The Voice sat down with GUSA executive candidates Josh Sirois (SFS ‘20) and Casey Doherty (COL ‘20) to discuss their campaign platform, “Moving Forward,” and goals to bring feasible solutions to tuition and other campus issues through GUSA initatives.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
The Voice: Let me first start off by asking: what makes your campaign different compared to the other campaigns?
Josh Sirois: It’s a tough question to answer… everyone comes and throws their hat at this new job. But, something that I do think sets Casey and I really apart is coming up with a plan and a list of items to put on a platform to present to the student body that aren’t just hypothetical what-ifs or aren’t just sitting down with students for the sake of being able to say we did it… to get us elected. Rather, we put a lot of thought and detail into what we’re presenting to the student body… that we know we can start and pursue on day one of the administration.
TV: Josh, you stated that “GUSA spends too much time worrying about its own bureaucratic concerns rather than bringing students together,” yet you said in your campaign video that “I’ve been involved with GUSA since I got to Georgetown.” Is there anything you have done during your time as a GUSA senator to work on your campaign platforms?
JS: So, I think especially when I ran as a freshman last year to represent Freshman North (Darnell and Harbin), I took a more realistic approach, even just being here with not really going for lofty ideas in talking to upperclassman who were senators in the past. But I think when it comes to GUSA being insular and talking about that specifically, things I have worked on was for Kamar and Jessica. I ran the new Student Engagement Committee… so that was reaching specifically out to first-year students, whether they be freshman or transfer students to really break down GUSA and make it simple to understand and a little more open for them to get involved in what they were interested in. I also worked on the “GUSA That Represents You” campaign over this summer with the executive, trying to reach out before executive applications were due and senate elections took place to reach out to different student groups on campus to have them encourage their members to run.
Casey Doherty: Some of those are definitely represented in our platform. So Josh talked about reaching out to new students and transfer students, we are proposing a GUSA General Body, so any student can get involved with GUSA in specific policy areas that they’re interested in, so it’s not a super-big time commitment but we want everyone on campus to feel that they’re welcomed in GUSA.
TV: Could you give one critique and one compliment of the current GUSA administration?
JS: I’d say the first thing that comes to mind would be a critique in sitting down with different members of their administration, whether that be policy coalition chairs or some of their deputy chiefs-of-staff, I’d say their biggest piece of feedback to me… is definitely open communication. From the very beginning, yes, Kamar and Jessica had a platform that they ran on and their ideas that they wanted to move forward on, if you will. But those weren’t necessarily conveyed on day one [to the GUSA senate] in laying out specific expectations and how to form policy coalitions. I think that is something that kinda ran through, and they did have quite a bit of turnover in their administration.
CD: I would say that I worked last year on their campaign. [Josh and I] had the same position in opposing campaigns. I think from that experience and then watching [Kamar and Jessica] grow over the past year, I can see the passion that they bring in everything they do. They definitely come from different experiences and backgrounds on campus, which I think they were able to implement through GUSA and really work with those communities as well. I think that even if we look at the off-campus mental health therapy stipend, projects like that are new and exciting and they show that they really do care about campus. I think you can point to specific things they’ve done that show how much they really care about their fellow Hoyas.
TV: Why did you decide to run for office?
JS: I think we’ve decided to run for the GUSA executive because I have had a lot of involvement directly with GUSA, and I’ve definitely been able to see some of its flaws, but I’ve ultimately been able to see a lot of the change it’s been able to make that I think is super cool. I’ve worked actively last academic year for the support of a lot of those referendums that went on the ballot and ended up failing. After those failures, I’ve been asked multiple times, “Why are you involved in GUSA/still involved at all?”… I really was able to see, well, but GUSA can still do this and GUSA has done this. And maybe the whole student body doesn’t see that, but there is real work that gets done behind the scenes, and sometimes comes out into the forefront, like the mental healthcare stipend… All of these actionable policies that we know will make the Hilltop a better place is the motivation that is really behind my personal drive to run and do this kinda crazy campaigning and excitement.
CD: I think something that’s an asset for us that we bring different perspectives, because I don’t consider myself a GUSA “insider.” I think through my work with Georgetown Opportunities for Leadership Development, working so closely with freshmen who come and see Georgetown through new eyes, I think it is something I would miss having been here for a little while… Again, I really respect GUSA as an institution and I think it’s very clear that they’ve made a lot of progress on campus, and throughout the past week and few months that we have been working on this, I’ve become just so much more excited to implement the policies that we’ve come up with.
TV: On your campaign website there are a plethora of platforms that you intend to work on if elected. Do you think that you will be able to work on every single issue that’s presented there?
CD: So, we obviously have a lot of ideas that we’ve presented on our website, and we definitely have things that we are personally passionate about in that we’ve talked to students that they’re very excited about as well. I think there are things that we have prioritized, but we put these things because this isn’t just about the two of us. We want people to find something that [Georgetown students] are passionate about.
JS: I think going off of that, I think that a lot of GUSA campaigns in history get critiqued for putting up such lofty, thorough platforms with so many ideas that clearly no one is going to be able to touch… but I think above that, there’s a really strong bureaucratic process that goes on within the Georgetown University administration. And so there’s a lot of funneling ideas up and getting feedback and seeing potential and seeing if there is funding. And sometimes things aren’t as feasible as when you’re in the room creating innovative ideas that you think would make super, incredible change. I think holding ourselves accountable to the platform that we are putting forward is something that we are absolutely going to do.
CD: And we think it’s better for the student body to provide a really comprehensive vision of what we think Georgetown can look like. We want people to be inspired by how thoroughly we fought for these things.
TV: You mentioned before that there’s a few platforms that you feel very passionate about. Could you name a few?
CD: For me, I am very passionate about preventing sexual assault on campus, and I think that we are very fortunate to go to a school that really cares about it and has taken steps to mitigate that on campus. Georgetown can serve as an example of an institution of higher education in dealing with this. However, there’s always work to be done. A few things we’ve talked about is implementing a registration hold on students who don’t complete bystander intervention training. Another is advocating for the creation of a Coordinated Community Response Team that includes stakeholders like survivors and students who don’t always have a voice in these issues. We want the student body to be the ones moving this conversation forward and those are the people that policies from the administration effect.
JS: I’d say a couple of those for me is that I participated in the GUSA “Day of Accessibility,” and that was something that was super eye-opening for me. And yes, we are on a literal hilltop and that provides a lot of accessibility challenges. Something so simple as making that Lau 1 entrance… and opening that up as an accessible entrance for students with even just a GoCard swipe. It is a very practical change that we think could just happen really quickly with working with Jay Gruber and different members of the Lauinger administration.
Something else I’m really passionate about is that I work in admissions. One thing is that on the current first-year and transfer applications, there is no place to put your preferred gender pronouns. We definitely want to give all students the opportunity to identify how they wish on their application.
TV: Rising tuition rates have become an aspect of this election that many students are concerned about and would like real solutions to. With that in mind, what would you intend to do about these rising rates and is it different from what previous administrations or what current campaigns are saying they are planning to do?
JS: So, tuition is always a hot topic and very, very reasonably so. I think we are very realistic in the sense that with inflation, tuition is going to keep rising. And that is something that, yes, we would love to have conversations with administrators about and seeing what we can do about that.
When it comes to the tuition transparency component of it, I’ve gone to the tuition roundtable in HFSC both years that I’ve been here, have talked to the Provost, and asked pointed questions that he does not like. But, they do have a current committee of students in place that help the Provost deliver the tuition rise. We want to make sure that we get students in the room when that tuition rate is being set. We are the students who this tuition rate is impacting, so we want to have students in the room so we know what’s actually being said, and we can then actually deliver truth to the student body.
CD: We want things that can affect students’ lives quickly if we were to take office. For example, we want to look at a textbook trading hub online because we understand the cost of textbooks is a barrier for a lot of students. A lot of students, especially freshmen, don’t even know that you don’t have to get books at the bookstore. Even just having information that you can go online [and] look there, as well as advocating for professors to put chapters of books online on BlackBoard or Canvas versus having students buy the entire book. Smaller things like that, but we think that they will be very impactful in students’ everyday lives.
TV: Finally, if your ticket was a Winter Olympic sport, what would it be and why?
JS: I would say my interpretation would be figure skating because there is the co-ed figure skating partner thing. And I think we would have a nice Justin Bieber song— he’s one of our favorites— and we could really put some nice concrete and actual movements into life and really just make Georgetown proud on the ice.