As our term comes to a close, a number of students have approached us asking, “If you could go back in time and ‘do GUSA’ all over again, would you?”
The immediate response tends to run along the lines of, “Is this some sly way of telling us you have a time machine?” And once we recover from the petitioner’s disappointing response, we offer a second, sincere answer: We do not know yet. In many ways we will not be able to properly assess all the “what if,” “why didn’t we” and “I must have been drunk on power to think it was a good idea to” statements until we put some distance between ourselves and this past year.
Serving as Georgetown University Student Association executives was never part of our Georgetown plan. You all know that. A year ago we knew almost nothing about GUSA besides the fact that it did not work. We ran solely to have fun and put the Georgetown Heckler even more on the map. On the backs of the highly coveted “I don’t give a sh-t” demographic, we were swept into an office that we were thoroughly unqualified to take. We lacked experience and understanding. From our perspective, GUSA was a lot like the Trinity: an amorphous blob divided into three separate yet indistinguishable parts that may or may not be working for the student body’s best interest.
Upon taking office, our transition period hit us like a ton of bricks — if this particular ton of bricks demands to have meetings with you from the early morning to late at night every day for two months. Our — Joe Luther (COL ‘16), Connor Rohan (COL ‘16) and Abbey McNaughton (COL ‘16) — shared calendar became a pastel vortex of color-coated meetings with students, administrators and neighbors.
This was our first mistake. The vortex sucked us up and we lost touch with the light-hearted tone that had so successfully engaged the student body. We slowly forgot that we had been elected to do things differently. We let our concern over a lack of institutional knowledge dictate our priorities and focus. Over time, we became good at being GUSA executives, but neglected Youtopia. We tried to absorb GUSA as it was instead of shaping the institution as we saw fit.
Midway through the year, we began to recognize just how much our once-deviant mentality had taken a backseat to the mainstream. It is never easy to correct trajectory midflight — the GUSA steering wheel we requested was cut from our allocated budget — but our self-awareness and ability to constantly re-evaluate our position was one of our most important assets during our term. We were able to learn from our missteps and apply what we learned. We were at our best this year when we returned to our original mentality. Refocusing on our light-hearted messaging and reshuffling the way the cabinet meetings were conducted allowed us to operate more efficiently and without hating our jobs. As a result, we can say with confidence that we have made important strides in campus planning, mental health and sexual assault policy initiatives — that is how we are proud to end our term.
Any GUSA executive transitioning into the role risks unconsciously absorbing the university’s status quo. This is something that should be avoided at all costs. One cannot expect to effect substantial change in a university where it can take years to make a decision in the “moving so slowly it might as well be petrified in amber” system begat from a bureaucrat’s wet dream. Coming from the Heckler, where we were able to produce and publish content on a dime, the terms “working groups” and “stakeholder input” were foreign gibberish worthy of ridicule — and, to a certain extent, still are. The belabored, hyper-cautious and too often misguided mentality of the university needs constant vocal input from students. The labyrinth of committees and university bureaucrats cannot be trusted to simply run its course and produce policies that are best for students. With such an ephemeral lifespan, GUSA executives cannot be afraid to speak up, must exhibit brutal honesty with themselves and others and challenge systems when they are not working. GUSA needs executives who will sacrifice themselves and their time for the student body while recognizing that their titles mean nothing but additional responsibility. GUSA needs people who take their jobs seriously, but not themselves.
We hope you enjoyed Youtopia. And please let us know if you actually have a time machine.
Joseph Luther is a senior in the College. Connor Rohan is a senior in the College.
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