A Georgetown University Student Association senate proposal released Jan. 11 aims to strip the residency requirement for the District’s Boards and Commissions, which would thereby allow Washington, D.C., college students to participate in local government.

The proposal, introduced by GUSA senate Speaker Tyler Bridge (COL ’17) and Vice-Speaker Abbey McNaughton (COL ’16), also aims to create a Mayoral Task Force in Higher Education that would bridge the gap between public service and university students.

“We want to be involved and have a bigger stake,” Bridge said. “Plus, we’re college students. We have a passion for these things.”

Currently, only D.C. residents are allowed to serve on D.C. Boards and Commissions, meaning that students who are not residents of the District are not permitted to serve in this capacity.
There are over 100 boards and commissions in the city, dealing with a variety of District issues that range from stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS to the Commission on Fashion Arts and Events.

According to GUSA Vice President Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15), this issue was brought up during the election cycle last fall. After conversations with other D.C. student governments, it became clear that there was widespread interest in this proposal.

“The city of D.C. would greatly benefit from allowing students access to Boards and Commissions as they inform a lot of the work the city government pursues,” Jikaria said. “Especially in D.C., university students make up a large constituency and are as affected by policies of the city as are permanent residents.”

The GUSA senate sent the proposal to the student governments of American University, Catholic University, Gallaudet University, Howard University, University of the District of Columbia, George Washington University and George Mason University.

Once all schools have signed, the proposal will be sent to both the D.C. Office of Boards and Commissions and the Office of the Mayor.

“If we’re all trying to do something for the betterment of us all in the same community, it’s a no-brainer to work collectively,” Bridge said.

One of the main arguments against allowing students on Boards and Commissions is that the positions deal exclusively with D.C. issues, and therefore should only be available to legal residents. GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), however, said that students would still be valuable assets, regardless of their residence status.

“What that fails to consider is that we have about 80,000 students living in the District, which is over a tenth of the District population,” he said. “In order to give them a stake in the process, and in order for D.C. politicians to tap into a non-used reservoir of political support, making these forums easier to participate in is a must.”

The majority of the D.C. Boards and Commissions positions are unpaid, but Tezel said that he does not think this will discourage students from applying.

Students regularly express interest in District politics, be it through registering to vote or running for positions on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

“A lot of students are saying that this is something important,” Tezel said. “I want to make sure the city is governed in a way that supports university interests.”

Both Bridge and Tezel said that Deputy Director of the Office of Boards and Commissions David Walker has been helpful in the process. Walker could not be reached for comment.

Bridge also discussed a possible tie-in between this proposal and the Center for Social Justice’s Fourth Credit Option for Social Action. If a student were to serve on a board or commission that integrated their academic studies, they may be eligible to receive an additional credit in the corresponding course.

“The fourth credit option is a new program in the CSJ where students can apply to the program, and through service that works with their academic schedule, they can get a fourth credit added to their class,” Bridge said. “Say your interested in socioeconomic diversity, and you do work with a committee dealing with homelessness, you can apply to the CSJ for credit and really tell the story of how those things worked together.”

Georgetown will send a student delegation to this weekend’s town hall-style meeting with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to discuss this proposal and other ways for the university to interact with the District.

“It works well with the mission of Georgetown, and its mutually beneficial,” Bridge said. “It’s good for us, and the city has people who are dedicated, committed and innovative. We want to serve, and it doesn’t make sense why we shouldn’t be allowed to.”

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