A High-Stakes GUSA Race
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012 21:02
The Georgetown University Student Association actually matters these days. For some of the juniors and seniors on campus, that's still a tough fact to handle. We've seen too many elections with no candidates and too many first-place votes for "Chicken Madness." But it's true — after Student Activities Fee Endowment reform, GUSA will oversee the spending of $3.4 million in funding. These student leaders now have control over a sizable chunk of money, and what they do with it will shape life on the Hilltop for years to come.
Now more than ever, we need to choose leaders who will guide our changing, burgeoning student government through what may prove to be a sort of adolescence, a period of growth and transformation.
We need three things from this new leadership: excellent communication, a ticket that combines GUSA fluency with an outsider's perspective and leaders with a sense of where GUSA fits in Georgetown's broader mission and identity.
First, we need good communicators and motivators. It's not enough for the executive to be effective by creating new programs. The Social Innovation and Public Service Fund won't be effective, for instance, if the students who run social justice initiatives are unaware of potential funding. Our leaders must bridge this gap between creation and successful marketing. We also need individuals who can motivate participation in GUSA and related initiatives among people who are not involved in the student association's often-closed milieu. It's this wider, outside involvement that escapes the GUSA bubble and will create an effective executive in the future.
Second, we need leaders who draw their experience from outside of GUSA — officers from other campus groups — to be able to work with GUSA-experienced students to navigate the student association's often complex framework with an outsider's perspective. Too often, GUSA leaders are so caught up in the inner workings of the organization itself, they fail to bring outside experience to bear on their decisions. Ideally, a ticket will include one GUSA insider and one person with a fresher perspective, as several of this year's tickets do. Such a ticket would balance a staff member who is adept at navigating the procedural mazes of GUSA with a leader from another campus organization — like the International Relations Club, The Hoya, College Republicans or Democrats — with little or no GUSA experience. This individual can bring an outside perspective to bear on what GUSA does to improve the student body.
Third, the new leadership needs to have an understanding of what Georgetown is, where the institution is going and where GUSA fits into this picture. Our new leaders must understand what Georgetown's Catholic and Jesuit identity mean for our student leadership and must keep these aspects of the university in mind when deciding policy. A great example of an outcome of this quality is the SIPS fund — an initiative that uses GUSA funding to complement Georgetown's Jesuit-animated dedication to social justice and public service.
Put simply, I believe we need a new type of GUSA leadership. We need a movement toward a new brand of GUSA senators and executives. The Meaney-Laverierre administration has had much success moving in this direction: They handled the SAFE reform professionally and transparently by seeking and creating forums for feedback at every point in the process. The leadership we will elect next Thursday needs to continue this virtuous cycle, using communication, outside experience and a sense of the university's core identity to lead us into the future.
Hopefully, if they do, we could see a time where "Chicken Madness" only receives votes on a Wisey's review on Yelp.
Pat Gavin is a junior in the College.