The GUSA Senate elected new leadership and swore in 21 new senators for the 2020-2021 academic year at its Sept. 27 meeting.
GUSA Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ’21) oversaw the election of Sens. Leo Teixeira (COL ’21) and Melanie Cruz-Morales (COL ’22) as speaker and vice-speaker, respectively. Teixeira and Cruz-Morales both ran unopposed. While Teixeira has been in the Senate for a year, Cruz-Morales noted that as a new senator and a woman of color with a background in advocacy and activism, she could provide a perspective that the Senate is “in dire need of.”
The Senate also elected new chairs to its three committees: Policy and Advocacy, Finance and Appropriation (FinApp), and Ethics and Oversight.
Sen. Leo Rassieur (COL ’23) was re-elected as chair to the Policy and Advocacy Committee (PAC) after serving in the position this summer. He ran unopposed. Sen. Makayla Jeffries (COL ’23), a newly elected senator, was elected as vice-chair of the committee, beating Sen. Rowlie Flores (COL ’22). PAC is the largest committee in the Senate.
Sen. Winston Ardoin (SFS ’21) ran unopposed for FinApp chair. Sen. Bella Fassett (SFS ’24), another new senator, beat Sens. Lara Sophia Santana (SFS ’24) and Olivia Kleier (COL ’22) for the position of FinApp vice-chair.
For the Ethics and Oversight Committee, Sen. Nicole Sanchez (SFS ’22) was elected as chair, running unopposed. Sen. Jordan Brown (SFS ’22) beat Sen. Dominic Gordon (SFS ’24) for vice-chair of the committee.
The 21 new senators sworn in included Adora Adeyemi (MSB ’24), Fassett, Camber Vincent (SFS ’24), Deborah Wey (SFS ’24), Gordon, Santana, and Nirvana Khan (SFS ’24), representing the first years. Anndy Serrano (COL ’23), Erique Perez (COL ’23), Kariel Bennett (COL ’23), Jeffries, and Katie Wang (SFS ’23) were sworn in to represent the current sophomore class and Brown and Cruz-Morales were sworn in to represent the juniors. Ivan Jimenez (COL ’21) and Natalie Rodriguez La Fleur (COL ’21) were sworn in for the seniors, and lastly, David Park (MSB ’23), William Leonard (COL ’23), Sanchez, and Yaritza Aguilar (COL ’22), representing the student body at large.
The Senate also revised this year’s procedural rules, making minor adjustments to procedures such as voting thresholds and the introduction of friendly amendments directly to legislative sponsors, which will allow the Senate to avoid time spent debating grammatical errors at future meetings.
Additionally, Rassieur promoted the GUSA Gender Equity Team’s survey regarding Georgetown STI testing. Rassieur encouraged fellow senators to fill out the survey, which advocates increasing students’ access to free, comprehensive STI testing.
The meeting concluded with a statement by former Sen. Daniella Sanchez (COL ‘22), the speaker during this summer’s session of the Senate, about why she chose not to run for speaker for the coming term.
Sanchez explained that the pressure she felt as speaker as a woman of color was detrimental to her well-being. “No one cared what happened to me,” she said. “Women of color are held to a higher standard. We are treated so harshly by society that people think we have thicker skin, more endurance, greater strength.”
Sanchez’s comments follow a series of critiques of the GUSA Senate raised by students in a class group chat as four former senators dropped out of the reelection race. Students criticized GUSA for failing to represent marginalized students, with former senator Zahra Wakilzada (SFS ’23) citing hostility faced by women of color within the Senate.
“In reality, I’m just learning and growing right beside all of you. Just because I am a woman of color, just because I was speaker, did not mean that I knew everything,” Sanchez added. “I was thrown into speakership amidst the uncertainty when the pandemic hit and I didn’t get the chance to take on the speakership from a fresh start.”
Sanchez has since resigned from the Senate, a decision she announced on Sept. 28, citing further concerns regarding her overall health in the Senate environment.
The next GUSA Senate meeting will be held on Oct. 3 via Zoom, with the timing announced in coming days.