Few on campus remember – or care to – the GUSA Assembly, the Student Association’s discarded former legislative body that was most notable for how ill-equipped it was to handle any sort of serious issue. The GUSA Senate, approved last year in a student referendum, was meant to correct the Assembly’s most intractable flaws. Its most promising feature was the new nature of its representation. Students elect senators from small, geographically contiguous constituencies, a vast improvement over the four at-large representatives allotted to each class in the Assembly.

But progress has come slowly, and many mistakes are being repeated. The new speaker, Eden Schiffmann (COL ’08), a former member of this board, is committed to improving the Senate’s reputation by requiring regular attendance from all members, setting a yearlong agenda and developing calendars to direct the work of the Senate and each of its committees. But his efforts have gone unnoticed by most students, as early signs of interest in GUSA reform have faded. While an astonishing 3,553 students turned out in October 2006 to endorse the creation of the Senate, only 1,830 voted in the recent elections.

A deeper problem is the nature of the activities that have consumed the Senate’s time thus far. The Senate remains largely ornamental. Some of the Senate’s most heralded actions have been the creation of committees – concerning alcohol policy, improving diversity on campus, and empowering students’ voices in the decisions that drive Georgetown.

Historically, making committees hasn’t accomplished much. If GUSA really wants to be taken seriously, there is one obvious course of action to follow: demanding the power of the purse.

This was the original plan for the new Senate when students approved it last fall by an overwhelming majority. According to the text of the constitutional amendment passed in 2006, the Senate would have the authority to determine how to allocate the Student Activities Fund among the advisory groups that fund most student groups on campus.

Predictably, the university stonewalled, resisting the transfer of that authority to students. The Senate did get the ability to audit clubs, but any real power eludes GUSA. Although the group can decide appropriation, the university must still approve GUSA’s decisions.

The Student Activities Fund is the lifeblood of every Student Activities Commission-funded group, student media, performing arts group, and club sport, among others. The vast majority of the fund comes from tuition. So GUSA would be right to assert that an elected body representing students deserves to have more say in how that money funds student groups.

GUSA would do itself a favor by realizing that most students do not care about GUSA. They do care about Rangila, GUGS burgers, and ask and Bauble. GUSA would be well served to have their fellow students advocating for their interests every year when the money gets dished out.

This is a rare responsibility that we will happily say should belong to GUSA. We hope to see them fight for it.

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