GUSA Senate passes resolutions addressing university COVID-19 response

May 27, 2020

The GUSA Senate passed three pieces of legislation, two of which addressed Georgetown’s response to COVID-19, at their meeting on May 24. 

The first piece of legislation was a resolution introduced by Sen. Julio Salmeron-Perla (SFS ’22) proposing the Senate sign the international students’ petition demanding Georgetown’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic account for their unique circumstances. 

The petition asserts some of Georgetown’s COVID-19 policies have not accounted for the needs of international students, pointing out the system of online classes is inaccessible to many international students because of large time zone differences. Instead, the students argue, the university should adopt a system that allows students to choose asynchronous learning options and holds professors accountable for ensuring that all forms of instruction are of equal educational value. The petition also calls on the university to address other challenges that international students face, such as travel, immigration, and financial difficulties.

Sen. Sofia Negrete-Retamales (COL ’23) urged fellow senators to sign the resolution to show GUSA’s support for the difficulties international students have faced during the pandemic. “Adapting to a whole new environment that one is not used to in the midst of college is really difficult,” she said. 

“It’s something that I don’t see as being considered in the spring semester plans that the University implemented, so I think it’s really essential for us to pass this bill just to show support and understanding of the differences between the international community and the domestic community.”

The resolution passed non-unanimously by a voice vote.

A second piece of legislation supported the open letter written by the Class of 2024 and addressed to President DeGioia regarding the University’s response to COVID-19. The resolution was introduced by Sens. Rowlie Flores (SFS ’22) and Shirley Tang (COL ’22).

The letter requests that if the University cannot reopen in the fall semester, Georgetown should provide students with the option to take a gap year; postpone the start of the fall semester; offer on-campus housing for low-income students, first-generation students, and other students with precarious housing situations; and continue to pay all faculty and staff.

In addition to the open letter’s provisions, the GUSA resolution demands representation for the Class of 2024 in administrative decisions, the implementation of a pass/fail grading policy with an extended deadline for the fall semester, an expansion of class sizes and sections for core classes, and free online provision of textbooks and other required reading material.

The resolution passed the Senate unanimously.

Speaker Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22) also introduced a bill to amend the GUSA bylaws to require the 15th Senate to recertify all amendments to the bylaws made over the summer by the 14th Senate, the current Senate body. 

Typically, Senate terms run from the beginning to the end of the school year, and during the summer the Senate works as a transition body with reduced power. Since freshmen and at-large senators are elected in the fall while other senators are elected in the spring, the transition Senate is not a full body. This year, elections for the next Senate could not be held due to the COVID-19 crisis, so the current Senate is a mix of elected senators and appointees who filled vacancies. The amendment will give newly elected freshmen and at-large senators the ability to review changes to the bylaws made by other senators over the summer.

“It is somewhat of an emergency,” Sen. Zach Volpe (SFS ’23) stated. “Because we only have Senate meetings every other week, to make sure that all bylaw amendments proposed over the summer are recertified, this does need to be passed at this meeting.”

The bill passed with 16 votes in favor, one vote in opposition, and two abstentions.

In addition, the Senate confirmed Stephanie Glascock (COL ’23) as the Senate’s Executive Officer. The Executive Officer is responsible for ensuring public access to meeting minutes, bills, resolutions, and the Senate roster.

The Senate confirmed nine executive positions:

  • Nathan Barber (COL ’23) as a member of the Election Commission
  • Kengo Numoto (SFS ’21) as deputy treasurer
  • Henry Westerman (SFS ’21) as historian
  • Nile Blass (COL ’22) and Crystal Sung (SFS ’23) as members of the Provost Student Advisory Committee
  • Patrick Walsh (SFS ’21) as a member of the Student Health Advisory Board 
  • Rohan Sindhwani (MSB ’22) as a student representative for the Committee on Investment & Social Responsibility
  • Anna Gorman (SFS ’22) as a member of the Safety & Student Life Working Group
  • Ben Gaver (COL ’22) as a member of the Environment & Landlord Initiative

The Senate confirmed nine policy chair positions to lead policy teams in the GUSA executive:

  • Crystal Sung (SFS ’23) as Racial & Cultural Inclusivity Chair
  • Caelin Ivanov (COL ’22) as Athletics Chair
  • Neelesh Manandhar (COL ’21) as Unrecognized Groups Chair
  • Brent Smith (COL ’23) as Arts Chair
  • Grant Burroughs (SFS ’22) as Military & Veterans Affairs Chair
  • Alisa Colon (COL ’23) as Residential Living Chair
  • Clay Volino (SFS ’22) as Transportation Chair
  • Macky Grimm (COL ’21) as LGBTQ+ Advocacy Chair
  • Jane Cai (COL ’23) Socioeconomic Advocacy Chair

The next Senate meeting will be held on June 7 at 5 p.m. EST over Zoom.

Ethan Greer
Ethan is an assistant news editor for the Voice and a sophomore in the College. In his free time he enjoys eating copious amounts of Chipotle.

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