The Georgetown University Student Association established the Student Leadership Fund on Sunday as a resource to support students with demonstrated financial need who are interested in participating in campus elections.
Applicants who meet the fund’s qualifications will be granted up to $25 to use for reimbursable expenses, in addition to funding for print cards and candy in campaigning.
The SLF, which aims to make student leadership more accessible to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, will go into effect starting this election cycle with the GUSA senate elections. Students who are running for senate, Academic Councils, Hall Councils or any other student office will be able to apply for the fund.
Students can request access to campaign funding anonymously through HoyaLink after indicating which office they would like to run for. Applications will be processed by the Center for Student Engagement, which will also handle the distribution of the funds.
GUSA Deputy Chief of Staff Reed Howard (SFS ’17) said that he started the SLF to address a perceived lack of awareness of socioeconomic issues on campus. Last semester, Howard led a series of conversations on ways to increase diversity within GUSA and other leadership positions on campus.
“One issue raised during this time was that of socioeconomic diversity,” Howard wrote in an email to The Hoya. “There is no doubt that a student’s socioeconomic status can be a barrier to getting involved with student activities on campus, whether it is in elected or non-elected positions.”
Howard said that although the SLF is a promising first step in increasing the diversity of student leaders at Georgetown, there is a lot of work left to do.
“My hope is that as a result of this Fund, it is easier for students of all socio-economic backgrounds to run for office on campus,” Howard wrote. “While the Student Leadership Fund will likely be appreciated assistance for some, I cannot stress enough how inadequate the Fund is in addressing the true issues of socio-economic diversity among student life on the Hilltop.”
According to GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16), the SLF can help to correct assumptions that many students make about the socioeconomic classes of other students.
“People assume a lot of the time that those around them are of higher socioeconomic status when that is not the case,” Rohan said.
GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16) agreed that students are often unaware of their peers’ backgrounds.
“Socioeconomic status is something people do not talk about very much here, [and] I think there is the unfortunate assumption that everybody comes from a wealthy or privileged background,” Luther said.
Rohan also said that students currently do not know the socioeconomic diversity of Georgetown and do not realize the difficulty that some students may have with participation in certain activities on campus.
“This is a step toward being cognizant of that socioeconomic diversity that we have here, and making sure that everyone is granted an opportunity when they come to Georgetown,” Rohan said.
Luther said it is important that students do not feel excluded from campus elections on the basis of their socioeconomic status. Instead, he said that they should feel free to showcase their leadership skills and qualifications regardless of their background.
“I think that in some ways this will move the conversation in a positive direction,” Luther said. “I hope that the fund serves as a message to the student body that we are only interested in peoples’ potentials to lead, not what their wallets say.”
More than 55 percent of Georgetown students applied for need-based aid in 2014, and more than 38 percent received aid.
Howard said that GUSA has more plans to address the barriers of socioeconomic status this year. The Student Leadership Fund is the first initiative of #InclusiveLeadership, a project addressing diversity in student leadership that will kick off next month.
After that, Reed said he hopes to create a student leadership fellowship, which will aid students who wish to make voluntary contributions to the school but do not have the financial resources to do so.
Howard encouraged all who are interested in addressing the issues of economic diversity on campus to participate in these initiatives.
“I invite all Hoyas who are interested in this initiative or have ideas of their own to reach out and help bring about change,” Howard wrote. “This is a time for creativity and a time for action.”
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