To student observers, the 2017 Georgetown University Student Association presidential election may summon a strong sensation of deja vu. Once again, this election season has seen the introduction of a familiar dichotomy in GUSA presidential politics: the insider versus the outsider.
The prominent tickets include two teams of current GUSA members — Garet Williams (COL ’18) and Habon Ali (SFS ’18) with a staid, polished platform, Kamar Mack (COL ’19) and Jessica Andino (SFS ’18) with a fresh, idealistic vision for Georgetown — vying against a ticket of insurgents, John Matthews (COL ’18) and Nick Matz (COL ’18), who are calling for the dismantlement of a broken system. A fourth ticket, Jenny Franke (COL ’18) and Jack McGuire (COL ’18), has announced its candidacy but abstained from formal campaigning or attending the presidential and vice presidential debates.
Despite charges of insularity and exclusion, GUSA does not need a complete overhaul to better represent the interests of the student body. Instead, the organization needs executives who can carry the mantle of progress with the same competency and dynamism of the Khan-Fisk administration. This editorial board believes Williams and Ali are the two candidates best equipped to do exactly that.
Williams and Ali, by and large, offer the most substantive, well-researched platform of the bunch, with over a hundred points clearly constructed in close consultation with different policy teams. Granted, their platform of “Resources, Inclusivity, Transparency and You,” takes a much more generalist approach than the emphasis on dining reform and master planning expounded by Khan and Fisk, or the two serious issues of sexual assault and mental health promoted by their predecessors in the successful satirical ticket of Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan (COL ’16).
Nevertheless, the Williams-Ali platform remains unrivaled in this election in terms of comprehensiveness and specificity. Take the pair’s platform on racial and cultural inclusivity, a focal point of its campaign. Among their proposals, Wiliams-Ali will work to design a system of internal climate surveys to gauge the status of diversity within campus groups, promote the establishment of Latinx studies, Native American studies and South Asian studies programs based on existing courses, and collaborate with cultural groups to encourage minority students to engage in GUSA leadership.
Their plan encompasses both academic and extracurricular affairs, but most importantly, it is introspective, looking to bolster the representation of minority voices within GUSA itself.
Comparatively, Mack and Andino share the commendable aim to increase inclusivity in GUSA and beyond, but their platform is decidedly sparse, with goals to continue the implementation of existing programs and vague assurances that working with student organizations will foster increased socio-economic diversity and cultural diversity. Matthews and Matz make no mention of inclusivity or diversity issues in their 10-point policy platform, which, in its emphasis on cost-saving measures, would slash rather than expand the size of GUSA.
But even on this front of affordability — selected by all three tickets as the most pressing issue confronting Georgetown in a series of viewpoints in The Hoya — Williams and Ali prevail over their opponents. Their calls to open tuition discussions to students with forums rather than closed administrative meetings, as well as establish an Affordability and Access Residential Hub, represents a realistic goal that can garner increased accountability from university administration in the long run on tuition issues.
Mack and Andino’s plan of cutting costs by promoting a culture of sustainability and entrepreneurship on campus is innovative and new, but it is unclear how the pair plans to spearhead such a shift in the social conscious of the university. The piecemeal approach of the Matthews-Matz ticket, which would scrap the Yates Field House fee, cut Student Neighborhood Assistance Program funding and shrink the size of GUSA saves on some budgetary allocations, but does little to address long-term concerns about the university endowment and mounting cost of tuition.
The disparity between concrete and abstract recurs in all the GUSA platforms — Williams and Ali offer the most substantive fronts on issues of racial and cultural inclusivity, sexual assault and safety and worker affairs; Mack and Andino provide a less concrete but no less ambitious plan and Matthews and Matz stress cutting costs above all else, making the funding of programs contingent on their financial viability.
Make no mistake, Mack and Andino are strong contenders for the presidency and offer the vibrancy and vision GUSA sorely needs. Williams and Ali would be well-served to include them in their administration, particularly for Mack’s enterprising vision of GUSA reform and Andino’s extensive advocacy work on behalf of underrepresented communities. These two tickets could work together to achieve the inclusive GUSA both tickets extolled in their platforms.
Meanwhile, the Matthews-Matz ticket, which advocates for “a smaller, more nimble organization,” and is noticeably silent on issues of accessibility and inclusivity in its platform, represents moving GUSA in another direction — one that is less expansive, less diverse and less inclusive.
The 2017 GUSA presidential election is not so much a referendum on tuition and affordability as it is a referendum on the organization itself. Though the organization is not perfect, its strides in the past year do not demand a massive overhaul, but rather the measured, responsible leadership of a ticket like Williams and Ali.
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