GUSA Senate Campaigns Kick Off
Published: Friday, September 20, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 20, 2013 02:09
Campaigns for the Georgetown University Student Association senate kicked off Thursday, with 77 students vying for 28 seats this year.
Unlike last year when three seats were left unfilled, enough candidates are running this year for all districts. Candidates in three districts — LXR Hall, off-campus and townhouses — are uncontested.
This year’s race showed a continuation of a trend from previous years, with nearly half of the 77 candidates competing for six seats in the two freshman-only districts. The Harbin and Darnall district has 20 candidates, while the New South and Village C West district has 16 candidates.
This is the second election since the GUSA senate went through a redistricting reform, which combined certain districts into jurisdictions with multiple member representation and adjusted the number of seats to ensure each district was a similar size.
Last fall, 66 candidates ran compared to this year’s 77. Election Commission Chair Ethan Chess (COL ’14) attributed the increase to a rising interest in campus issues.
“I think there’s a build-up of numbers each year,” Chess said. “It would continue to increase even from now on. It’s a good sign that students are interested in getting involved.”
GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) agreed and said that GUSA representatives in both the senate and the executive are increasingly diverse.
“We prioritized reaching out to all students to make running for the senate accessible and appealing to people of every background,” Tisa said. “The success of diverse groups represented in GUSA last year have really spurred more people to be interested in getting involved.”
Last Saturday, the American Association of University Women partnered with Georgetown to hold the second annual Elect Her conference to encourage female students to run for the GUSA senate.
Fourteen senators are running for re-election, most of whom expressed high hopes to continue their work from last year now that they are more familiar with the university’s bureaucratic process.
Abby Cooner (SFS ’16), a current senator running for re-election, said she pushed to allow students to swipe a meal at Einstein Brother’s Bagels last spring and plans to further expand flexibility and options for food if elected.
GUSA senate Speaker and Chair of the transitional senate committee George Spyropolous (COL ’14), who is running uncontested for the townhouse district, said he would focus on regularizing the use of Blackboard Gradebook by professors during his upcoming term.
GUSA Finance and Appropriation Chair Cannon Warren (SFS ’14) and Andrew Logerfo (COL ’14), who ran unsuccessfully on a ticket for the GUSA executive in the spring, are both running for the senate.
“For me, the most important thing is to equalize the evidentiary standard on and off campus, extend the clear and convincing clause for all incidents,” Warren said, referring to the disparity between the “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard for on-campus incidents and the “more likely than not” evidentiary standard that still remains in place off campus.
Freshman candidates in hotly contested districts also hope to rally support for their platforms. Jonathan Thrall (SFS ’17) said the student government’s prominent presence immediately caught his attention when he arrived on campus.
“My impression is that students in GUSA are really involved in all aspects of student life,” Thrall said. “The past reforms they have advocated for make me want to also have an impact on campus.”
Thrall identified the communication gap between the student government and the freshman class as a problem he hopes to tackle if elected.
“Most of us aren’t here long enough to grasp what’s going on,” he said. “I want to make sure that freshmen are involved and informed [of] what’s going on [on] campus, because things and policies that are changed now will likely have a bigger impact on freshmen because we’re here for another four years.”
Despite the asymmetric competition across freshman and upperclassman districts, Chess stressed the importance of abiding to the student government’s constitution, rather than allowing more freshmen to participate in GUSA.
“The constitution says we are required to have the seat numbers lined up with the student population,” he said. “From the Election Commission’s perspective, we have to go by the rules.”
However, Chess pointed out that senate seats and districts are re-evaluated every three years. He specifically noted that the 2010 Campus Plan agreement — which requires the university to house 90 percent of the undergraduate students by 2025 — could lead to notable decrease in off-campus student population and changes in the distribution of senate seats.