GUSA Elections See Low Upperclassmen Participation

Forty-six students campaigned over the past week for one of the 28 Georgetown University Student Association Senate seats, for which three districts received no contenders.

The results of yesterday’s election will be announced today.

With seats divided into residence-based districts, this year’s election also included a new senate position for the representative of the Former Jesuit Residence and Leavey Hotel district, which combines the FJR and Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center dorms.

Interest in the senate election was found mainly in the freshman class, with 12 and nine candidates vying for seats in the Darnall-Harbin and New South-Village C West districts, respectively. There were no official candidates for the upperclassmen townhouses and LXR districts, while the off-campus district saw three candidates compete for four seats.

With no official contenders for the LXR district, Musa Bassey (COL ’18) and Harry Halem (SFS ’18) started a satirical campaign to elect former Chancellor of Germany Otto von Bismarck as the district’s senator last Saturday.
This year also saw fewer female candidates, who made up 40 percent of the campaigns, than male candidates.

According to GUSA Election Commission Vice-Commissioner Grady Willard (SFS ’18), write-in votes have a large impact on the outcome of the election when there are not enough candidates to fill seats.

“All of the districts have spots for write-ins,” Willard said. “If [the leading] write-in doesn’t want to take the seat, they can decline … and we would have to have another special election.”

GUSA Election Commission Chair Alden Fletcher (SFS ’17) said that the absence of upperclassmen in the senate election is offset by their participation in the executive branch.

“[Their absence] is counterbalanced by the executive, which sort of draws heavily from the upperclassmen, and the executive has some ability to put policies forward and make propositions just because it’s more of a unitary actor than the senate,” Fletcher said.

As per previous years, the rules of campaigning pertained mainly to spending, locations of flyers and appropriate hours for door-to-door knocking and meet-and-greets.

The election commission uses instant runoff voting to select the seats, as students rank their candidates in order of preference. These votes are then tallied and redistributed according to rank, eliminating one candidate each round until the number remaining is equal to the number of available senate seats.

As the year group with the most candidates, freshmen had to vie for recognition, in addition to promoting their campaign platforms.

Vance Vaughan (SFS ’19), a candidate for the New South-VCW district, held meet-and-greets with the slogan “Dance with Vance.”

“I got my name out in the race early and so I do think I have some name recognition,” Vaughan said. “Among the pool of people, there is some pretty stiff competition.”

Rob Kasper (COL ’19), who campaigned for the Darnall-Harbin district, said that he found the competition motivating.

“It inspires us to put forth even more of an effort and to be more involved,” Kasper said. “To get our name more out there and to think deeper about issues rather than if there were just a few of us.”

Connor Pace (COL ’19), who ran for a seat in the New South-VCW district, said that he drew inspiration to run from events held during New Student Orientation.

“The capture-the-flag event was seminal for a lot of kids because they got to meet students from other dorms and really talk to them, get to know them and form friendships they wouldn’t otherwise have,” Pace said. “I also think that the club culture that is created by Georgetown is not necessarily the most healthy thing because it tends to put people into cliques.”

William Morris (COL ’19), a candidate in the Darnall-Harbin district, agreed that coordination between groups on campus is an important issue.

“I’d like to see interaction between clubs. I’d like to see interaction between dorms,” Morris said. “I’d like to see more friendly coordination between clubs that may even be on opposite sides of issues as opposed to the animosity that you sometimes see.”

Other candidates placed emphasis on issues such as sexual assault policy reform and diverse representation advocacy in student campaigns.

Camion Horton (SCS ’17), who ran for the Village C East district seat, said that she led her campaign with issues of diversity in mind.

“I want to provide a sense of inclusion, a sense of reliability, a listening ear and bring about a voice of reason … on a school-wide basis,” Horton said. “It is 2015, times are changing, people are changing and we have to be able to embrace those differences in things around us.”

Fletcher said that being elected to serve as GUSA senator allows one to become involved in a variety of campus issues.

“Their benefit is that they can definitely claim to represent a specific portion of the student populace, as well as sort of having that connection to a more specific area which makes it easier to direct projects,” Fletcher said.


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