Georgetown University Student Association President-elect Kamar Mack (COL ’19) and Vice President-elect Jessica Andino (COL ’18) won the Feb. 23 executive election with the narrowest victory in recent history of 34 votes.
Mack and Andino are entering GUSA with a series of priorities: making a Georgetown education more affordable, ensuring GUSA is inclusive of all students and advocating for students on issues from entrepreneurship to student health.
As the pair begins the process of setting up its executive team, they discussed the need to bring the student body together following the election, the policies they will address in their first 100 days in office and the importance of addressing free speech on Georgetown’s campus.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Your election victory was the closest in recent history. How do you plan to bridge the gap between those who supported the GUSA “establishment” and tickets like yourself and candidates John Matthews (COL ’18) and Nick Matz (COL ’18)?
Andino: We ran on a platform that we want to represent everyone. And we do acknowledge that it was a close race, so we definitely want people who worked in other campaigns because they bring a valuable perspective, a lot of people have a lot of knowledge in GUSA. There are a lot of people who want to get involved in GUSA and advocate for an issue that they care about. So, we are reaching out to other campaigns, we’re still trying to figure out our application process, gauge interest on who’s interested in working in our administration, but right now we’re making strategies to reach out — we are reaching out right now but keep reaching out to campaigns and their staff.
Mack: Building off that, Jessica and I would love to take into account the different visions and different initiatives that each campaign focused on and incorporate the good of each of those visions. So, we ran on a very specific platform, with three planks, and obviously, we had other areas that we wanted to improve at Georgetown as well. But our big goal is to take into account sort of what really drew students’ attention to each individual campaign, and ensure that in our administration we address all of those needs, and that’s going to require, like Jessica said, bringing in people from every single ticket as well as ensuring that we keep meeting with different communities, and keep meeting with students and understanding what students want to see GUSA do.
How do you plan to approach diversity in GUSA?
Andino: First of all, this is why we haven’t released our application. We want to be very intentional with who we reach out to, that people have enough time to come to learn about GUSA and our vision and if they’re interested in applying to our administration, we want to make sure that our outreach reaches as many students as possible. And that’s one of the reasons I got involved in GUSA, because someone from Hoyas for Immigrant Rights told me the administration in GUSA is looking for someone for undocumented student inclusivity. That got my interest. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have gotten involved. That’s why we want to structure our application where we can get a holistic perspective of a student and reaching out to student organizations.
Mack: I want to note that we look at diversity in every way that the concept applies. So, we want to make sure we have gender diversity, racial diversity, socio-economic diversity, sexual orientation diversity, we want to make sure that we have a GUSA that is as diverse as the student body, and that’s something that is near and dear to our heart. And that’s something that is often said, but it’s been difficult to ensure that it happens in the past. Like Jessica said we are going to be very intentional about our marketing and make sure that every single community on campus knows what GUSA does, because a lot of times you have different areas of GUSA and different things that would interest students but if they don’t understand sort of what GUSA does too often there’s an information gap that will prevent someone from applying. So that’s something that we want to tackle.
What policies do you plan to implement in your first 100 days in office?
Mack: We should jump straight into affordability, because that was the main tenet of our platform. And as we’ve stated, we look at affordability in a very multifaceted way: So, it’s not as simple as just tuition. It’s every single line on the cost of attendance. And the biggest way that GUSA can play a role in affordability long term is by pressuring the university to be more deliberate and more frugal in its various spending policies. So, having an open and honest conversation with administrators and saying, ‘are there areas on campus where we can save money without sacrificing the welfare of the school?’ So, asking questions like, ‘are there administrators who do the same job?’ And, ‘are there different departments that serve the same purpose?’ These are questions and these are conversations that we will be having and these are ways that we, as a university, can save money. And the other piece is looking at the hidden cost of Georgetown. One thing that we really need to do as GUSA is facilitate partnerships with neighboring businesses where students spend money. And especially with the new GUTS routes that are coming, Safeway and Trader Joe’s are going to get even more Georgetown foot traffic than they do now. We have a vision, we want to see you being able to walk into Safeway with your GOCard and getting more discounts than come with a Safeway card. We are establishing a team within GUSA dedicated solely to that process, working with grocery stores, dry cleaners, all types of businesses like that.
Andino: Something more concrete; right now the current GUSA administration has been helping out in making a student health center roundtable, it’s going to take place March 22. So, we’re both working with Enushe [Khan (MSB ’17)] and Chris [Fisk (COL ’17)] and people who have been helping to create this event, since by the 22nd, that will be officially under our administration. So that’s one of the things that’s happening. Also, this is a conversation with someone I had from the transfer council but right now the transfer council, the administration doesn’t fund the admitted students’ day for transfer students in June. We’re still working out the funding, finding out all the information, but at least for this summer since that’s coming up very soon we want to have the transfer council to at least have some source of funding to make that happen.
The senate restructuring referendum would have passed. Do you plan to hold another referendum? How do you plan to address restructuring during your term?
Andino: I think that would be a conversation that we have with the senate Speaker and Vice Speaker, since they were the ones who led that effort. We want to bring people from the yes campaign, the no campaign, to brainstorm ways that it can be done better. There’s also the election task force, that we’re trying to find ways that a referendum like that would not get invalidated. We want to do it good the first time.
Is the broader Student Health/Wellness Advisory Board the right approach to addressing student health at Georgetown, and how do you envision GUSA working with them? More broadly, what are your first semester goals for student health?
Mack: One benefit the Student Wellness Advisory Board will create is sort of a centralized avenue for Dr. WinklerPrins and other administrators who want to assess student needs and student concerns for wellness generally on campus, it will create a one stop shop for all that feedback to be in one place. And so, we plan to engage very closely with that advisory board, just because it’s another way where we can relay student concerns and push for policy. But as Maura [McDonough COL ’18] mentioned the way we see things working on the exec side is we are going to be pushing very specific institutional changes that affect these various conversations that are going on in the Student Wellness Advisory Board. So, one thing we mentioned for strengthening the safety net on campus, which is big for mental health, is that we’re going to be advocating for retroactive course withdrawals for mental illnesses. So that’s a very specific policy area that will be handled by the chair on the exec side, and that falls under the exec’s umbrella when they would be coordinating with the Student Wellness Advisory Board. So that’s sort of how we envision that relationship working. We’re excited to see how things play out, and we’re very much the type of people who are just generally speaking open minded and willing to adapt and willing to work with different people, and we also want to establish good relationships with administrators especially in the various health departments on campus just because it’s such an important issue area for us.
Free speech is a large discussion on campus and nationally. What will your approach be to navigate the conversations around free speech? Are the free speech forums we’ve been having the right approach to the issue?
Andino: And the campus was ranked one of the worst places for free speech. So, we want to find a middle ground so we aren’t one of the worst places for free speech, and hopefully our free speech team, we get applicants that will want to work with that and work with administrators and the speech and expression committee to make it a better place for everyone to express their view but at the same time to find a line between free expression and harassment, because we don’t want people to feel unsafe or feel threatened, but we want people to promote dialogue.
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