Amid Referendum Prep, GUSA Letter Disappears
Published: Friday, September 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 02:09
A banner in Red Square urging Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson to change the evidentiary standard in the Code of Student Conduct went missing Tuesday, according to a Georgetown University Student Association press release.
The banner included an abridged version of GUSA’s open letter to Olson. It was hung up Monday so that students could sign their names to show their support for a proposal to raise the evidentiary standard from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing,” except in cases of sexual assault. It is also part of GUSA’s effort to raise student awareness of the upcoming referendum on the issue, which will take place Sept. 27.
According to the press release, the banner, two poster boards and three permanent markers disappeared from Red Square before 8 a.m. Tuesday, and the Office of Campus Activities and Facilities denied responsibility for removing the items.
“We are dismayed that, for whatever reason, someone has chosen to stifle free expression on this extremely important issue,” the release read.
GUSA Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) said she believed someone must have deliberately removed the banner.
“It’s very unlikely that it blew away,” she said. “I’m very sad about it. It was student money that went into that poster.”
GUSA replaced the letter with a new banner, which hung in Red Square until it blew away Thursday.
Voting on the evidentiary standard referendum will occur concurrently with GUSA senate elections. Students will be required to vote for GUSA senators before they are able to vote in the referendum.
According to GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13), because the referendum must receive at least 2,000 votes to pass, the decision to hold the two votes concurrently should raise the profile of the senate elections, which have typically attracted relatively low voter turnout.
Although the referendum will not carry the authority to alter the evidentiary standard, both Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount emphasized that the referendum’s influence should not be overlooked.
Gustafson referred to an instance in January 2007 in which the administration chose not to ban kegs from Georgetown housing after a majority of students rejected the proposal in a fall 2006 GUSA referendum.
“Let’s say, if 2,000 students vote and 90 percent of them vote yes, it’s that much harder for the administration to justify a decision when such an overwhelming number of students know what’s in their best interest and express that,” Kohnert-Yount said.
George Spyropoulos (COL ’14), a member of the Speech and Expression Committee’s external board, agreed that the referendum will give students the opportunity to grasp more leverage in the evidentiary standard debate.
“I was glad to see that, after meeting with students from all four years, they all had the same enthusiasm and support for the referendum,” Spyropoulos said. “I think it’s very important for GUSA to give the [students] an opportunity to raise their voices.”
Olson, who has delayed making a final decision on the change until the Office of Student Conduct undergoes an external review in October, said last week that he has received student input and understands the urgency of the matter.
“Student leaders have been very eager to see a final decision on that. I understand that eagerness. I understand the importance of the issue,” he said. “It’s my judgment that it makes the most sense to fold that question into this review, since we’re very quickly doing this comprehensive review.”
Olson said he will decide whether to raise the standard by mid-October.
“It’s not something that will take a long time after the review, but I do want a little bit of time to talk with the reviewers and digest that after they’re here,” Olson said.