Of the candidates in this year’s Georgetown University Student Association election, John Matthews (COL ’18) and Nick Matz (COL ’18) have presented students with the shortest platform, which includes a total of 10 policy points.
The platform consists of policies designed to reduce the cost of attending Georgetown, including eliminating the student activities fee, eliminating the Student Neighborhood Assistant Program and introducing oversight of textbook costs.
In addition, the platform pledges to eliminate the three-year housing requirement and cancel random drug-testing for student athletes by the university.
Matthews said reducing the cost of attendance is an issue that affects all students.
“It’s universal, it affects everybody by mitigating costs students have to pay,” Matthews said.
The limited size of the platform does not reflect a lack of commitment to other issues that may affect students, according to Matz.
“The reasons our platform is so narrow is, that’s the goal, as executives,” Matz said. “That’s something that we will make our mission. There are tons of issues on campus. Just because that’s not our primary focus doesn’t mean we won’t do a good job.”
The pair also said they hope their platform appeals to students who may not historically vote in GUSA elections.
“There’s a big disconnect right now between GUSA and the student body,” Matthews said. “We believe we have the ability to represent people who normally don’t participate in GUSA and what GUSA does to the table. We can represent these people.”
Decreasing the size of GUSA plays a significant role in the pair’s platform, as a continuation of their efforts to decrease costs.
The ticket’s proposed budget for GUSA would see about a 28 percent decrease in GUSA’s operating budget, from $21,800 to $15,667.54.
However, the budget does see a 233 percent increase, from $150 to $500, for the Student Advocacy Office alongside smaller increases for online peer-support group Project Lighthouse and Multicultural Week. The GUSA Election Commission sees the greatest reduction in funding, from $400 to $19.72.
“This goes back to the goal of our platform, but throwing more money at a problem will not fix it,” Matthews said. “Our leadership style is one we’re going to expect a lot from people in GUSA to follow through on tasks. If you’re in GUSA, you’re there to serve the community.”
The two are proposing the elimination of the $79.50 student activity fee. According to Matz, moving to more individualized funding for each club would be a more effective solution to club funding.
“There are some clubs that would really benefit from just the participation fee rather than just an overarching $80 fee for all students. That way funds are going directly to what students are involved in without the middle-man,” Matz said. “That way clubs that have a lot of members can have more funds.”
The two are open to compromise on the proposal, however.
“We are still up for compromise because there are certainly clubs that need more funding and don’t have a certain number of funding, so we are open to compromise. But that is the direction we are heading,” Matthews said. “More individualized, focused club funding.”
The pair’s planned elimination of the student activity fee could change the role of the senate, whose current primary focus is appropriating the student activities budget.
“You get to hear a lot of upperclassman and lowerclassman thoughts and it’s definitely valuable to have that discussion and dialogue we think in the senate,” Matthews said. “There definitely will be some role for the senate, just what it is we will find out.”
The inclusion of these largely austerity-focused policies comes at the expense of issues central to most past and current GUSA candidates. Noticeably, the duo’s platform does not include topics such as mental health, sexual assault policy and diversity and inclusivity.
However, the pair said it will commit to addressing issues students care about.
“GUSA represents student interests, and if student interests are sexual assault and mental health, that’s what we have to do,” Matthews said. “The spirit of Georgetown, of course we have to address those issues.”
In the vice presidential debate Wednesday evening, Matz said the pair would look to cost-effectively increase Counseling and Psychiatric Services resources for students.
“Just looking at the current staff that is there, there’s a dozen clinical psychologists and psychiatrists and there’s only one licensed clinical social worker and one licensed independent clinical social worker,” Matz said. “What that means is that those two social workers provide a very comparable level of treatment to the psychologists and psychiatrists at a fraction of the cost.”
This policy could be challenging to execute, according to Project Lighthouse President and Co-Founder Benjamin Johnson (NHS ’17), as CAPS has no more room in its offices available for staff.
Johnson said while the lack of specific mental health policy is disappointing, the team’s inclusion of increased funding for Project Lighthouse is promising.
“I like the fact that the other campaigns have mental health problems, but in my mind I don’t know that the Matthew/Matz campaign is not necessarily thinking about mental health since they have included it as a line in their budget.”
The pair’s proposals to eliminate the three-year housing plan and require residents to pay for SNAPs could face the most challenges if the pair were elected to office.
The university and neighborhood signed a legally binding 20-year Campus Plan in September, which contains the university’s three-year housing requirement. According to former Area Neighborhood Commissioner Reed Howard (COL ’17), who participated in negotiations for the campus plan, this makes eliminating the three-year housing requirement impossible.
“It is locked into a 20-year legally binding agreement, and this is one of the neighbors’ favorite parts of the agreement. There is no way this would ever be renegotiated in the next GUSA administration, or ever within the next 20 years,” Howard said.
Howard said using SNAPs, despite being cost effective for the university to offer at a lower cost than being required to pay Washington, D.C. property taxes to use District services, is advantageous for students.
“I would rather the neighbors call SNAP then have them call MPD, it is much better to deal with the school disciplinary system than get a 61D citation,” Howard said.
According to Matz, students should not have to bear the costs of this service.
“They do great work and they have an important role but the costs should not be reflected on Georgetown students if their main benefactor is the neighborhood,” Matz said.
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