The 2005 GUSA campaign, which officially begins today, could have significant implications not only for next year’s elected officers, but also for the future of the student association, as it begins to consider a proposal to dramatically overhaul the Student Association and its constitution.

GUSA President Kelley Hampton (SFS ’05) formally unveiled her proposed referendum on the student association’s constitution Friday in Village C Alumni Lounge. She is seeking to have the proposal placed on a ballot for a special election two weeks after the executive election on Feb. 16.

The proposal drew praise and criticism from the members of GUSA and other campus organizations gathered in the lounge, reflecting the deep divisions between leaders of the student community over how to best reform the student association.

Opponents of Hampton’s proposal claimed that its emphasis on student clubs and organizations is too reminiscent of The Yard, the former Georgetown student government that was voted out of existence in 1968.

Drew Rau (COL ’06), a campaign staffer for Pravin Rajan (SFS ’07) and Nate Wright (COL ’06), said that the current proposal is identical to Jack Ternan’s (COL ’04) failed attempt to reinstate The Yard in 2002 merely assigning different names to the governing bodies.

But much of the frustration directed at Hampton over the course of the meeting focused not on the proposal itself, but rather on the process by which she and GUSA Vice President Luis Torres (COL ’05) developed it and presented it to the public. Many GUSA Assembly members claimed they were not made aware of the proposal as it was being developed.

“You’re overstepping your authority,” senior representative Chaz Perin (COL ’05) said to Hampton.

Rau had similar comments for Hampton. He asked Hampton why he had not been consulted about the proposal, despite his position on GUSA’s Constitutional Reform Committee.

With elections underway in earnest, the constitutional proposal could become one of the election’s most hotly debated issues.

Sophomore representative and presidential candidate Happy Johnson (COL ’07) and running mate Vikram Agrawal (SFS ’07), who is also chief of staff to Hampton and Torres, worked on the proposal and support it. Rajan and Wright, the only other ticket with GUSA experience, oppose the proposal.

But if the proposal fails to provoke any interest within the student body, some of the nine GUSA presidential tickets could decide that the best course of action politically is to sidestep the issue and run as GUSA outsiders.

These conditions leave the potential for a messy political situation in the two weeks following the executive elections. If the ticket that wins is not supportive of the referendum, the new president-elect and vice president-elect could wind up competing with Hampton and Luis for the support of the student body.

Regardless of who wins, if the proposal is approved by the student body, it will require the implementation of massive structural changes. The new constitution would disband the Assembly as it exists today and create new bodies with representation allocated to specific student groups.

Despite these concerns, Hampton is continuing to push the proposal forward, undeterred. While her administration approaches lame-duck status with the attention of the campus shifting to the nine candidates vying to replace her, Hampton has vowed to use the remainder of her term to promote and pass what she sees as vital institutional reform.

Throughout the beginning of the meeting, Hampton was diplomatic, doing the best she could to address the concerns of her friends and colleagues.

“We’re a student government that doesn’t have the backing of the students,” she said. She said that GUSA had accomplished some important things over the past year, but that its ambiguous place in the Georgetown community had frustrated other efforts, like a comprehensive housing proposal.

Hampton can gain ballot access for the referendum through the Assembly, but it is highly unlikely that it will win the supermajority of 11 votes needed to get on the ballot. She vowed to collect the 1,400 student signatures necessary if the Assembly rejects the measure, and said that process has started already.

Hampton expressed respect for others’ views, but said it was too late to modify the current proposal, which she said would work. She also said that any misgivings anyone had could be worked out in the bylaws after the constitution’s passage.

For those who would continue to attack the proposal, Hampton’s message was very simple.

“Bring it on,” she said.

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