New GUSA Senate Sworn in, Constitutional Case Brought on Issue of 272 Referendum

New GUSA Senate Sworn in, Constitutional Case Brought on Issue of 272 Referendum

By:
04/16/2019

The new GUSA Senate was sworn in at the last meeting of the previous Senate on April 14. Other business included the discussion of a Constitutional Council hearing regarding alleged violations of GUSA Bylaws in the 272 referendum vote, and the passage of a resolution supporting Aramark employees.

Eighteen senators were sworn in, six from each of the classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022. Those Senators include Juan Martinez (SFS ’20), Harrison Nugent (SFS ’20), Jessica Richards, (COL ’20), Matt Buckwald (COL ’20), Peter Lee Hamilton (COL ’20), and Miguel Zamudio (COL ’20) as the new senior class, Natalie Kim (SFS ’21), Samantha Moreland (COL ’21), Sam Dubke (SFS ’21), Mikail Husain (COL ’21), Joshua Marin-Mora (SFS ’21), and Leo Teixeira (COL ’21) as the new junior class, and Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22) , Zev Burton (SFS ’22), Layla Weiss (MSB ’22), Leo John Arnett (SFS ’22) , Olivia Kleier (SFS ’22) , and Julia Moreno (SFS ’22) as the new sophomore class.

The Senate election results were presented by the Election Commission with a full recommendation for certification, and unanimously certified by the previous Senate. According to the chair of the Election Commission Min Jih Doh (SFS ’19), the only major problem was the crash of the Hoyalink server shortly after voting opened, and while that may have delayed voting, it did not appear to impede it. The 57.9 percent turnout rate was much higher than last year’s turnout rate of 23 percent.

In addition to voting for their senators, the student body also voted on a referendum that would create a $27.20 fee each semester to be used to benefit descendants of the 272 slaves Georgetown sold in 1838. While the referendum passed with 66 percent of the vote, the results of that vote could not be verified due to a constitutional suit filed shortly before the Senate meeting.

According to a statement released by Rowan Saydlowski (COL’21) and Chris Castaldi-Moller (SFS’21), the filers of the suit, “The suit aims to overturn the results of the referendum on the basis of flawed, failed, and illegal execution of the student government’s laws.”

William Morris (COL ’19), Chief Justice of the Constitutional Council, presented the premise of the case to the Senate and outlined the next steps. Morris said the case was largely based on the referendum itself, and that the three parties charged with violations are the Chair of GUSA’s Ethics and Oversight Committee, Sen. Dylan Hughes (COL ’19), the Election Commission, and GUSA itself.

The statement released by Saydlowski and Castaldi-Moller outlines these charges.

First, they contend that Hughes, who was a co-sponsor on the bill that initiated the referendum, could not have overseen the election without a conflict of interest and ought to have recused themselves.

In an email to the Voice, Hughes said they did not campaign for the referendum, and co-sponsored it because they believed it was important the student body had a chance to vote on the issue. Hughes also said they alerted the Election Commission of any complaints made, as they were not the primary conductor of elections. “That the complaint spent so much time dedicated to me, especially when the complainants never sent me any correspondence about any of the issues they allege, is quite odd to me,” Hughes wrote. “Considering that and that GUSA has held numerous non-binding referendums in the past, and the Election Commission worked within its rights and capacities to administer this election, the standing and substance of the suit seems dubious at best to me.”

Second, they allege that the Election Commission acted improperly in a number of ways. The statement reads “The Election Commission illegally changed the voting threshold for success four days before the election, that they did not enforce sanctions for those on the pro-referendum side who violated election rules, that they failed to properly publicize the process for making complaints about election violations, and that they presented a voter guide that inaccurately and incompletely described the content of the referendum to voters.”

Third, they claim that referendums that do not amend GUSA’s Constitution are not legitimate because they are not outlined in the Bylaws. There have been multiple referendums in the past that were not amendment, such as the smoking ban in 2016.

Those charged will be given an opportunity to respond in a hearing at which all interested parties will be allowed to speak or submit briefs. The Council will then deliberate and release their decision.

Sen. Samantha Moreland (COL ’21) expressed frustration at the timing of the complaint. “This seems blatantly disrespectful, ” she said. “They did this tonight so we would not be able to vote on it.”

According to Morris, no complaint could have been made before voting took pace, because no action had actually been taken.

While the complaint suggests throwing out the results of the referendum entirely, Morris said that was not the only potential solution that the Council would consider if they decided action needed to be taken.

In other business, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution supporting Aramark employees in their contract negotiations, presented by Sen. Logan Arkema (COL ’20). The resolution asks Aramark to recognize its employees demands, and condemns their current treatment. It also urges all students to rally with Aramark employees on April 16.

There was no debate on the resolution.

The executive also presented a slate of nominees for confirmation. These included Billy Perimutter (COL ’21) as Athletics Policy chair, Daniel Mok (COL ‘20) as Arts Policy chair, Kenan Kitchen (MSB ’21) as Entrepreneurship Policy chair, Rowlie John Flores (COL ’22) as Sustainability Policy chair, Christine Sun (SFS ‘22) as Student Conduct Policy chair, Sophie Septoff (COL ’20) as Accessibility Policy chair, Uju Nwaigwe (COL ’20) as Racial and Cultural Inclusivity Policy chair, and Clay Volino (COL ’22) as Transportation Policy chair.

The new GUSA Senate will next meet April 28 for their first meeting.

About Author

Annemarie Cuccia

Annemarie Cuccia Annemarie Cuccia is a freshman in the SFS studying International Politics. Her life has been described as "resembling a bad sitcom."


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