Diversity Lacking in Exec Race
Gender gap on display in GUSA elections
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 21, 2014 15:02
While over 54 percent of Georgetown students are female and over a third of the student body does not identify itself as white, only one out of eight candidates running for Georgetown University Student Association executive office this year is female, and only two identify as members of minority ethnic groups.
The absence of diversity among the tickets drew criticism from some candidates and student groups, who allege that the electoral field does not accurately represent the student body.
Six of the candidates, Ben Weiss (COL ’15), Sam Greco (SFS ’15), Zach Singer (SFS ’15), Dan Silkman (COL ’15), Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15) identify as white males, while Lloyd’s running mate, Jimmy Ramirez (COL ’15), is a Latino male. Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15), the only female in the race, is of Indian descent. Both Ramirez and Jikaria are running for vice president.
Although Jikaria is often reminded of her status as the only female in the candidate field, she maintains that this fact is relatively unimportant compared to other campaign issues.
“It’s definitely something I’m aware of going into the race, and people always bring it up,” Jikaria said. “But I think that the conversation about the issues is much more important than how many girls are running.”
She noted, however, that the lack of female candidates in this year’s GUSA executive contest appears indicative of a larger trend in American political culture.
“I think it’s sad that there’s only one girl running. I think that there definitely is a dearth of women leaders in student government positions in general in America,” Jikaria said. “I don’t necessarily have a solution for that. I think that it’s just important for young girls to see other women running, and that will inspire them.”
Tezel, Jikaria’s running mate, expressed disappointment that GUSA leadership failed to adequately represent the diversity characteristic of the student body.
“I think it’s always important that we see GUSA races that actually represent the student body, and part of that is, both from a racial and ethnic as well as gender side, it is important that we continue to have a diverse group run for GUSA,” Tezel said. “If we’re not continually looking at how we’re engaging with all the faces of Georgetown, then that’s something we’ll start to lose in a body that’s supposed to be representative of the whole student body.”
Lloyd, the race’s only openly gay candidate and the president of GU Pride, expressed similar frustration and described the difficult choice many students face regarding the decision to participate in activism for particular groups or causes, rather than becoming involved in student government.
“GUSA has had problems with gender for a very long time, and race and sexual orientation,” Lloyd said. “I think at Georgetown, it’s very difficult to be involved in an affinity group or an advocacy group and be involved in GUSA. I’ve never been involved because I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to Pride, and that’s meant burning some bridges with some administrators, that’s meant engaging in those tough conversations that maybe I don’t want to do if I have to get elected.”
Though neither Weiss and Greco’s ticket nor Singer and Silkman’s ticket include any women or members of minority groups, both teams stressed a dedication to fostering diversity on campus.
“Unfortunately, two individuals can never possibly represent the entire campus community,” Weiss and Greco wrote in a statement. “It has been crucial for us to hear every perspective, speaking with students of all different backgrounds in order to develop a platform and strategy that will best serve the entirety of Georgetown.”
Weiss and Greco’s statement additionally stressed input they received from campus groups such as the Women’s Center, the Georgetown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Sexual Assault Peer Educators program in the development of their platform. However, they maintained the lack of diversity on their ticket was not a disadvantage.
“We will not, however, reduce our staff and supporters to minority tokenism,” the statement said.
Singer and Silkman similarly noted that, while women and minority groups are not represented on their ticket, these groups nevertheless maintain a significant presence in their staff and supporters.
“One of the top reasons Dan and I are running is because we know how to break down barriers and bring people together,” Singer and Silkman wrote in a statement. “That spirit is reflected in our campaign team, a group of men and women of diverse backgrounds who bring a wealth of unique experiences to our campaign.”