised debates, and endless media coverage. Think about how ridiculous the pseudonym “Steward Throat” is. This year, I’ve already received emails from “Edward Stewarden.”

While it may seem that GUSA elections lack any form of substance, it doesn’t have to be that way. Citizens nationwide underestimate the importance of local governance, of which GUSA is a form. If people do follow the news, they usually follow national news and politics. While larger stories are important, what’s going to directly affect you is what’s going on locally.

I’ve heard plenty of students gripe that “GUSA doesn’t even do anything!” Sure, while they’re not a fully-fledged student government and they can’t change the world, they still effect change for undergraduates. In the past year, the keg ban was lifted, open containers were approved in two apartment complexes, the satellite campus was killed, dorms were designed and redesigned, and the What’s a Hoya program began.

When Georgetown elects a GUSA president, we are electing the person who will speak on our behalf in meetings with administrators, whose decisions affect everyone. No GUSA president would speak against student interests, which are usually pretty clear cut. Differences lie in approach.

Do the candidates view GUSA as a programming body or as an organization dedicated to changing policy? It can be both, but the Trevor Tezel (SFS ‘15) / Omika Jikaria (SFS ‘15) ticket emphasizes policy, whereas the Zach Singer (SFS ’15) / Dan Silkman (COL ’15) ticket highlights programming.

What approach will the ticket take? Thomas Lloyd (SFS ‘15) and Jimmy Ramirez (COL ‘15) promise to take a more combative stance, whereas Benjamin Weiss (COL ‘15) and Sam Greco (SFS ‘15) will likely take a more institutional approach.

The other salient aspect for candidates is what they choose as their top priority. GUSA executives (who are full-time students, after all) won’t be able to accomplish everything they want to, so it’s important to set realistic goals. Two years ago, it was probably a mistake to focus so heavily on reestablishing the Healy Pub. It was never going to happen.

The same applies with this year’s proposals. Gender neutral housing, an open-door drinking policy, and establishing costly buses downtown would all be great reforms for students, but they all probably won’t happen. If planks have been in GUSA platforms year after year and still haven’t been accomplished, it stands to reason the University won’t be giving in soon. Then again, at this time last year, I wouldn’t have expected there to be a pilot open container policy in Village A and Henle.

There are several innovative ideas in this year’s platforms. Both Lloyd/Ramirez and Tezel/Jikaria say they want to create a tiered structure for access to benefits for student groups—which would allow a greater diversity of perspectives to thrive here. The Singer/Silkman ticket is right to emphasize issues of accessibility for students in lower income brackets. Student leaders often have to pay hefty deposits out of their own pockets in order to perform the regular duties of their group, and that problem has gone unaddressed for too long.

Right now, it’s too early to say which ticket is ahead, but they seem to be running about even. As quasi-incumbents, Singer and Silkman make a formidable team. Lloyd has a strong record as president of GU Pride, where he spearheaded the effort to get gender neutral bathrooms in the Northeast Triangle Dorm. As former president of College Dems, Tezel has a large group of students who know him, which is only enhanced by his vice-presidential pick Omika Jikaria, board member of the Georgetown International Relations Association. Weiss and Greco are well-liked and seem to be widely known, though they’re both branded GUSA insiders.

For some reason, though, enthusiasm seems to be diminished this year. As of Wednesday, only two campaigns have banners up in Red Square. Chatter on social media seems to be down. Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe the junior class isn’t inspiring enough. Whatever the case, my participation will remain unaffected. I have a soft spot for civic duty—even on the smallest scale.

Have lots of thoughts with Connor at cjones@georgetownvoice.com.

About Author

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Connor Jones Connor Jones is the former editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Voice. Before that, he edited its blog, Vox Populi and the features section. He was a double major in mathematics and economics and is from Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at cjones@georgetownvoice.com.


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