GUSA Senate creates student referendum to restructure GUSA

October 19, 2021

The GUSA Senate passed an act to approve a referendum on the restructuring of GUSA at their meeting on Oct. 17. The student body will vote on a constitutional amendment that changes GUSA’s structure during the student elections on Nov. 6.

The proposal changes GUSA by abolishing the Senate and the Executive and replacing them with an assembly; expanding the role of policy teams; and adding a separate administrative committee. The Senate hopes these changes will allow GUSA to better serve Georgetown students. 

Restructuring has been a frequent topic of discussion over the past year, and this week’s meeting is a step toward a conclusion. The act was proposed by vice president Nicole Sanchez (SFS’ 22) and Dakyung Ham (COL’22) and introduced by Sens. Bora Balçay (SFS ’23) and Dominic Gordon (SFS ’24).

The new structure will eliminate the Senate and Executive and instead establish an assembly whose members will comprise a select list of policy committees. Assembly members will be elected by students along with the secretary, who will preside over the assembly. 

Senators and members of the public present at the meeting raised some concerns over the proposal, including the tight timeline to publicize the proposed changes before students have to vote, the lack of freshmen input, and the elimination of leadership positions. 

“I don’t think that we have time to do this plan justice by putting it in front of the student body as a referendum,” Sen. Olivia Kleier (SFS ‘22) said. “If we as a body don’t understand this proposal well enough, then I’m not sure that we will do a good job publicizing it in three weeks to the whole student body. ”

Sanchez responded by arguing that there is already a fully drafted plan to educate the student body on these changes, including the use of social media graphics and a town hall for students to share questions and thoughts on the referendum.

Some senators raised the concern that, since GUSA is currently operating as a transition body without elected freshman representatives, freshman senators are not included in the approval of the referendum. 

In response, senators in support of voting on the referendum now argued that waiting until spring to approve it, by which point the freshman representatives would have been elected, would only delay the restructuring process. They said the process has been comprehensive and cognizant of the need to consult all classes, including the freshmen. 

“All stakeholders have been consulted in this process, this is not something being imposed on the freshmen,” Balçay said. “They will get a final vote on what happens.” 

There was also concern over how the legislation was introduced as the Senate had to break parliamentary procedure for the act to be read and voted on. Normally, legislation must be approved by the Ways and Means Committee, but this bill was sent directly to the full Senate for debate.

“It is ironic that the bylaws have to be broken to do this. There is no check on the majority if they want to break the rules,” said Sen. Fabian Sojos (COL’ 25). “No one actually enforces the bylaws because people just follow the majority. This is being done to fulfill an agenda.”

Senators responded by arguing that parliamentary procedure is often broken and that such procedures prevent work from being done–something restructuring is intended to solve. 

After much debate, the act passed with 14 votes in favor and three votes opposed – exactly the two-thirds majority required to pass an act of referendum. 

Additionally, the Senate unanimously approved legislation to amend Senate campaigning rules regarding COVID-19 that was introduced by Sens. Gordon and Sam Li (SFS’24). This legislation will restore in-person campaigning, given that the university has returned to an in-person setting. 

The next GUSA meeting will be held Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. EST. 

Franziska Wild
Franzi Wild is a junior in the SFS and the news executive editor. She likes the natural world, Arabic verb forms, and kindness. She dislikes institutions and administrations.

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