The GUSA Senate deliberated recent on-campus crises, notably the norovirus outbreak, and discussed the GUSA restructuring project in their meeting on Sept. 26. The Senate also tabled a resolution demanding increased training for staff at Leo O’Donovan Dining Hall.
The meeting centered around restructuring plans for GUSA. Former Senator and former Vice Speaker Erique Perez (COL ’23) introduced the proposed Senate structure, stating that it would eliminate the senate and executive branches, and thereby, substantial bureaucratic roadblocks. GUSA responsibilities would instead be carried out by committees and chairs, who already shoulder a majority of the work under the current structure.
“We have no real power, other than to advocate,” Vice President Nicole Sanchez (SFS ’22) said. “I call us glorified lobbyists because all we can do is lobby for students.”
Sen. Bora Balcay (COL ’23) agreed with the importance of restructuring but stressed that current Senate participation in its planning has been extremely limited, with the executive branch and former Senate members having done the majority of the restructure drafting. “My experience on this committee has broadly been that the [current] Senate participation has not only not been seeked, but oftentimes unwelcome,” Balcay said. “I would also note that this is very important for all of GUSA going forward and should not be treated as a backdoor item.”
The restructuring, according to Perez, would not take place immediately. The committee plans to institute an interim Senate that would give freshmen much-needed administrative experience and a hand in shaping the transition. Passing the Senate restructuring referendum would first require a two-thirds majority of the Senate, including those voting in absentia, and an additional 25 percent voter turnout from the student body.
The Senate then discussed the proposed timeline for the fall elections, with Speaker Leo Rassieur (COL ’22) highlighting current Senators’ responsibility to reach out to potential candidates: “People who historically have not been represented in the Senate [should] have all the support and resources they need to successfully running their campaigns,” Rassieur said.
As of now, according to Perez, candidacy for GUSA positions should be declared by Oct. 23, with the next election set tentatively for Nov. 6. The Senate hopes to complete a draft of the new Senate referendum by early October.
Phoebe Chambers (COL ’25), acting as a proxy for Sen. Brett Guessford (COL ’23), questioned whether confusion would arise for freshmen having to vote for their senators while also voting to abolish the Senate. The Senate then discussed possible measures to explain the two separate issues on which students will vote, as well as how ranked choice voting functions.
Updates from Vice-Speaker Rowlie Flores (COL ’22) included pushing for more awareness to be raised over the Georgetown Scholars’ Program (GSP) Petition, which demands that Georgetown University reinstall the GSP offices in their previous location at Healy Hall.
Additionally, Flores stated that the Senate will delay its effort to acquire Metro passes for students due to the number of crises on campus, such as the immediate concern of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that has impacted over 130 students and faculty, discussed by Sanchez in her introduction. She also highlighted the incident in New South Hall where an adult man infiltrated a women’s bathroom, emphasized GUSA’s demands for the removal of the meal plan requirement, and talked about student unease over professors not wearing masks and lack of accommodations for students who request hybrid or virtual learning due to illness.
Senators Kathryn Yang (SFS ’23) and Senator-at-large Manahal Fazal (SFS ’24) introduced a resolution to demand food safety training for Leo’s dining workers, transparency from the administration in disclosing sanitary practices, and a revision of the meal plan requirements, which they argued contributed to the outbreak. “The administration forces students into an inflexible meal plan, so they have the responsibility to give us safe and secure food,” Yang said. “I would also like to emphasize how Leo’s is understaffed and their workers are overworked, and [many workers] are new hires who may not have been trained to deal with cross-contamination, deal with allergies.”
The Senate discussed the wording of the resolution, with Sen. Zev Burton (COL ’22) arguing that its writers—and the student body at large—know little about the source of the illness, and Sen. Camber Vincent (SFS ’24) noting the importance of phrasing that would not place blame on Leo’s staff. “[The outbreak] is a university issue and not a workers’ issue,” Vincent said.
Given the urgency of the proposal, the Senate voted unanimously to table the resolution for workshopping during the next Policy and Advocacy Committee meeting.
The Senate will hold its next meeting on Sunday, Oct. 3 in Healy 105.
Updated: Erique Perez (COL ’23) introdcued the restructuring, not Eric Lipka (COL ’23) as previously published.