Since the end of my GUSA experience, I’ve had time to view both the problems and possibilities of GUSA’s role on campus over the past two years. At times, it can be frustrating. We have some of the most passionate, intelligent and active students in the world on this campus. But at the same time, students often get bogged down and mired in a lot of petty disputes and vain arguments. And unfortunately, sometimes the forum used to discuss them is our struggling student government.

I call it “struggling” because despite the many accomplishments of those involved, GUSA continues to lose the struggle for students’ respect. Believe it or not, more than six months after the controversial remarks made by Cardinal Arinze at the May commencement address, one student recently fueled the flames again by introducing a resolution that would in effect “thank the Cardinal for his remarks.” I don’t think anyone in that room had even been to the controversial speech, but everyone seemed to have a view on the Cardinal’s speech. Ironically, without really saying anything, the assembly pontificated for one hour (yes, I timed it) about theology, free speech case law, philosophy and the semantics of the whole thing. At one point, I raised my hand and asked, “I’m lacking understanding how this is any more than lip service to our own beliefs. How is this going to affect Joe Hoya in his daily life?” No response. The debate continued, and the resolution was finally called to question. Thank goodness the assembly voted down the lip service 11-3.

I don’t intend to advance my views on the Arinze speech; I wasn’t there. Instead, I think it is none of GUSA’s business for one simple reason: GUSA didn’t get our votes to speak on our behalf about theological or philosophical views. GUSA has no right to either “thank” Arinze or “remind future commencement speakers” not to say offensive things. Give me a break. This whole thing begs the question: how can such topics become the subject of hour-long debates among students we elected to improve our daily lives on campus?

The mere fact that this debate took place angered several other students. GUSA’s use as a forum to express views other than those that directly affect the daily lives of students made many of my friends even more disdainful of our struggling student association than ever before. One of my friends commented that “GUSA is made up of a group of people with personal agendas and personal aspirations, and they don’t speak for the student body.” Another friend summed up this sentiment by saying, “the great majority of students doesn’t care about the great majority of what GUSA does.” I think the lack of confidence and respect in our student government is troubling. But I think one good way to correct this lack of confidence and respect is to highlight some of the recent gains GUSA has been making to affect student life.

First of all, I applaud the efforts of Brian Morgenstern (COL ’05) to finish the projects started by former student body president Kaydee Bridges (SFS `03), especially concerning the restrictive lockdown policy, as well as the efforts to maintain good relations with the university administration. Having worked with Kaydee in the past, I am happy to see more of her ideas implemented on campus. I am also very pleased that Steve de Man (COL ’04) has been successful in maintaining strong ties to students from other colleges and universities in this area demonstrated when he recently hosted a delegation of student leaders.

Some of the best strides have been made in the GUSA Assembly. Freshman representative Pravin Rajan’s (SFS ’07) efforts to obtain academic credit for ROTC students enrolled in military science classes is very admirable considering this university’s long-standing relationship with the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps. Junior representative Nick Lizop (COL ’05) has made similar strides in his efforts to obtain credit for those students in GERMS. Junior representative Christina Supelana (COL ’05) has been working with the academic councils to allow more classes to count for different majors across schools. Steven Glaser’s (SFS ’04) efforts in getting more clubs involved in the appointment process of GUSA could help GUSA prevent the repeat of contentious appointment disputes. These are just some of the examples of actions being taken in GUSA that will ultimately improve student life on campus.

Another noteworthy contribution was made by the ever-involved junior representative Luis Torres (COL ’05) two weeks ago in a press conference on Capitol Hill with Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), Jim Jeffords (I-VT) and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Luis spoke, as a Georgetown student, on the importance of increasing student aid and work study funding and boldly declared that the “priorities of this Congress are not right” when funding cuts were even being considered. Even more important than his asking for congressional “courage to invest in higher education” and “confidence in the youth of this country,” was the fact that Luis really presented Georgetown in a good light. When more students do things like that, both on and off campus, we can advocate our interests even more strongly. GUSA has amazing potential. But our student government is only as strong as its esteem in the eyes of the students. This esteem will continue to be damaged by any and all debate on theological, philosophical or semantic matters; debate which doesn’t directly affect students or advocate their interests. So, what’s the first step? GUSA must send a clear message to students: if a certain item of business doesn’t directly affect student life, it won’t receive debate in the forum of student government.

Phil Beer is a junior in the School of Foreign Service and can be reached at Beer on Tap appears every other Tuesday.

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