GUSA Senate reconvenes with a new speaker, condemns university handling of financial aid 

February 7, 2021

The GUSA Senate reconvened for its first meeting during the spring semester with a new speaker. The Jan. 31 meeting focused on condemning the Capitol riots and university cuts to financial aid, culminating in two statements.

The first statement responds to the violent insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The statement calls for any student, administrator, faculty member, or employee found to have participated in the riot to be sanctioned if they violated university policies.

The statement also condemns former-President Donald Trump’s behavior and rhetoric in encouraging white supremacists and inciting the Jan. 6 attack. It asks the university to ban Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, and those who promote violence from coming to campus. The statement also called on the university to implement accountability criteria for members of the Trump administration seeking employment at Georgetown.

Citing political instability and threats of future attacks in D.C., the statement asks the university to provide support for students and workers living in and around campus in providing sufficient food and security. GUSA representatives will meet with the university administration this Friday, Feb. 5, to continue discussing the needs of university staff and students after the violence.

“Every time this occurs, Georgetown students living on campus, who are among the most marginalized of our community, must set their daily tasks aside and avoid going outside,” the statement reads, “The actions of these mobs regularly put community members’ lives at risk and should by no means be normalized or at all tolerated by University administrators.”

The second GUSA statement criticizes cuts made to student financial aid packages for the Spring 2021 semester, after a form surveying the student body showed a pattern of financial aid reductions and student dissatisfaction at the lack of transparency.

According to senators, Georgetown administration members explained in meetings that the refunds students received in the fall were for the entire year. Students, however, were not made aware that these refunds were for the whole school year and instead believed they would be given on a semesterly basis.

The statement calls for the administration to revisit financial aid policies and transparency. Senators had another meeting scheduled with administrators for Feb. 2, but Speaker Melanie Cruz-Morales (COL ’22) asked the Senate body to anticipate an ongoing effort with the administration over the next few months.

Last weekend’s meeting marked Melanie Cruz Morales’ first official meeting as speaker of the Senate. Cruz-Morales stepped into the role from her former position as vice speaker after Speaker Leo Teixeira (COL ’21) resigned on Jan. 7. Sen. Eric Perez (COL ‘23) was elected to fill the vice speaker position on Jan 10. The Senate will accept applications for the new vacancy in the class of 2023 over the next few weeks.

Cruz-Morales began the meeting with her vision for the spring semester. “We need to create a better space for all of us that will [allow us to] do the work that we came here to do,” she said. “I am going to be running things very differently. We need to become a community in order to come here to get things done.”

She also emphasized that the Senate needs to focus primarily on representing student interests.  “We are here to improve the experience of all Georgetown students. We are not here to advance our own personal agendas,” she said.

The body also approved a new constitution for the Student Advocacy Office (SAO), which is an office originally founded within GUSA. The recent restructuring of the SAO to include a leadership board created a need for a constitution, stipulating rules and procedures for the board to follow.

Senators also unanimously passed an act describing the Senate’s outreach offices and positions. Acknowledging the need for a GUSA social media presence and a structured outreach program in a virtual environment, the act details the responsibilities and positions of the Senate outreach and communications officers.

The next GUSA Senate meeting will be held Feb. 7 at 6 pm via Zoom.

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