Georgetown University Student Association presidential candidates expressed contrasting viewpoints as they discussed funding reform, student security and other student life issues in the inaugural GUSA presidential debate that took place in Sellinger Lounge Wednesday evening.

 

The four candidates, Calen Angert (MSB ’11), Matt Wagner (SFS ’11), Arman Ismail (COL ’11) and Hillary Dang (SFS ’12), fielded questions from The Hoya, the Georgetown Voice, GUTV and members of the audience.

Speaking on his qualifications, Angert referred to his accomplishments in the past year as GUSA president.

 

“We’ve done a lot, but we’d like to do a lot more,” he said.

 

Wagner also discussed his experience with GUSA, having served two terms in the senate, which included two semesters as chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee and two semesters as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee.

Ismail is a current GUSA senator; his running mate Tucker Stafford (COL ’12), a varsity football and lacrosse player, has never served in GUSA. Ismail called the pairing unconventional, but necessary. Dang and her running mate, Katie Balloch (COL ’12) have no prior GUSA experience; Dang characterized her inexperience as a strength.

 

“We’re outsiders of GUSA . We have a strong will to get things done,” Dang said. “We think we can bring the Georgetown community together with a different platform.”

 

After the four candidates delivered their introductory speeches, the media representatives were given the opportunity to ask a question of a randomly selected candidate. The candidates were allowed one-minute responses, with 30-second rebuttals by the other three candidates.

The first question was directed to Ismail about his campaign promise to change the relationship between the university and ARAMARK Higher Education, which provides food for on-campus dining halls. Angert, in his rebuttal, claimed that student concerns, such as the provision of soup in the Grab ‘n’ Go meals program, would be addressed when the contract with ARAMARK is renegotiated later this year. Wagner disputed this point, claiming that the contract would not expire this year.

Disagreements between Wagner and Angert continued during discussion of the funding reform that the GUSA senate passed on Feb. 8.

Wagner claimed that due to the annual turnover rate in the senate, GUSA will likely face challenges when allocating funds for student groups.

 

“The GUSA members do not have the institutional knowledge to run it. GUSA isn’t built for [club funding],” Wagner said.

 

Responses to Wagner’s remarks were varied. Ismail said he was one of the four senators to vote against the funding reform.

“Now that it has been passed, we must work with the legislation. We can’t switch from situation to situation,” Ismail said.

 

Dang said that she supports the reform that had been passed and believes that GUSA could act as an umbrella organization that understood and respected all student beliefs.

 

Finally, Angert responded to the criticism of legislation, which was one of his primary initiatives as president.

“The students called for [the GUSA Fund], and we really listened. This has been an issue for a while, and we’re doing something about it. We’re going to stick with [the GUSA Fund], but it will be dynamic,” Angert said. “There will always be room for adjustment. If something’s wrong, it can be changed.”

Wagner was later asked about his plan to host an event to familiarize students with off-campus housing availability. Wagner said he envisions inviting landlords from Burleith and West Georgetown to the event to make it easier for students to weigh their housing options. Wagner then used an anecdote from his own personal experiences dealing with a landlord to explain why a Web site, like the one proposed under Angert’s administration for students in search of off-campus housing, would not be effective.

Angert, in response, defended the Web site.

“[It would be] infeasible and incredibly difficult to gather all of the landlords in Georgetown,” Angert said.

Ismail agreed with Wagner, arguing that facilitating dialogue between the communities and the students would ease off-campus housing. Dang cited her support for the creation of a Web site for off-campus housing similar to those designed to help travelers find hostels in Europe.

On-campus safety was another issue that was heavily debated among the candidates.

Dang argued that SafeRides needed to be expanded on campus and more responsive to student calls. She proposed that the SafeRides Neighborhood Shuttle operate on a regular schedule. She voiced her support for Angert’s reform to make more SafeRides shuttles student-operated, but argued that there were limitations.

“We need SafeRides driven by [the Department of Public Safety], for emergencies, so that students feel safer,” Dang said.

Wagner suggested that one of the ways to ensure greater safety on campus would be to install more cameras in heavily trafficked areas to supplement the cameras in front of Lauinger Library.

Ismail argued for a hands-on approach to student safety and cooperation with the Department of Public Safety.

 

“Neither Tucker nor I are experts on security, so the day after the elections, we would talk to DPS, listen to what they have to say about security, and act upon their suggestions,” Ismail said.

 

He also called for greater accountability from both student and AlliedBarton professional guards in student housing.

Angert, expanding on some of his earlier reforms, argued for putting more DPS officers on foot or on bicycles in order to expand their range of coverage and effectiveness.

Despite these disagreements, there were some issues that all of the candidates were able to agree upon. All four candidates called for a stronger relationship between the greater student body and GUSA. They also agreed that GUSA needed to be a transparent organization, and that there needed to be increased dialogue between GUSA and both the organizations that represent campus diversity and with the greater Georgetown community.”

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