GUSA came a long way over the past year. The Student Association is still not perfect, but outgoing GUSA President Twister Murchison deserves credit for improving that organization’s image and productivity, and leaving us with an organization that looks radically different than when he took the helm a year ago. His success provides valuable lessons for how GUSA can succeed in the future, as well as how it should seek credit for its achievements.

For evidence of GUSA’s success one need look no further than this year’s elections. Last February’s presidential contest saw a lengthy and complex set of bylaws, which led to the disqualification of the winner of a plurality of votes and a drawn-out, contentious appeals process. The result was that the administration began its work later than expected and with very little political capital. Those old bylaws were scrapped and replaced with a shorter, simpler set of rules. This year’s candidates had the opportunity to openly discuss their ideas and concerns, and Ben Shaw’s victory was uncontested.

An amendment to reform GUSA won an impressive 3,000 votes and gave students an opportunity to say how GUSA should function.

The change from Assembly to Senate happened too recently to offer a final evaluation. But the greater number of representatives and the new committee structure have the potential to make the Senate the effective arm of GUSA that the Assembly never was. The Senate must work with the newly elected president to achieve practical results for students. If the Senate gets too caught up with imaginary checks and balances or esoteric legislation it will be a failure. The Senate’s responsibility to allocate the Student Activities Fee is a real power, and if used responsibly, it could bring more real decision-making authority to GUSA.

What Murchison’s administration lacked in political capital, it made up for in results. Beyond internal reform, urchison and his team built upon the work of his predecessor and successfully lobbied the university to bring more weekend GUTS bus service to campus.

Murchison used his position as president of GUSA effectively when the campus keg ban was under consideration, presenting a compelling, well-researched case in favor of the students’ position. He used the vote on the keg ban to demonstrate that the student community was indeed united in their opposition, and he was one of the loudest voices to reach the ears of Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson.

These successes provide an important lesson about how GUSA can be effective. Students should understand that GUSA does not have a budget to pay for GUTS service or the prerogative to approve changes to the student Code of Conduct. Members of GUSA cannot simply say, “We got weekend GUTS service,” or “We blocked the keg ban.”

The university retains the power to set meal plans, control add/drop and install wireless access points. The most GUSA can do is organize students to show the administration that there is a strong desire for change and present realistic plans for improvement. When GUSA claims successes beyond the limits of its authority, its descriptions of its own achievements create unrealistic and damaging expectations.

What GUSA does is lobby the university on behalf of students. This is most successful when knowledgeable, creative lobbying is backed up by strong support from the whole student body. Murchison proved that success is possible.

With an uncontested, landslide victory, Ben Shaw (COL `08) and Matthew Appenfeller (COL ’08) are well-positioned to build on Murchison’s success and demand more changes to improve student life.

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