With elections for GUSA Executive coming up on Feb. 8, the Voice invited all of the candidates to our office to talk about why they are running, what issues are most important to them, and to have a seat in our green chair for a picture. This is our conversation with Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Aleida Olvera (COL ’20). This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
The Voice: Do you guys want to start out by introducing yourselves, saying a little bit about you?
NF: Salutations! My name is Norman Francis Jr. I am a junior in the College double majoring in Government and African-American Studies, and I’m from Roswell, Georgia.
AO: And I’m Aleida Olvera. I’m also a junior in the College studying Computer Science and Statistics.
The Voice: Why are you running?
AO: So kind of the main reason I’m running is because Norman kind of brought this on me, and I didn’t even consider this to be some sort of option in my foreseeable future. I always saw student government as something that, like, “oh that’s cool for people that like government affairs and stuff like that,” and I would be like oh, yeah, if I were to be interested in that, I know I’d be running for it. But because I’m really invested in technology and advocacy that involves technology, I never really considered doing anything like this until Norman just approached me one night and was like hey I think we could do this. And even then I was like no, no, no, like I don’t think so. So yeah, I mean Norman just kind of told me we should do this because we are a voice that people need to hear.
NF: When I first got to Georgetown, I thought the presidency was pretty cool. I thought hey, I want to run, because it seems like they can be well-connected. They can sort of help out the student body in different ways. Did I know all the ways? Not really. But it just seemed like that was the move. And then as I got older I started meeting different presidents or vice presidents who started telling me more about the job like Kamar and Kenna, and they’re saying, yo, it’s a 30-hour work week. You don’t get paid, it kinda sucks a little bit, and there’s a lot of stress and duress. But other than that, they also showed me that this is one of the ways where you can actually help people. This is one of the ways where you can use any of the connections you made to the student body and try to raise up different advocacy groups, raise up different people into spaces where they normally couldn’t have, and actually make some sense of tangible change, or at least get progress moving a little bit forward.
The Voice: So going off of that, what specifically do you think your role as the executive is? Any ideas, plans, relationship to campus?
AO: We have four key points, as many people have heard. So we have T.R.A.P., which is basically encompassing everything that we want to do. All our different policies and our stances on different issues kind of scaffold from there. But they all revolve around these four themes which is Transparency, Reform, Accessibility, and Progress. And we’re hoping that through our different identities and how we have gone through Georgetown and our experiences that we touch on these underserved communities and use these four themes throughout our campaign and throughout our executive session.
One of the biggest things that I am extremely excited to be spearheading is accessibility. And accessibility in three different forms, which is economic, academic, and as well as physical. And coming from a low-income, first-generation household, I don’t have anybody to turn to, not even people in my extended family to turn to because nobody went to college. And so I stumbled across the Georgetown website about auditing and pass/fail courses and withdrawal deadlines and what counts as a failing grade at Georgetown. And I was like, I’m a junior and I’m just finding out this information, and everyone else whose parents who have gone to college or who have family members that they can turn to know about these resources because they’ve been through the process, but I didn’t know about these until now. So one of the big things that I want to push for, especially here during my executive session is making that readily available to students, whether that be a pamphlet that we’re pushing to the Dean’s office to just have at their front desk because why hasn’t anybody thought of doing that?
NF: Transparency and progress are really close to me, and they also kind of intersect and overlap a good deal. I don’t want to lie to the student body. I don’t want to give them and make up promises that I know I can’t keep. That’s why having very attainable goals is very important to us. So that’s why a big part of what we want to do is try to reach out to a lot of different advocacy groups so that they can definitely be in the room and be able to talk when we just don’t know the answer. And progress is also a big part because a lot of work done at Georgetown, sometimes you might get all the way up to the administrator, and they might give you one answer, they might give you another, or they might just wait until you graduate. We’re still very early on in our campaign unfortunately, but we’re still actively working to reach out to different people in order to come to a better understanding and to be able to solidify our policy quite a bit more.
AO: So, while unfortunately we don’t have experience, fortunately for us, because we don’t have experience, we are going to be held accountable by people that do have that experience. So we’re actively looking for people that are extremely passionate about different subjects that we want to strive to be able to fully engage in and encompass during our time as executives in GUSA. So because, yes, we admit, we’re ignorant on these things because we haven’t been a part of GUSA in any way, we’ve just been living out in the student body, but I think this gives us a valuable position because we are forced to hold ourselves accountable to people that do know what’s going on.
The Voice: If you could say like one or two top priorities, I know that you have T.R.A.P. as an umbrella term, but, top two priorities?
AO: I would say for sure for me is making sure that accessibility—economically, academically, and physically—is going to be pushed for during my tenure. That is my favorite thing because I have personally seen the university work against some of my close friends, and it breaks my heart because they’re people just like me, and I’m like, that could have easily been me. So for sure my key thing is just to improve accessibility to resources that improve people’s academic success, physically we—the bricks, Red Square. We have people that just take bricks because of course it’s a tradition but also people that are in motorized chairs should not be dealing with people who just take bricks and make it difficult for them to go through. I am really passionate about making sure that I touch on especially anything that has to do with accessibility because I want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed here.
NF: One thing that I believe that is important that should be focused on is basically highlighting a lot of underserved communities. I understand that a lot of work has been done and a lot of pushback has been done to sort of highlight how the university has been really behind when it comes to Title IX and having a coordinator and director and also the fact that the Women’s Center still does not have a head for a couple months now. And the fact that, it seems like a lot of organizations, especially those dedicated to women and gender and sexuality resources and other organizations of those types tend to be underserved, especially when it comes to staffing or resources. And I believe a lot of that should be highlighted and basically pressure should be continually pushed on. It almost seems as if they’re purposefully focusing on certain communities, especially marginalized communities, to sort of not exactly put all the resources there where they should be. I don’t want to try to say that we’re gonna be able to get a Title IX Director because all I can do is really push for it, and work with the administrators, and try to get them to actually hire somebody.
The Voice: How will you improve the student experience at Georgetown?
NM: Some folks really don’t trust student government. Especially this new wave of freshmen where the first president that they knew was outed in a hot second. What was it? Maybe one of the first few weeks of schools. So basically the GUSA executive positions don’t exactly have the best light right now—they’re not shown in the best light. And I believe that by basically doing our job, which entitles working with the students and not only being a student but also representing them and what they need and what they want.
AO: Just one thing I want to mention. It’s really inspiring just seeing Kenna’s advocacy for mental health. I was recently looking into everything that she did and just the fact that the off-campus therapy stipend exists, that’s something that’s like, wow, this person worked really hard for—I don’t know, she’s also a junior so like three years probably—a lot of time has been invested in that, and we realize we only have one year but we’re hoping that we can, with P for progress, we’re hoping that we get those people that are extremely passionate about these certain subsections that maybe we’re ignorant over and they can be basically doing what we are doing but in that specific like policy.
The Voice: What can we do to prevent campus sexual assault?
AO: I think it’s great that we’ve implemented these mandatory trainings for these freshmen. I know a lot of people probably don’t take them seriously because I mean they are like I believe seven hours long, I think that’s how long they are. I know it’s longer than three hours, it’s longer than our bystander training that we have to do for clubs. I think that’s great that we’re putting some sort of effort into that, but I think it’s also important that we as a university are constantly reminding students about that so it’s not just a once in four years thing. But maybe we should do like the same thing that we do, so just an idea, I mean we haven’t really fleshed out anything, but an idea is just like every year, just a reminder like hey, here’s this video training. Remember this workshop you took freshman year, here’s a quiz. It’s something that has to be reminded over and over and over again. You need to be held accountable.
The Voice: So I was looking on your site and I saw that you mentioned training for people who are entering GUSA, so would you expand on that?
AO: So specific training, so we, to be completely frank with you, we came up with this at like 2 in the morning in Lau the day before—
NF: This was a bit of a haze.
AO: —we were going to announce that we were running and we just wanted to be ready for it at midnight. So specifically we wanted to ensure that people who are going into these important roles in GUSA have the proper mentorship during their time that they’re transitioning. And I know that there is kind of a transition period—we’re not completely aware of what entails of that. We’re currently in the process of meeting with current VPs, president, anybody who’s involved in GUSA, but specifically we want to ensure that there’s some sort of documentation from previous years that’s like hey this has worked, this hasn’t worked, and maybe you should try these perspectives when speaking to this specific administration.
NF: Basically, unfortunately, like she said, we are actively scheduling meetings actually to—we’ve been doing that for a good chunk of today when we weren’t in interviews—in order to make sure that we have people that are more familiar with the policy—we’ve had several GUSA senators that have—well, we’ve reached out to, and several have contacted us, to tear apart our policy.
The Voice: So what I read on your website was that you were proposing sexual assault prevention training for people entering GUSA.
AO: So specifically, we want to ensure that we’re developing relationships with important organizations that speak on these topics. I’m not sure what kind of relationship GUSA has with SAPE or STAIV, but we want to make sure that we’re that executive session, like team, that actually creates and reforms that sort of aspect about GUSA because that is literally what people are thinking about when they’re voting, they’re like is this going to happen again? Is this going to be a scandal again? So we’re hoping that we, during our time there, we develop relationships with SAPE and STAIV and have a long-lasting relationship with them so that way the next GUSA executives are held accountable. Specifically because we’re in such a position, we should be scrutinized to the max, so we’re more than ready to ensure that hopefully in the future we develop these workshops in conjunction with these organizations that do know more than we do because, of course, we are ignorant over these issues.
The Voice: So what do you foresee being your biggest challenge if you’re elected?
NF: The biggest challenge is… well, there are gonna be a lot of challenges. It’s sort of hard to pinpoint the biggest one. I could see a few challenges that could be put up, but to be honest, I think a lot of it can work because we could say that we’re gonna be able to find a lot of—there are a lot of good people out there that have reached out to us and that we’re reaching out to so that we can find leaders or experts or activists in each field to join our team so that we can finally have the right policy, the concrete policies that are gonna be good for us.
AO: I think the biggest challenge will definitely be creating our team and making sure we’re picking the right team. We want to make sure that we are picking people in the future because I mean the backbone of us is our policy chairs. And we want to make sure that each policy chair is actually passionate about the specific thing that they’re going to be working on. We don’t want to necessarily pick someone just because we need to fill it, we need to find someone, we want to make sure that we’re going through the process and thinking, specifically, is this person able to see out our vision, is this person going to be—going to have the same passion that we have for these specific topics, is this person going to educate us the way that we need to be educated on these specific policies? Hopefully we’ll find people that are more than willing to continue seeing that what we put forth in the coming years, and they will find people for that year, that following year and it just continues.
The Voice: How do you plan to work with the GUSA Senate effectively?
NF: So does that include the cabinet as well?
AO: I think our cabinet is—
NF: Like all of our policy chairs?
AO: So our cabinet I think is—so once again, we’re also learning as we’re going through this. I believe our cabinet is people that we pick and that they apply specifically for different policies. The Senate is actually picked through the student body. So I mean if the students selected those individuals, then they must—we have to trust that they believe in them to advocate for their specific regions slash that specific issue or that specific like chair that they’re going to be a part of, whatever their title may be. We are students first, so we’re just gonna be trusting of the students that they select people that are going to be fit for those roles, and I don’t anticipate us having too much trouble, but if we do well then we’ll, when we get to that time, we’ll see what our plan of action is.
AO: We want to work with them, not against them. So even if maybe we don’t agree with them, we do have to see out their vision, so we’ll get to it when the time comes. We’ll see who wants to be—who will be in the Senate with us.
The Voice: How does your past experience prepare you for this position, GUSA or otherwise?
NF: So as I was trying to say earlier, when I got to Georgetown, I was very indecisive. I tried to basically try almost anything and everything I could find. So I joined a lot of clubs, and I sort of stuck with them, and I developed more into them, and I got a lot of board positions or senior positions or whatnot within a lot of those organizations. So because of that—I’m currently on the board of I believe four clubs, and some of them are kind of big, like the Black Student Alliance, and I guess Mosaic, the multi-racial multi-ethnic organization. Some of them are smaller I guess, like the juggling club, which is—it still has all of its duties and responsibilities, mind you. And also, actually radio is also a pretty large club, now that I think about it.
AO: Oh, I’m in radio too.
NF: Yes, I’m the programming director for radio. Wwhat’s helped with taking up more and more responsibility over the years and still being involved in a lot of other clubs, besides the ones I have board positions in like Blue and Gray tour guide society, the boxing team, anime club and whatnot, is that it’s definitely helped with my time management. So I’ve been able to take on all this extra work as well as schoolwork and as well as having a job and whatnot and I’m still able to make it work. I believe that has left me pretty well-connected and I think that would help me a lot in the GUSA presidency. So even if I am not familiar with an issue, I know somebody that knows an issue, or I know somebody who knows somebody that knows that issue well.
AO: Kind of going off that, I don’t know everyone like Norman does, but because I’m working together with Norman, I’m pretty confident that we’ll be able to use our network to bring about an awesome executive session this coming year. I’m co-director of Hoya Hacks, which is a weekend-long hackathon that brings over like 250 to 300 students from across the country to come and solve problems using technology for an entire weekend. This summer I was working at this New York startup, and I saw an issue that nobody had found a solution for. So different companies have employee resource groups, and the specific company that I was at didn’t have an employee resource group for people of color. And so me being one of the four, sorry one of the six interns that were there that summer, I decided to take that step and create that employee resource group. So a lot of people don’t really realize that I kind of spearhead things like this because it’s not really done on campus. I am an advocate for women in technology, and I teach students in the DMV area that identify as English as a second language to code, and those are just things that I do off campus that people don’t really know about. Like I participate in panels at George Mason, like CHCI which is the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and I speak about technology in education.
The Voice: In terms of student club funding, how do you think the process should go? Do you think the current process is fine as is, or do you see anything that could be reformed?
NF: There are definitely flaws in the system. I don’t know all of the flaws and how to fix them. I just know that clubs and organizations that do have a much bigger purpose and serve very very big needs on campus don’t get as much funding as they deserve or as they should be getting, but other clubs just because, I mean, I’m not gonna lie, other clubs know how to work the system and are able to milk the system for as much as they want.
AO: Once again, it’s an issue of inaccessibility. Once again, there are people that have been through it for so long that they know people and like what if you’re a new club that wants to begin the process and you don’t know anything, you have to go find it out yourself instead of being handed a resource like hey, here you go, read up on it and you should be ready to go so.
NF: Well, just becoming a club is a long process all in itself. I’ve definitely seen that happen. I’ve seen people struggle with that process even when their club is deserving, or I believe is deserving for all intents and purposes. And sometimes, just with the current rules and state, it’s hard for them to get more funding or its hard to get the funding that they really need when they don’t know how to game the system.
The Voice: Last question, if your ticket were a freshman dorm, which would you be?
[After much deliberation]
AO: We would be Darnall. I don’t know why it took so long to say that, but we both knew it would be Darnall.
NF: I want to fight it a little bit because I mean you know Chocolate Rain and Vanilla Thunder, how yearly somebody shits and takes a piss in one—in both of the elevators!— And how people catch rats and keep them as pets until they die, and how the infrastructure is falling apart
AO: And it hasn’t been renovated in so long—
NF: —since the 80s or the 70s, one of the two, and how there’s kind of asbestos there, and a little black mold, and I’ve been seeing on some of the stories where the floor floods from the bathrooms—
AO: My floor flooded, and I got $50 in exchange for all the shoes that were ruined. I’m sad.
NF: But just the way—it sucks, just like potentially running for GUSA and being a GUSA executive, you love it because it is for the people, you know—
NF: —just because the conditions are horrible, you band together, stronger than ever. Bathrooms are open! The common rooms are open! Food is collectively shared! Of the people, by the people. For us, by us. Fubu.
AO: Fubu, I forgot about that.
NF: New South’s for frat bros.
AO: And I don’t think we would ever get into a frat party, so…
NF: I could get into a frat party.
NF: If I wanted to.