Vote Cobb-Mehta for GUSA Executive

Published October 4, 2023

Photo supplied by the Cobb-Mehta campaign

Well folks, two things happen at this time every year: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” climbs the charts and, of course, GUSA Executive elections.

For seemingly the first time, we aren’t horribly disheartened by this slate of candidates. Notably, the six candidates in the race for president and vice-president are some of the most diverse in recent memory: all are BIPOC, four come from first-generation low-income (FGLI) backgrounds, and (perhaps more or less excitingly) three—one from each ticket—have prior experience in GUSA. There were some commonalities that were broached equally by all three tickets: for instance, all tickets told the Voice that they hoped to establish a permanent endowment for the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP), which serves FGLI students, since GSP is currently funded by donations. All tickets also talked about facilitating greater access to and higher quality mental health services through hiring more diverse and trauma-informed therapists and clinicians in Counseling and Psychiatry Services (CAPS).

The editorial board is relieved, if only lukewarmly, to find no egregiously problematic policy suggestions in the written platforms of the tickets. All candidates appear to have their hearts in the right place. But there still is one standout ticket. For their thoughtful platform and intentional outreach, the editorial board throws its vote behind Jaden Cobb (CAS ’25) and Sanaa Mehta (SFS ’25).

Saatvik Sunkavalli (SFS ’25) and Andrea Li (SFS ’26)

We were overall unimpressed with Sunkavalli-Li’s platform of “common-sense solutions and tangible impacts.” Many of their proposed initiatives, including redrawing campus maps to show accessible entrances and pathways and stocking up on menstrual products in bathrooms, are already being enacted by GUSA and other organizations like the Disability Cultural Initiative.

For all their emphasis on being realistic about what GUSA can achieve, we raised our eyebrows at some of their proposals, including their initiative to create access for Plan B on campus. Georgetown doesn’t provide contraceptives, much less Plan B, and that is in spite of the years of advocacy from H*yas for Choice to increase access to both contraceptives and Plan B. Some of their initiatives are also absurdly specific and were crowdsourced from outreach to just one organization, like finding alternatives for the vans owned by the Center for Social Justice to reduce the costs that organizations (in particular the Triathlon Club) have to spend on transportation.

Another reservation we harbored was their call to “overhaul the bias reporting system” without offering any next steps. While we agree that the bias reporting system has frequently failed to hold perpetrators of hate crimes accountable, it is still the only legal recourse for many marginalized students. Consequently, it would be irresponsible, if not dangerous, to get rid of the bias reporting system without drawing up clear alternatives.

We were also concerned by the scope of Sunkavalli-Li’s outreach. At the time of their interview, neither Sunkavalli nor Li had directly spoken to Hoyas Advocating for Slavery Accountability (HASA) nor any cultural organizations beyond the Korean Student Association. So far, they have only been endorsed by the Transfer Council. Admittedly, they have also been in touch with the Corp, Georgetown Program Board, and College Democrats. However, we believe that more effort should’ve been put in to incorporate the voices of marginalized communities—voices that could shape their platform on issues like racial justice. When asked about how they would promote GU 272+ advocacy, we liked Li’s idea that Georgetown should permanently institute a class on Georgetown’s history of enslavement, although we worry that her primary experience with GU 272+ advocacy was Professor Mark Giordano’s introductory Map of the Modern World. In a similarly limiting view, Sunkavalli said that their platform on GU 272+ advocacy had been informed largely by Cobb.

To be clear, there was much to be admired about the Sunkavalli-Li platform. For one, they were the only ticket to address recycling and waste programs at the GUSA town hall—something that the Renewable Energy and Environmental Network has worked on. We also appreciated Sunkavalli’s fierce down-to-earthness, and his overall awareness of what GUSA can and can’t do. Even when an issue was out of their depth, both Sunkavalli and Li expressed receptiveness to learning from and collaborating with students who were already doing the work.

While we acknowledge that piecemeal reforms that make concrete impacts on students’ day-to-day lived experiences are important, we couldn’t help but feel that Sunkavalli-Li fell short compared to other tickets in terms of the ambition of their policy suggestions as well as their outreach in addressing key issues facing marginalized communities like racial justice and workers’ rights. Ultimately, Sunkavalli and Li wouldn’t do a bad job, but this isn’t the bar we want to set.

Axel Abrica (CAS ’25) and Sebastian Cardena (CAS ’26)

In their campaign, Abrica and Cardena have described themselves as the “self-proclaimed people’s ticket.” Self-proclaimed is the operative word here. As of Oct. 4, the ticket has only been endorsed by two organizations: Students Advancing Food Equity and Bridge Housing Coalition. While these are both valuable groups advancing equity and justice in our community, we were concerned by the fact that other major progressive organizations, particularly those centered on racial equity and labor justice, hadn’t endorsed them—and that their outreach to these groups seemed limited. We were also troubled by the fact that Georgetown’s chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA) rescinded its endorsement of Abrica-Cardena. We were left wondering, what people do they really represent? Are “the people” in the room with us right now?

In the same vein, Abrica-Cardena’s commitments to advancing racial justice, particularly in regard to Black students, are ambiguous. The furthest their platform goes is calling on Georgetown to further publicize the actions that have already been adopted or are in the process of being adopted to support descendants of the GU 272+. There is no mention of the demands of Black student organizers and descendents—an omission that might leave student organizers like HASA without institutional support. Cardena claimed that they had reached out to two members of HASA for input on their platform; nevertheless, when the editorial board checked their claims with these two individuals, we found that one isn’t involved in HASA in any capacity while the other told the Voice that Abrica initially messaged them to have a conversation about GU 272+, but never followed through on having said conversation. This sets a worrying precedent of Abrica and Cardena exaggerating their contributions while tokenizing their peers.

Abrica and Cardena’s platform on workers’ rights was shockingly nonexistent, which was especially bewildering since the latter repeatedly cited their extensive involvement with the Coalition for Workers’ Rights—which, in a statement to the Voice, explicitly declined to endorse any of the tickets. While Cardena acknowledged (and the editorial board agreed) that GUSA’s role in contract negotiations for workers is limited, we believe the Executive can still mobilize alongside student organizers to amplify the demands of workers.

On a more positive note, there were a number of unique elements of their platform that stood out to us, most strikingly their idea for budget reform. In a process they called participatory budgeting, the duo proposed setting aside $4,000 of the $10,000 executive budget to an accessibility development fund for student accommodations every semester. Upon gauging student opinion at town halls and surveys, the remaining $6,000 would go towards two student-sourced projects, like reimbursing students affected by the recent flooding in Village C West. While the editorial board likes the idea of a participatory budget in theory, we question its impact, especially since $6,000 is a meager sum considering the scale of projects like restoring an entire building of dormitories or replacing dozens of possessions, which would undoubtedly require much more money. It would also act as a stopgap measure that would be unlikely to continue after their tenure, providing a short-lived relief to organizations that need long-term institutional support.

The editorial board commends Abrica and Cardena’s ideas to expand outreach to Title I schools and to collaborate with the Academic Councils to institute a class on Georgetown’s history of enslavement. Moreover, they are the singular ticket to demand that Georgetown formally recognize H*yas for Choice as an organization (although GUSA’s role in this is vague and it is unclear if H*yas for Choice would want this recognition in the first place since their autonomy is integral to their advocacy), as well as to recommend reforms to bystander intervention training. All that said, we are still troubled by their lack of support from key student organizers and progressive organizations, which, so far, doesn’t warrant them to call themselves the “people’s ticket.” Unfortunately, even campaigning and distributing snacks in an inflatable shark costume isn’t enough to convince us to get behind the Abrica-Cardena ticket.

Jaden Cobb and Sanaa Mehta

Of the three tickets, Cobb-Mehta has arguably the most comprehensive platform as well as the most meaningful outreach. Cobb and Mehta have some compelling goals that set them apart from the two other tickets. For one, they mentioned in their platform, at the GUSA town hall, and during their interview with the Voice that they hoped to push Georgetown to offer free tuition to students who come from families with a household income of less than the cost of tuition—$89,490 a year. Like Sunkavalli and Abrica, Cobb himself is also very much cognizant of the redundant bureaucracies within GUSA. If elected, he has not only stated that he would leverage his connections to open communication channels between students and the administration, he would also institute sweeping structural changes to streamline GUSA. Prominently, this would include reviving efforts by the Blass-Sanchez administration to restructure GUSA. Among other reforms, Cobb highlighted phasing out the Senate, allocating more face time between the administration and project heads instead of solely the Executive, and removing interviews as well as other barriers that may deter passionate students from participating in GUSA. We have time and time again called for structural reform for GUSA—and we think Cobb-Mehta could just make it happen, at least more so than the other tickets.

Cobb’s involvement in HASA and his success in organizing Georgetown’s first Slavery Remembrance Day last month is a reassuring sign for the editorial board. His history of organizing for racial justice, as well as his rapport with key members of the administration like Eleanor Daugherty and Rosemary Kilkenny, is a solid foundation for powerful collaborations in future. Their platform went into great detail about creating safe spaces for Black students, even incorporating specific demands from the Georgetown University Protects Racists movement. Among other organizations, the Cobb-Mehta ticket has been endorsed by HASA, Georgetown’s Chapter of the NAACP, Black Student Alliance, the Blaxa, South Asian Society, and Eritrean Ethiopian Student Association.

Mehta complements Cobb with unique advocacy of her own. As an international student herself, Mehta wants to partner with the Cawley Career Center to facilitate discussions and publicize resources on navigating financial aid and searching for post-graduation opportunities—the only candidate to speak to issues facing international students. Her ties with Campus Ministry in founding the Jain Student Association and role as Junior Coordinator of Rangila is likewise a testimony to her experience in mobilizing different factions of leadership and the student body.

The Cobb-Mehta ticket isn’t perfect. For one, they were bubbling with so many ideas; the editorial board was skeptical that they could accomplish everything in a single term. Regardless, as GUSA Executive, they have potential to inject some idealism and passion and bring fresh perspectives into a crumbling institution. There were also issues where they neglected to go into depth. Their platform on workers’ rights, for instance, didn’t address facilities workers at all, and only included a limited call to action for dining workers. We were also nervous about their response to supporting survivors in the Title IX process. Although Cobb started strong in his answer discussing the role of Black Survivior’s Coalition in reforming CAPS, in pivoting to menstrual equity and women’s sports, Cobb effectively deflected the question. However, none of the other tickets proved that they were better equipped in these aspects.

Closing Remarks

The editorial board realizes that we hold these tickets to incredibly high standards. Given similarities between some of their policy suggestions, it was inevitable that we had to scrutinize each ticket on certain issues. We value the efforts made by these students to take this responsibility of representing the student body in demanding a better Georgetown upon themselves. This year, all tickets demonstrated an understanding of a range of issues, albeit to varying degrees. And all things considered, all the tickets in this election cycle have been far more reasonable and sensible than some of the other tickets we have seen in the past few years.

Like many other students, we have long been disenchanted with GUSA. Nevertheless, the importance of the Executive cannot be overstated: until GUSA undergoes the reforms it badly needs, the Executive continues to be the primary bridge between students and an administration that can often be distant and detached. Upon careful deliberation, the editorial board believes that Cobb and Mehta are most qualified to be our next president and vice-president. Vote Cobb-Mehta.


Editor’s Note: Sebastian Cardena has attended meetings and contributed to reporting for the Voice.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Sunkavalli-Li ticket didn’t reach out to the Asian American Student Association regarding their campaign after leadership from the club reached out denying that any contact was made.

Editorial Board
The Editorial Board is the official opinion of the Georgetown Voice. Its current composition can be found on the masthead. The Board strives to publish critical analyses of events at both Georgetown and in the wider D.C. community. We welcome everyone from all backgrounds and experience levels to join us!

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