DC Students Speak Muted on Hilltop
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 02:09
Though the Georgetown chapter of advocacy group D.C. Students Speak has remained involved in registering students to vote, its presence on campus has receded in the wake of the resolution of the 2010 Campus Plan.
DCSS is a nonpartisan group that seeks to amplify the student voice in the political arena. The group is composed of representatives of seven core universities in the D.C. area, including Georgetown, American University, Howard University, Catholic University of America, Trinity University, the University of the District of Columbia and George Washington University.
This election cycle, a total of eight students are set to run for Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats throughout the District. As a result, DCSS is primarily focused on registering students to vote in D.C., according to Michael Panek, a junior at American University and chairman of their DCSS chapter.
“For the longest time, we haven’t seen much of a college voice,” he said. “One of our main goals is to register students to vote in the District so that our officials have a reason to listen to us the next time a big policy change comes along.”
Scott Stirrett (SFS ’13), former DCSS co-founder and former chairman, has been heavily involved in Georgetown’s voter registration efforts and feels that the organization has been successful in registering students within the District.
“A lot of college students have decided to register locally, and I think that that’s not just because of DCSS but because of a lot of people who have done a lot of work on this [voter registration push],” Stirrett said.
Two of the eight potential student seats are from Georgetown, marking the first time in 10 years that the university is likely to have a second student commissioner on ANC 2E.
Stirrett said that over 700 people have registered to vote this year using the new software TurboVote and estimated that around 40 percent had registered in D.C.
DCSS had hoped to increase its presence on campus this semester, but plans to table during the Student Activities Fair fell through. Instead, the group has been relying on alternative methods for spreading awareness.
“Most of our recruitment is either done through our website or through word of mouth,” Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), chair of Georgetown’s DCSS chapter, said. “We try and reach out through other political clubs on campus to let other students who might be interested in politics know.”
Stirrett acknowledged that the group currently plays a quiet role on campus, as it cannot currently endorse any candidates or parties in the election.
“I think holding more … tangible [and] specific public events is something that’s beneficial to do,” he suggested. “What I think would be really cool is looking towards 2014, which would be the next D.C. mayoral election.”
DCSS has maintained a close relationship with the Georgetown University College Democrats, cosponsoring speaker events such as one featuring D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells last year.
Though the group’s partnerships with the Georgetown University Student Association and GUCD have been effective in increasing voter registration, DCSS has little in the way of plans after the election.
Tezel said that the group is still trying to bring Councilmember Jack Evans to campus to speak, after the event scheduled for last year was cancelled.
“We’re hoping that soon we will hear from him so he’ll come to Georgetown University and field some of our concerns,” Tezel said.
“[Evans’] office has not responded to previous overtures of ours to discuss issues like town-gown relations and the noise ordinance,” Tezel wrote in an email. “We’re hoping that his view will change because Georgetown University represents a sizable constituency in his district.”
Stirrett also suggested a mayoral forum that would allow different candidates to explain their views and answer questions.
“It’ll be … interesting going forward. I can picture it being quieter now that the campus plan is resolved,” Stirrett said. “New issues always come up, and I think we’ll shift a little bit, since that was something we focused on since the beginning.”