With our tenure as GUSA President and Vice President coming to a close, we wanted to set aside some time to take stock of what’s surely been one of the most whirlwind years of our lives. When we decided to run, we vowed to “connect” students to Georgetown. As an insider-outsider ticket, we wanted to bring both experience and creative energy to an institution that needs both qualities renewed on an annual basis. Over the past year, we are proud to have produced results for the student body. What’s more, we are grateful to have learned more about ourselves, both as leaders and as students, as we have striven toward that Jesuit ideal of being a woman and man for others.
From the outset, we made a promise to take a policy-centered approach to GUSA. Sexual misconduct policies and resources for survivors were some of our top platform promises, and we made good on them. We successfully advocated for an additional staff member for Health Education Services, and pushed changes to the Code of Student Conduct that made past sexual history inadmissible during hearings, allowed for closed-circuit testimony, and shrank hearing board sizes. In terms of social policies, we worked to expand the open container program, and instituted a policy that allows first-year students to avoid having their first alcohol violation appear on their external conduct file. In addition, we partnered with the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) in order to institute a policy allowing for student sanctions to be reduced if OSC doesn’t notify students of outstanding charges within thirty days of an incident. On behalf of student groups without Access to Benefits, we negotiated several agreements with the administration, including one that secured storage space on the mezzanine level of Regents.
Furthermore, during our tenure, the Division of Student Affairs and GUSA concluded some long-term initiatives that had been the result of past and present GUSA advocacy. Whether it was securing funds to construct a volleyball court in the Southwest Quad or working to implement the first-ever group selection process into housing selection, our team was able to work towards tangible improvements in student life. We worked with Student Affairs to create the GUSA Access Fund for disability accommodations, launch a new centralized space booking system, and help open the Healey Family Student Center, the result of advocacy dating back many GUSA administrations.
During the campaign, we pledged to institute two councils: the Multicultural Council and the Transfer Council. The GUSA Multicultural Council (MC) was by far our most controversial initiative. In deciding to throw GUSA directly into a conversation that it had previously avoided, we knew that we would expose GUSA to criticism stemming from the numerous divisions that exist over this issue among Georgetown’s cultural communities. As GUSA and the Multicultural Council adjusts to its role in this conversation, we will begin to see the Student Association producing tangible results for more Georgetown students. In its first year, the MC successfully hosted Georgetown’s first Multicultural Week and spurred the first conversations around the formation of a cultural group advisory board. Even tonight, they will be co-hosting a town hall with the Last Campaign for Academic Reform regarding a proposed diversity curriculum requirement. Similarly, the GUSA Transfer Council had an outstanding inaugural year. Among its various initiatives, the Council was able to secure the creation of an admitted transfer student day in the same vein as GAAP weekend, a new transfer Living and Learning Community, and an Admitted Transfer Student Calling Day in conjunction with the Office of Admissions.
But our biggest learning experiences came when we dealt with unexpected issues. At the beginning of our term, we were confronted with the implementation of the third-year housing requirement. While these conversations allowed us to obtain a fourth-year housing guarantee for students with high financial need, it was painful to watch as students again suffered as a direct result of the 2010 Campus Plan and the need to house additional students on campus. This came after a student parking ban issued last summer and other measures that have greatly affected student life off-campus. It will be the job of Joe, Connor, and their team to ensure that the negotiations over the next campus plan respect the rights of off-campus students.
In the last week and a half, we have been asked a dozen times: “How do you feel that you were replaced by a satirical ticket bashing GUSA and your outreach to students?” To that we say: You’re right. We didn’t do a good job of letting students know what we were doing. Our personal ethos is, and always has been, to quietly push for results on issues that are important to students. While much work needs to be done in student outreach, Executive-Senate relations are in a much better place than they were a year ago, and morale within the executive remains high. As student advocacy undergoes a critical transition year, we’re reassured in knowing that we have two student leaders who will build on a strong structure and make GUSA a more present force in students’ lives.