Leaders Say Georgetown Day Lacked Support
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012 10:03
After a late start to preparations threatened this year’s Georgetown Day, students involved in coordination efforts said they believe that the planning of the event needs increased institutional and student support.
The newly inaugurated GUSA executives are spearheading efforts to establish a formal planning committee, stepping in to fill the void left by a lack of clear leadership for the event.
Though the Georgetown University Student Association has traditionally not been involved in the planning of Georgetown Day, GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vice President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) decided to get involved when they were informed that planning for the event had not officially begun shortly before spring break.
“We’re just helping to push the process forward and get more students involved,” Gustafson said.
Applications for the formalized planning committee were released Monday and are due Saturday. According to Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount, about 20 applications have been submitted thus far.
According to former Georgetown Day coordinator Geoffrey Bible (SFS ’12), the majority of the work for planning Georgetown Day occur during the two months before the event, but preparations, including soliciting student interest in the planning committee, typically begin in the fall semester.
This year’s organizers and those of recent Georgetown Days are unable to pinpoint who has historically been responsible for selecting the event’s coordinators. According to Bible, he and his co-coordinators, Harrison Holcomb (NHS ’11) and Ryan Wilson (COL ’12), were chosen as chairs because of their experience planning past Georgetown Days but were not appointed by anyone in particular.
“It just sort of happened,” Bible wrote in an email on behalf of himself and Wilson.
Bible said that once in their positions, he and the other coordinators drafted an email request last fall asking students to apply to the planning committee. No such message, which has traditionally been included in broadcast emails sent by the Center for Student Programs, went out this year.
Bible declined to comment on who he and previous coordinators thought were responsible for selecting students to lead this year’s efforts.
According to Gustafson, the lack of an official, centralizing structure has been a major obstacle for planning efforts. “[Georgetown Day] has never had an institutional home,” she said.
Declining volunteer participation has also been a problem.
“While it completely makes sense that people want to enjoy the day, Georgetown Day is unsustainable without having students supporting the day by volunteering and performing,” Bible wrote. “Without students supporting the day, there is no way for it to happen. It seems to be that people expect Georgetown Day to fall out of the sky, but that’s not how it works. Georgetown Day requires a lot of work and needs students to make it work.”
According to Director of the Center for Student Programs Erika Cohen Derr, 70 of 403 student volunteers in 2010 and 45 of 206 volunteers in 2011 did not report for their scheduled shifts. Last year, only five students signed up to help clean up after the event, the time slot during which Cohen Derr said help was most needed.
Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount said that this is a trend they hope to combat this year.
“If students want to see Georgetown Day continue in good faith in the future … they should really consider volunteering, at least for just an hour,” Kohnert-Yount said.
Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount foresee the planning committee, which will incorporate new applicants by Wednesday, dividing into subcommittees, but they plan to leave the structure of the committee to its members.
The ad hoc planning committee, spearheaded by Maeve Brody (COL ’14), is currently working on putting together a budget for this year’s Georgetown Day that will be submitted to the university offices that have funded the event in past years. The Hoya reported Monday that this year’s celebration will not include a beer garden or inflatables on Healy Lawn for reasons separate from the planning delays.
Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount hope to find an official institutional home for future Georgetown Day planning committees.
“We’re excited about being a part of the conversation about Georgetown Day moving forward,” Kohnert-Yount said.