GUSA Sparks Widespread Discussions
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 20:04
During a year characterized by a seven-candidate presidential election with record-breaking turnout and a delayed start to Georgetown Day planning, student interest has surged in the Georgetown University Student Association.
In February, then-GUSA senators Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) won the executive election with over 57 percent of the vote in the sixth round of instant runoff voting. The election saw the highest turnout for any GUSA vote to date with over 3,000 ballots cast, and for the first time in GUSA history, more than 50 percent of the student body participated in a single election or referendum.
But the race itself proved just as dramatic as the record-breaking election.
Sophomore point guard Markel Starks (COL ’14) ran for vice president on a ticket with GUSA senator Daniel LaMagna (COL ’13), marking the second consecutive executive race in which a basketball player has vied for the vice presidency. The pair received the fewest votes of the seven tickets, however.
Further controversy arose when a large American flag made of campaign posters for former GUSA senator Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) and former Director of Executive Outreach Maggie Cleary (COL ’14) was spray-painted with the words “U.S. WANTED FOR MURDER!” the weekend before the election.
Despite the tension of the seven-way race, Gustafson said she was proud of the way the election captured the attention of students.
“All the different candidates were out there talking to people and engaging with each other,” she said. “It was a hub of energy about student activity at Georgetown.”
After their March 17 inauguration, Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount began to form their executive cabinet, which includes three new positions: secretaries of social justice, campus ministry and academic affairs.
The executive pair also appointed Student Activities Commission Chair Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) to be director of Student Life Report implementation to ensure that the recommendations listed in the 60-page report, released by the previous GUSA executive administration in late February, are gradually put into action.
The report, which investigated the five student organization funding boards and academic life at Georgetown, is the first broad set of recommendations for improving student life since 1999.
Among the suggestions in this year’s report, Appelbaum has prioritized centralizing the student room booking process and increasing student space.
Many of the report’s recommendations, including the hiring of a professional director of club sports and adding satellite offices for the Center for Social Justice, will require significant cooperation from the university and student group leaders.
Report Committee Chair Shuo Yan Tan (SFS ’12) suggested, however, that the document is intended to prompt constructive conversations rather than provide a specific course of action.
“The recommendations are specific … but this is just a small inkling of the possibilities,” Yan Tan said at the time of the report’s official release. “Ultimately, there’s so much more that can be done.”
Discussion was certainly sparked in March when it became apparent that little planning had been done for this year’s Georgetown Day. According to Gustafson, the lack of planning was brought to her attention at her first meeting with administrators.
While in previous years GUSA had never been involved in the organization of the celebration, it quickly formed an ad hoc Georgetown Day planning committee, spearheaded by Maeve Brody (COL ’14). Though there will be no beer garden or inflatables this year, the committee has worked to ensure that the live performances, free food and lawn games that have come to define the day’s events will still be present. This year, there will also be barricades around the events on Copley Lawn and additional hired security to secure the area.
“I think the administration and students both realize that it is a very important celebratory day for our community and our student body,” Gustafson said.