In a move organizers say is designed to educate the student body, a group of more than 30 student leaders announced Wednesday that there will begin a campaign to oppose an initiative that would fundamentally change Georgetown’s student government.

Organizers of the group, called Students Against the Yard, say that one of the reasons they have formed is to make sure that students understand the meaning of the upcoming referendum, scheduled for Feb. 26.

“Many students felt it was necessary to educate students about this referendum,” said SAY spokesman Aaron Polkey (COL ’02). He said that the group not only includes GUSA officials, but is also “representative of the student body at large.”

Yard Student Association Spokesperson Matt Brennan (SFS ’03) said that Yard proponents are open to suggestions about its constitution. “The job is to create a better student government,” Brennan said.

Brennan also said that Yard supporters would be willing to defer a referendum on the Yard constitution provided that the GUSA executive election is deferred as well, citing a potential difficulty in generating voter turnout without the executive election.

Polkey said he opposes the Yard is because “not only does it shift power from everyday students to involved students, but it also takes away the vote from so many students.” He said that under the current Yard proposal, freshmen would be able to directly elect any one of the 22 members of the Yard Council, the freshman class committee president.

Under the proposed Yard constitution, the Yard Council would be comprised of the four Yard executives, the presidents of the four academic councils, the presidents of each class committee, the president of InterHall and nine representatives from the Yard Commons.

“We agree that there should be a way for academics and clubs to be a part of student government,” Polkey said. “But we don’t feel that student government should be unified at the expense of everyday representation.”

Brennan said that these concerns could be dealt with during the creation of Yard by-laws. “That’s not anything of substance,” Brennan said.

SAY member Joe Gerics (MSB ’01) said that he is extremely opposed to the Yard. “This is something that needs to be stopped,” he said, noting that when the Yard functioned in the 1960s, there were considerably fewer clubs, and as a result, a system where large clubs have the ability to dominate would not work well now because of the tremendous growth in the number of active clubs.

Gerics also said that he believes the Yard to be backed by the Stewards, Georgetown’s rumored secret society. “I don’t trust people that do things in secret,” Gerics said.

Brennan denied that the Yard is a Steward-sponsored initiative. “I’m the spokesman, and I’m not a Steward,” Brennan said.

Polkey also said that SAY is concerned about the Yard’s proposed funding structure, where 25 percent of the student activities budget would be allocated to a “reserve fund.” A quarter of that 25 percent would be dedicated to a travel fund and to the Lecture Fund, respectively.

“Its not clear whether or not this reserve fund will have enough money to last the whole year,” Polkey said.

According to Polkey, there is also significant room for what he terms “mischief,” including the authority of the Yard president to appoint members of all of the Yard committees without the advice and consent of the Yard Council. “Each new president and each new council has so much unchecked power,” he said. “It could be a revolution every year.”

He also said that SAY has reservations about the ability of dedicated factions from large clubs to dominate the Yard Commons and Convocation and to control the bulk of student activities allocations.

Brennan said that such a scenario was unlikely. “I don’t foresee a small group doing that,” he said. “That’s an argument of fear.”

Polkey said he agrees with organizers of the Yard that GUSA needs to be reformed, but the Yard does not represent the best way to do that.

“It’s not a step in the right direction to create more layers of government,” Polkey said.

Polkey said that SAY initially had concerns about the methods that Yard supporters were using to draw support. “We were concerned about promoting an evolving document to a group of students who didn’t know what they were signing,” he said. “But we are very encouraged that they have been opening up the process.”

“[Reform] shouldn’t be the only thing we talk about every year,” Polkey said. “And that’s why we need a good document this time.”

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