Nearly a year has passed since the Yard movement was defeated by referendum. Many people felt that the proposed constitution was flawed in a number of ways, fearing that the abolition of GUSA would wreak institutional havoc and bring student government to a standstill. We students ought to ask, though, whether the interim between now and then has brought real change to our campus; in short, has GUSA sloughed off its customary indolence and reinvigorated student life?

Before we can examine this question, we must develop a notion of what student government is about. The undergraduate population comprises about 6,000 people; such a relatively small number ensures that each student not only has a say, but indeed is an integral member of the community. Since every student can represent himself, GUSA should not be viewed as a representative body. Instead, it ought to be an organization that focuses our disparate concerns into a prism with which we might confront the issues facing Georgetown in a vibrant and voluminous voice. In this context, then, we should view student government as the forum by which our community, conducting both its business and its pleasure, grows strong.

GUSA has failed to reorient itself towards my vision, remaining an aloof association that continues to represent student interests without inquiring as to whether students are capable of representing themselves. Indeed, GUSA has proved itself a large, dumb animal almost congenitally resistant to change. Rob Hutton (SFS ’04), who in a recent letter to the editor (“GUSA takes `few suggestions’ seriously,” The Hoya, Feb. 7, 2003, p.2) asserted that “GUSA is ultimately a representative body and losing touch with the student body results in a failure to act representatively,” missed the point.

For example, internal adviser Jack Ternan (COL ’04) spearheaded an effort to review GUSA’s constitution. The assembly, weary of inquiry, passed a resolution to that effect only after first axing the clauses that identified the problems to be addressed; in other words, Mr. Ternan’s mandate was revoked by the very mouth that breathed it.

Another instance, even more perverse, occurred last month when GUSA debated a proposal to funnel into the Club and Activities Union some of the new money coming from the scheduled increase in our student activities’ fee. The Club Union is an important intermediary between GUSA and the clubs that form the bedrock of Georgetown culture; it was hoped that, by giving it a budget, it could develop programs to better unite students. The specifics of the proposal are not relevant: what matters is that every assemblyman who was known to be a potential GUSA candidate or a supporter thereof abstained from casting a ballot when the resolution came to a vote. This suggests either that current GUSA leadership lacks vision and audacity, or that members are so petrified by the idea of change as to be incapacitated. Neither alternative is attractive.

People might ascribe these illustrations to the inevitable failures of a generally healthy system; such a notion is refuted by GUSA’s bungled attempts at redressing the lockdown policy. GUSA bigwigs have assured students continually that they are working with administrators to revise the policy barring us from our own community. They have been saying this since September; negotiations have failed because students have nothing with which to negotiate. When some enterprising groups started to agitate for boycotts, protests and orchestrated disobedience, GUSA denounced such projects as premature and counterproductive. And so, despite widespread outcry against the lockdown, nothing has changed.

It would be ambitious for me to catalogue all of GUSA’s failures, and equally tedious for you to read them. In any case, GUSA is both detached and rudderless; as junior assemblyman Ed Shelleby (COL ‘O4) confessed last week, “I think we’re running out of steam.” Although I do not think the Yard, or any movement that seeks to sweep away an entire system, is a feasible alternative to GUSA, I believe that enlightened leadership is the first step towards reform. When we come together to vote for a president and vice-president, I hope that we elect fresh faces, a ticket untainted by the insipidity of GUSA politics. I, for one, would mistrust anyone who wanted to represent me, as though I was of deficient intellect or spoke an incoherent language: I want someone who unifies and leads.

Corey Tazzara is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

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