While the GUSA Senate deliberates on working to improve security issues, resolve housing and facilities problems and increase transparency with the Student Activities Commission, much has been made about the current controversy surrounding the appointment of non-GUSA senators to chair student commissions created by the senate.

While the student association’s senators seek to resolve this in the best interests of Georgetown students, we believe that GUSA ought to live up to its own mission, stated in the first article of the GUSA’s constitution: “To empower Hoyas by giving them control over resources, improve the student quality of life . [and] involve Hoyas in the governance of the university.” These ideals should not hinder the engagement of unelected students as GUSA moves forward in working for Georgetown students.

Just as the U.S. government has thrived on the inclusion of unelected officials, GUSA has benefited from the extensive engagement of unelected students on issues important to the student body. The GUSA Senate, which has been extensively criticized in its first two years, is at its foundation a representative government. This representative government is best exemplified by senators such as Matt Wagner (COL ’11), who advocated for the creation of the Arabic Living and Learning Communities; Matt Stoller (COL ’08), who worked with the administration to fix the 15 percent of water fountains that were broken on campus; and GUSA Senate Speaker Reggie Greer (COL ’09), whose leadership and hard work on the Ways and Means Committee over the last two years has brought respect and seriousness to the GUSA Senate among the student body.

But senators have also collaborated with unelected students on the Alcohol Policy Working Group, the Student Safety Advisory Board, the LGBTQ working groups and the Student Commission for Unity. These working groups received valuable insight from unelected GUSA officials, such as Pat Dowd (SFS ’09), who served on the Alcohol Policy Working Group alongside GUSA Senator Joe Hill (COL ’10) and now serves as GUSA’s president.

Not only is there precedence in GUSA’s history, but in U.S. history as well. A simple visit to Wikipedia taught us that organizations such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are chaired by expert civilians and former lawmakers.

In the same way, GUSA has the ability to appoint qualified students to chair commissions, utilizing the senate’s representative discretion in the same way the GUSA president appoints cabinet members.

Our elected officials are responsible to Georgetown students for providing the most efficient student government, one that advocates on behalf of student needs. In order to do so, the GUSA Senate must continue to collaborate with unelected students who have demonstrated their qualifications and who will work hard on behalf of GUSA.

The current arguments surrounding the appointment of non-GUSA senators to chair commissions exclude many qualified, yet unelected, students from leading movements for change in areas in which they may faithfully serve their peers. The dissenting opinion would leave out unelected students and further alienate already disenchanted students from GUSA, where they could otherwise create meaningful change on behalf of Georgetown’s only representative body.

While passionate students deserve to work on the issues that affect them, the GUSA Senate wouldn’t appoint Joe the Plumber to lead a commission on Georgetown’s business practices. At Georgetown, leading a commission on business practices would require experience in business, student organizations and administrative offices, while clearly communicating with GUSA.

Commissions would be led by qualified students who have exhibited experience in the commission’s area of concern. Commissions would not take on lives of their own; in fact, as is stated in the GUSA constitution, all commissions would be held accountable to GUSA’s senate directors who oversee their activities according to the bills authorizing them.

In the end, this debate draws attention away from more important issues facing Georgetown students, such as student dissatisfaction with the Code of Conduct, the Alcohol Policy, the Student Activities Commission, bias issues and student representation in Georgetown’s administration – issues which the senate intends to address and provide solutions for.

The sooner the senate includes qualified student advocates in its leadership, the sooner the senate can return to fulfilling its mission of empowering students, improving students’ quality of life and involving students in the governance of the university.

We come together, as a GUSA senator and leader of a student commission, as examples of the work elected and unelected students can do.

The senate is not a joke; it is an organization that was created by the students, for the students, and one that will continue to work with students on commissions to bring about positive change in areas that are of concern to all Georgetown students.

Johnny Solis is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and a GUSA senator. Brian Kesten is a junior in the College and chair of the Student Commission for Unity.

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