Moving GUSA Past Panache

We must admit that, when newly elected Georgetown University Student Association executives Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan (COL ’16) sent out their first weekly GUSA email, for the first time in years, we read it.

After the satirical campaign that brought Luther and Rohan to power, students had and have high hopes for the both of them. And for the first time, it was entertaining and cheering to see a GUSA email that was willing to poke fun at itself, just as most Georgetown students sometimes enjoy poking fun at GUSA.

Several weekly emails later, people on campus are beginning to think that the novelty is wearing off. And while Luther and Rohan certainly deserve points for trying, there are only so many ways to put a witty spin on resume workshops, cultural events and the like.

Georgetown students can get tired of repetition, and after a good dose of the same content repackaged with a sassy spin, they will once again tune out of GUSA. At the start of campaign season, Luther and Rohan were the most dangerous ticket to the GUSA establishment. Now, the most dangerous thing about them seems to be the ever-growing risk of losing the comedic panache that put them there.

Beyond their comedic panache, Luther and Rohan portrayed themselves as complete GUSA outsiders who were never particularly interested in being a part of the “in-crowd.” The student body didn’t elect a traditional GUSA ticket for a reason.

What Luther and Rohan symbolize to us, then, is not simply GUSA Saturday Night Live, a hip, youthful repackaging of the same old saggy body for a millennial crowd. Students did not give them the executive positions so that they could perform some PR magic, offer us a spoonful of laugh-track sugar in addition to the same old GUSA medicine and go on their merry way.

No, we elected them to significantly change GUSA, which includes how they phrase weekly emails, utilize social media, make any public appearances or even pick their cabinet.

As Luther and Rohan pointed out in their campaign (and as a plurality of the student body agreed), GUSA is undeniably a deeply flawed institution. If you still need any convincing, look at how the negotiation over the 2020 Campus Plan is currently shaping up. Even as students demand change, the administration, influenced in part by neighborhood interest groups, continues to act as if student well-being were the least of their concerns. Decisions made in this process will determine what Georgetown looks like for the next two decades, when members of this year’s freshman class will be turning 42.

GUSA is already trapped between university officials keen to lock students out of the discussion entirely and a student body taking apathy to new heights. Throw in a bunch of neighborhood residents bringing “Our Homes, Not GU’s Dorms” signs out of mothballs, and you have a recipe to replicate the disaster that the 2010 Campus Plan was for undergraduates.

We believe that Luther and Rohan have everything they need to change this. In fact, they are more qualified than any other recent administration to engage the student body and university administrators and to make a significant and positive difference for undergraduates. They bring energy, humility and a deep sense of accountability. Most importantly, they connect to the broader student body in a way that 30 Nate Tisas never could. They wield the student body’s trust in a way that no Stewards ticket ever did.

What is required now, then, is not just a simple repackaging of GUSA. If the campaign was any measure of their ability, Luther and Rohan can do better than being merely the joke on GUSA’s Laffy Taffy wrapper. To live up to their campaign promises, Luther and Rohan must work to reinvent the way Georgetown students perceive and interact with their student government. They can begin by increasing the transparency of the Campus Plan and other activities in a way as accessible and interesting as their campaign.

The last time these columnists voted for a candidate who pledged change, we got disappointment instead. To improve GUSA, Luther and Rohan must work harder to radically reshape it.

Tucker Cholvin and Thomas Christiansen are seniors in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of Culture Clash this semester.

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One Comment

  1. Someone finally said it. While some of their facts are wrong (2018 Campus Plan for instance), I agree with the message. Simply renaming events isn’t going to engage students for a significant period of time and more concerning, their cabinet is huge and filled entirely with GUSA-y people, whether Joe and Connor want to admit it or not. Right now, the only real difference between this administration and the rest are that Joe and Connor are trying so hard not to anger anyone out of fear that they don’t know enough, they simply aren’t being discerning enough to know where to apply energy, which will be a real problem next year

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