GUSA fails to pass restructure referendum due to low voter turnout

November 7, 2021

Illustration by Deborah Han

A referendum to restructure GUSA failed to pass due to low voter turnout, according to election results released by the GUSA Election Commission near 1 a.m. on Nov. 7. The student body also elected seven new senators to represent the class of 2025 and filled four at-large seats.

This year’s elections saw an overall turnout rate of 20.11 percent of the undergraduate student body with 1,431 votes cast. According to GUSA bylaws, referendums require 25 percent of the student body to vote affirmative in order to pass. (Ultram) Although 72.12 percent of votes were cast in favor of the referendum, voter turnout was almost five percent short of the threshold of student votes required. 

The referendum vote comes after nearly a year of discussions on restructuring and abolishing GUSA, a key platform of the Blass-Sanchez ticket in February of this year. The referendum would have replaced the Senate and Executive branches of GUSA with an Assembly driven by policy committees rather than the legislative process it currently uses, which some view as ineffective

The at-large senators, who ran unopposed, include Manahal Fazal (SFS ’24), Johnny Sussek (COL ’24), Alyssa Hirai (SFS ’24), and Spencer Woodall (SFS ’24). Fazal, who was previously an at-large senator and FinApp liaison, was seeking reelection.

The seven first-year senators joining the Senate include Chijioke Achebe (SFS ’25), Bayla Huff (COL ’25), Joshua Bernard-Pearl (SFS’25), Sanji Ranganathan (SFS ’25), Alicia Gopal (COL’25), John DiPierri (SFS ’25), and Phoebe Chambers (COL ’25). Twenty-one first years campaigned on a variety of platforms including on-campus sustainability, student health and safety, and financial aid, but only seven will represent the class of 2025 in the GUSA Senate.

Fall elections are usually for incoming first-year representatives, elected by the first year class, and at-large seats, voted on by sophomores, juniors, and seniors. As it stands, Executive elections will proceed in the spring of 2022 unless a renewed restructure referendum is passed. 

GUSA representatives have been encouraging votes for the referendum on social media, arguing the restructuring is essential to GUSA’s effectiveness, reducing redundancies within different roles, and improving the representation of student voices. Despite hosting a town hall on Thursday, student turnout was insufficient to pass the referendum.

The new senators will be sworn in at the next Senate meeting.

This article has been updated to reflect a GUSA bylaw   

Nora Scully
Nora is the fall 2023 editor-in-chief. She enjoys cats and dogs of all types and has been working on approaching D.C. dog owners to ask to pet their dog(s).

Franzi Wild
Franzi Wild is a sophomore in the SFS and the features editor. She’s a huge fan of egg salad, backpacking, the noun/verb/adjective "slay," and wreaking havoc on institutions.

Sarah Watson
Sarah is the former Spring 2022 Editor-in-Chief and a senior in the SFS studying Regional and Comparative Studies. She is a national park enthusiast and really just wants to talk about mountains.

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