GUCD Dominates GUSA Staff
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 22:09
The progressive platform of GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) aligned with the ideals of many Georgetown University College Democrats members this past campaign season, a factor that played a role in recent executive staff appointments.
Seven of the 14 Georgetown University Student Association’s executive staff members were at one point active members of GUCD, and six held leadership positions in the organization. Kohnert-Yount was also the group’s previous president.
The GUSA executive branch is divided into staff and cabinet members. Applicants for cabinet positions were drawn from the entire student body and approved by the GUSA senate in March, while all staff members were directly appointed by Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount.
According to GUSA Chief of Staff Jake Sticka (COL ’13), former vice president of GUCD, it is common for GUSA executives to choose staff members from among their personal acquaintances.
“You know certain people on campus, and when selecting a staff … you’re going to go based on some of the people you know already,” Sticka said.
Kohnert-Yount agreed with Sticka’s comment, acknowledging that staff selection was based on the executives’ existing knowledge of applicants.
“We built our staff based on people that we knew were capable,” Kohnert-Yount said.
According to Sticka, the themes of the campaign were compatible with the values of many Democrats, and the number of GUCD members on the staff reflects enthusiasm for that platform.
“I think it’s fair to say a lot of the platform initiatives that we outlined during the campaign are those that are in line with some things that Democrats might agree with,” Sticka said. “And that’s the campaign that we ran, and that’s the campaign that won the election and that’s how we’re going to govern.”
But Sticka emphasized that applicants’ political ideologies were not factored into the appointment process.
“Trying to suggest that people in our cabinet and staff are some how screened for partisanship isn’t reflected in the reality of who’s been selected,” he said.
Several executive staff members indicated that the number of members from GUCD — half of the staff — accurately reflects the population of the student body that participates in the club. According to Director of Communications and GUCD member Michael Madoff (SFS ’13), membership on GUCD’s listserv currently hovers around 2,700 students, more than 35 percent of the undergraduate population.
“It’s important to remember that College Dems is the biggest organization on campus,” Madoff said.
Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount’s GUSA platform also drew wide support from GUCD members during the campaign.
“I thought their platform was really great in terms of recognizing that LGBTQ students have certain needs at Georgetown that aren’t being met,” Deputy Chief of Staff and College Democrats member Lisa Frank (COL ’13) said.
“I had this perception that [GUSA] was [a] very white male insiders club — definitely not the kind of organization I saw myself being in,” Frank said. “But I was really excited to knock on doors in the [Southwest] Quad to talk about what it meant for me to have two progressive candidates running.”
In fact, the administration’s staff selections featured four women in addition to the two female executives. The previous GUSA administration included only one female staff member.
Director of SAFE Reform Implementation Colton Malkerson (COL ’13), who ran against Gustafson in the presidential election, pointed out that it was not surprising to see GUCD members on the executive staff.
“I don’t think it’s unexpected to see some of the staff comprised either of former or current members of the College Dems,” Malkerson said. “I don’t think their campaign was presented as though they weren’t going to be a slightly more progressive executive.”