This year’s Georgetown University Student Association executive race — comprised only of the Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Chris Fisk (COL ’17) ticket after Tony Pezzullo (MSB ’17) and A.J. Serlemitsos (COL ’17) dropped out of the race yesterday — marks a significant departure from past GUSA elections as potentially the first race with a single ticket in GUSA history.
Six presidential and vice presidential pairings ran in the 2015 executive election, three pairs ran in 2014 and five pairs ran in 2013.
According to past and present GUSA presidents and vice presidents, this year’s single-ticket election cannot be attributed to any one cause.
Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), former GUSA president in 2013-14, said election seasons seem to be cyclical.
“Things get very, very intense for a while and then for a variety of reasons, it ends up being a situation like you have this year, with maybe one large team that has a lot of different people working with them, and eventually they will all run against each other in future years,” Tisa said.
Tisa also noted the difficult nature of campaigning as a potential factor for this year’s single-ticket election.
“I think campaigning is very, very difficult. You are students, and grades are still important. People want to go to grad school, to law school, do things in the future and everyone knows that because it has been so competitive grades are going to suffer and that you might get into fights with friends, that the campus media will write mean things about you,” Tisa said.
Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), GUSA president in 2014-15, said he anticipates that the campaign this year will be vastly different from last year’s as a result of the student body’s choice of a satirical ticket.
“What I think happened last year was that that model [of election] suddenly showed some kind of structural problems in terms of students viewing it as an inappropriate way for student government to be interacting with students through the election process,” Tezel said. “I think they said ‘let’s go back to the drawing board’ in terms of how GUSA is reaching out to the students, and I think they chose the Luther-Rohan ticket in part because they wanted to change the way that GUSA communicated with the student body.”
Current GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16) said a series of factors led to other campaigns choosing not to run.
“I know of a ticket that fell apart. I know of a ticket that decided to run and then decided it wouldn’t be good for his social relationships. I know somebody who decided that it would be too much work to put in,” Rohan said.
Current GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16) said this year’s single-ticket election could not be confirmed as a consequence of one particular factor.
“I think it’s just an anomaly. I’ve heard some people say that the satirical victory last year made people disinterested in putting in all the work to run a campaign for the executive and others say that it made those already in GUSA put aside their differences and join together,” Luther said. “That’s all purely speculative though and I’m inclined to think it boils down to chance.”
According to Rohan, the single-ticket race was likely the result of the Khan-Fisk ticket managing to develop and consolidate a strong following early on.
“I think Chris and Enushe got in the door so early that they consolidated. Their campaign staff is over 200 — that’s huge. Last year, the biggest ticket was in the 70s and that was even really big. The people that would have been spread across the various campaigns have already been centralized,” Rohan said.
Khan said the smaller amount of tickets seen in the 2016 election is a reflection of past GUSA contests.
“I think that in terms of low turnout, and or having seen a decrease in tickets this year, it’s not surprising after seeing what happened last year,” Khan said. “I think it reflects in some ways a lot of the things we want to address with what we’re not liking about GUSA.”
Tezel said strong organization has also been an important factor in making this year’s election a single ticket, a quality that could translate well into the future GUSA administration.
“There is always a possibility, and I think a very real one, that they started at the right time to consolidate support among many of the student organizations and student interest groups in order to create a really effective candidacy and ticket that wasn’t going to be challenged,” Tezel said. “If that is the case, I think we as students should be really looking forward to them taking that organizational prowess and translating it into a GUSA administration and to administrative advocacy.”
Tezel said the preparation for his campaign began early. He found his running mate Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) by November and started to put together a core team at the end of the fall semester.
“Really, that was out of necessity and around the same time that all the other tickets started to form. It was important to do that because there is a lot that needs to be done beforehand like getting input from student groups in order to craft a policy,” Tezel said. “It’s not something that you can really do in just a couple of weeks time.”
According to Tezel, the single-ticket election has both positive and negative consequences, citing unity in the student body as well as a decrease in dialogue.
“I think it’s positive that there won’t be some of the division among students around a particular issue that you see during campaigns, because I think it’s really important to have a united front when pushing ideas toward the administration and sometimes the scars of a campaign can make that less effective,” Tezel said. “Will it mean that there’s fewer ideas being exchanged? Yes, I think that is where students probably lose the most.”
Tisa said the impact on students depends on how Khan and Fisk run their campaign.
“They are clearly in a leading position so that means they can really decide on how they want to proceed. They can be as detailed as they want, and they can give voters things to think about,” Tisa said. “Choice is always important.”
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