Three weeks ago, I received an email that would change the course of my semester. Initially, I was puzzled; I had not filled out any applications for the Georgetown University Student Association or had any previous involvement with the group. During the first few weeks of New Student Orientation I had written it off as too difficult to join. The senate elections of the fall had barely crossed my radar — I was too preoccupied with learning names, navigating classes and memorizing acronyms to give the elections much thought. I did not read GUSA emails or attend town halls. Nevertheless, I responded to the email asking me to volunteer for the Khan and Fisk campaign with the mentality of “Why not?” Despite my lack of experience, that email response launched me into the campaign world.
As I learn more about the campaign process, its scope and intensity continue to shock me. Campaign season involves everything needed for a good election, from knocking on doors and putting up flyers to hosting rallies and bearing scandals. The people running these campaigns are intense, but rightfully so. We, as Georgetown students, truly demand the most from our candidates, whether they are students or sandwiches. We expect our GUSA executives to get things done, and the executive team does in fact occupy a unique position of power in relation to the administration. As one of my close friends puts it, who else but a GUSA member could get a meeting with President DeGioia if he needed one? This leads to an incredible amount of work on behalf of the candidates—whether it be in this year or years past — to diagnose and prescribe solutions for areas of weakness on campus. The staffers — even low level ones like me — have the opportunity to play a role in this process as we all work together and sacrifice time to think about and solve problems. Involvement in a campaign is an active way to take a stance on issues at our school, and I certainly have felt more connected to the Georgetown community over these past few weeks through my policy and volunteer work for the campaign than I felt during the entirety of first semester.
To say that Georgetown students relish campus involvement is an understatement. We love serving ourselves and others, whether by running our own businesses, providing those in need with access to food or volunteering and working to represent Georgetown in the D.C. community. I have listened to my peers and friends criticize GUSA for having no real power or influence and attack the candidates for making empty promises. People are convinced of the futility of GUSA and the selfishness of those running. If you had asked me three weeks ago how I felt about these opinions, I might have agreed with them. I did not always like the idea of student government. For years I have watched my friends gun for the presidential title to fuel their egos and build resumes only to sit aside and accomplish nothing once elected. After all, there is no greater ego-boost than winning a popular vote. Yet, working this campaign is different. I am, in the grand scheme of things, quite unimportant.
I have been shocked by the true dedication and selflessness that I have witnessed during these past few weeks. Although I play such a small role in the larger organization, working a campaign has sparked my interest in GUSA and making Georgetown great again, as so many have called for. Yes, the faces of the campaign are important, but behind every high-profile candidate is a team of students whose names you do not know, who put hours of work into improving this campus. Likewise, the candidates put themselves through the grueling campaign process and subject themselves to the criticism of the community. So why do we attack these people for attempting to get some experience with policy and government? I am not suggesting that GUSA or its representatives are perfect, and we certainly must continue to advocate for increased representation of the true student body in its ranks. We must continue to throw questions at candidates that keep them in check. But ultimately, we as students need to change our perspective on GUSA. Instead of seeing it as a group intent on furthering their own agenda, why not recognize its members’ sincere desire to help our school and create positive change?
Working a campaign as a lowly general staffer has humbled me and thus shown me not only the value of GUSA as the face and voice of our campus but also the power of a student to get involved and have her opinions heard. This experience has been incredible, and it is a shame that there are a limited number of candidate teams behind which students can rally and work. If someone like me can sit in on policy meetings, have coffee with candidates and write articles about GUSA, anyone can. We would not be Georgetown students if we were not engaged, and anyone who takes the time to get to know GUSA will not regret it.
Erin Luck is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service.
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