The commitment to a fresh, more diverse and representative Georgetown University Student Association is reflected in Kamar Mack (COL ’19) and Jessica Andino’s (COL ’18) platform.
“We have built every single piece of our platform to serve underrepresented populations. That is something that Jessica and I hold dear,” Mack said. “We believe that GUSA traditionally hasn’t shown a full grasp of what it means to be diverse. GUSA should start drawing from different communities, not just different identities.”
On the platform, the Mack-Andino campaign emphasizes three components: entrepreneurship, affordability and student health.
Whereas GUSA candidates generally include entrepreneurship on their platforms, few have placed a stronger emphasis on the topic than Mack has.
“Our planks, we wanted them to be overarching and encompassing a lot of things that wouldn’t necessarily come to mind when you hear the word,” Mack said. “So when you hear of entrepreneurship you think ‘Oh, someone on ‘Shark Tank’ about to start a business.’ But we think of it as something that involves a lot more. What makes it so important is how related it is to students who don’t consider themselves entrepreneurs.”
The ticket has five policy proposals dedicated to spurring entrepreneurship on campus, including establishing a Startup Market similar to the Farmer’s Market for entrepreneurs and centralizing information about available funding for startups.
According to Mack, the university could reap significant financial rewards if it increased its investment in startups.
“We want to see a Georgetown where you get to campus and entrepreneurship is encouraged, not just something that is a feature of the school that we have to offer,” Mack said. “It’s also going to be very good for Georgetown long-term. If we get 10 to 15 successful startups coming out of Georgetown every year, that’s going to do a lot for our endowment and that’s going to make Georgetown a lot more affordable.”
Mack and Andino’s campaign manager Maura McDonough (COL ’18) said the focus on entrepreneurship does not devalue other aspects of the campaign but is worth highlighting because GUSA has not emphasized it in the past.
“We are not prioritizing entrepreneurship in the sense that it is more important than anything else, but it is something that has never been a priority in GUSA like it should have been. So that’s why it’s one of the main pillars,” McDonough said. “It’s an issue that needs to be brought forward. We’re not saying it’s more important, we’re saying it’s not visible.”
According to Mack, the high cost of tuition and its effects on the student population should be a concern addressed by GUSA.
“If you look at rising costs of attendance, it’s one of those multifaceted, big, difficult issues to tackle, where you can’t wave your magic wand and make tuition go down,” Mack said. “But there is a lot of opportunity to push back against it and to limit the amount that tuition is going up from a policy standpoint.”
Mack sees more efficient resource allocation especially in terms of utilities as the key to making Georgetown more affordable.
“We want to advocate on behalf of the student body to make the university, on a yearly basis, look at every single line item on the budgets of each department and determine at what is the most efficient way to allocate those resources,” Mack said. There’s also a lot we can do with saving money in utilities because that is an area where students have a direct impact and that can positively affect university expenses.”
Mack said evaluating the amount of money that goes into utilities can directly affect access and affordability at Georgetown. Georgetown has spent more than $27 million on utilities in fiscal year 2016, according to the university’s financial statements.
The pair also wants to ensure that the costs of books and laundry, among other day to day expenses, are included in the calculations for financial aid, and that the university increases transparency around tuition increases.
If elected as president, Mack also hopes to work with the university and Aramark to increase off-hours dining options, especially for low-income students. The university renewed its contract with Aramark for 10 years in November, with plans to expand meal exchange options and convert the first floor of O’Donovan Hall into a food court this summer.
The Mack and Andino campaign see dining as an area that can be more affordable. For instance, the two plan to introduce a food pantry for students from low-income backgrounds, among other solutions.
“With the Aramark contract being signed, there are four main things that we need to focus on. The first is to push for more for a meal swipe, because that’s something you can do within the constraints of the contract,” Mack said. “Second is, ensuring that the upcoming changes that are happening in Hoya Court allow you to use meal swipes. For example, if we get Chick-Fil-A, Jessica and I are committed to pushing very hard for meal swipes at Chick-Fil-A because if we have it and you can only use flex, we’d all be sad.”
The new contract calls for expanded dining options, which Mack believes will improve the variety of food available. Mack said the ticket wants to ensure dining options for all students, including more halal and kosher options, are available.
Beyond campus dining, Mack hopes to make groceries and other necessities more accessible and affordable for Georgetown students, in particular those living in apartments or off-campus housing.
The team’s campaign platform includes a number of policies for access to health resources, and mental health and sexual reform.
The Mack and Andino campaign wants to build upon the foundation laid by last year’s survey and memorandum of understanding on sexual assault. The campaign has proposed transparency reports each semester from the Title IX office, containing information on the number of cases initiated and the number of students found guilty of committing sexual misconduct.
The campaign also wants to facilitate easier forms of medical leaves of absence for survivors of sexual assault.
According to Mack, current sexual assault policies should also be revisited to ensure that the Title IX office is as effective as possible.
“One policy we want to work with the administration on is the fact that if a first-semester senior sexually assaults someone on campus, they could take a leave of absence, nothing would happen, they would graduate and then finish the rest of their classes. If someone is not enrolled in the university, you can’t initiate a Title IX process, especially if they have enough credits,” Mack said. “It’s one of those areas where we don’t have definite policy but needs to be addressed.”
The pair’s mental health platform, which includes a provision advocating for the ability of students to drop courses without penalty during their first semester at Georgetown, could provide meaningful change for students, according to Project Lighthouse Founder and President Ben Johnson (NHS ’17).
“I have to give it to Kamar and Jessica as far as having an option that’s effective, but will actually play out within their one year term, they can actually add significant sort of programs and add significant support for this sort of programs,” Johnson said.
McDonough said the campaign wants to take a more holistic approach to student health.
“We are looking at health as not just when you need to go to the health center but student health the way we are approaching it is encompassing everything you need to be a productive, healthy student,” McDonough said. “Mental health, sexual assault reform, accessibility, things like that.”
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