Three Georgetown University Student Association vice presidential candidates discussed their plans to make GUSA more inclusive and increase affordability for students at a debate held Wednesday evening.

Richard Howell (SFS ’19), Naba Rahman (SFS ’19) and Casey Doherty (COL ’20) discussed policy issues including mental health, affordability and inclusivity at the debate, which was organized by the GUSA Election Commission in the Intercultural Center.

Vice-presidential candidate Jonathan Compo (COL ’20) did not participate in the debate.

Campus media, including The Hoya, The Georgetown Voice, The Georgetown Review and The Georgetown Heckler along with GUSA senate’s Financial and Appropriations Committee and the audience asked the candidates questions.

The three candidates outlined their campaign platforms in their opening statements.

Doherty and Josh Sirois (SFS ’20) plan to deliver actionable policies to increase GUSA’s accessibility to students, while Rahman and Sahil Nair (SFS ’19) aim to cultivate a participatory platform led by students’ needs.

Howell and Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) are running on a platform of reducing tuition costs, creating a stronger sense of community at Georgetown and encouraging a culture of charity and community service projects.

The candidates discussed GUSA apathy on campus and presented their campaigns’ strategies for addressing that problem.

Nair and Rahman plan to reach out to clubs on campus in an effort to connect students to GUSA’s resources. GUSA must empower students to participate in its policy-making process, Rahman said.

“One thing that Sahil and I are pushing for are the community voices initiatives. Basically, we recognize this is a campus run by clubs, not necessarily by students, so what we want to do is have a rotating roundtable, essentially, where each club at one point in the semester can have face time with the executive,” Rahman said.

Doherty discussed her ticket’s plan to create a GUSA general body, which would widen its student engagement on campus regarding the organization’s policy debates.

“What we want to do is have a monthly meeting where students can come in and hear from the different policy teams about what they’re working on and they can get involved with a very specific project,” Doherty said.

Howell said he and Estes would work to make GUSA more interactive with the student body.

“We’re tired of seeing an insular, closed-off GUSA that doesn’t interact with the student body, and that passes resolutions only to improve its resume,” Howell said.

The candidates all offered plans for reducing the cost of attending Georgetown. Estes and Howell’s plan calls for a leaner GUSA budget. The ticket has also pledged to push the university to implement a tuition freeze policy, in which a student’s tuition rate remains the same throughout their four years at Georgetown.

“I think a huge problem is the fact that every year, tuition increases,” Howell said.

Doherty and Sirois’ plan does not directly address the cost of tuition, instead focusing on cutting costs from meal plans and textbooks. They proposed an online textbook trading hub that would give students access to cheaper class materials. Doherty also called for more transparency in the tuition-setting process.

“We also want more transparency, so we want students in with the provost discussing tuition in general,” Doherty said.

Rahman called for more flexible meal plans and a wider range of dining options to make the dining system more accessible.

“[We want to] make sure we advocate for smaller meal plans with our actual contractor, making sure to advocate for an open dining plan in order to ensure that the system we have right now is more accessible and has more options,” Rahman said.

The candidates also focused on how to improve mental health initiatives on campus. Doherty said she and Sirois intend to expand the availability of mental health resources for students.

“Josh and I hope to increase resources for CAPS [Counseling and Psychiatric Services] and transparency surrounding mental health issues,” Doherty said.

Rahman called for increased resources for CAPS and more funding for the GUSA mental health stipend program, which is currently slated to provide financial aid for off-campus counseling for ten to 20 students.

“Regarding the stipend itself, I think it’s great, [but it] doesn’t go far enough financially,” Rahman said.

Howell echoed the call for increased resources for students regarding mental health, but advocated for a focus on meditation and teaching students methods for dealing with stress.

“I would like to work first with the John Main Center and NSO [New Student Orientation] to teach reflective, meditative and coping methods with stress,” Howell said.

The debate ended with two-and-a-half minute closing statements from each candidate. The presidential debate will be held Monday, Feb. 19 in the Healey Family Student Center at 7:30 p.m.

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  1. Hunter and Richard fo GUSA have my vote!

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