Over the last few weeks, a group of students has come together in an effort to bring authoritative student governance back to Georgetown University.

Until the 1960s, the Yard functioned as a student government so formidable that even those with their hands in the university’s pockets listened to the students’ wants and needs. But in 1968, a few shortsighted freshmen brought down the long standing Yard in favor of an ineffectual system similar to those used in many high schools. Since that time, the student government has undergone frequent changes, including altering the basic administrative structure three times in the last 16 years.

The current GUSA system consists of 16 voting representatives, with four students from each class forming the assembly. If brought back into power, the Yard would utilize a different, more effective system for representing the student body. The Executive Council of the Yard would consist of four class representatives, four Academic Council presidents, one housing representative and nine representatives elected by student organizations on campus. The Yard General would consist of representatives from all recognized student organizations. In addition, there would be three positions open to a campus-wide general election: president, secretary and treasurer. Thus, in conflicts with the administration, the president of the Yard could appeal to the student organizations as a whole for support.

The Students Activities Commission, a GUSA-appointed student body that allocates funds to student organizations, is currently the only vestige of real power. On top of its high overhead, the SAC abuses its powers by threatening to withhold money from noncompliant clubs. Past abuses include the SAC’s failed attempts to withhold money from GUSA in 1999 and the Philodemic Society in 1995. This year, a $300 difference (favoring the Democrats) exists between the funding for the College Republicans and the College Democrats, despite the fact that the College Republicans offered more programming last year. The Yard government would end the biased treatment of clubs by returning fiscal power to the students.

Under the auspices of the Yard, each semester 75 percent of the budget for student programs would be divided equally among the undergraduate population and the remaining 25 percent would go into a general fund. Each student could then allocate his or her portion of the budget to the club of his or her choosing. Organizations could easily raise dues, which requires a special bureaucratic procedure under the current system. In addition, dues would not be subject to taxation, as they are under the SAC. There would still be a student oversight committee that would prevent club officers from spending funds for personal expenditures and distribute the general fund to organizations like the Georgetown Program Board, which does not have a direct membership. Students choosing not to allocate their funds would return them to the general fund. The new system would require only a single accountant, eliminating the many unnecessary salaried administrators in the Office of Student Programs, particularly those who work with the SAC. A direct student funding system forces each club to compete in the marketplace of ideas rather than artificial existing under the SAC system.

The unresponsiveness of the university administration comes from a disrespect of students that can only be overcome by actions from an active population. Despite the best intentions of our dedicated friends in GUSA, it remains a system in which representatives cannot mobilize students. Many students do not realize this.

To create a student government such as the Yard requires powerful and influential student leadership, as seen in the Yard of years before. The Yard system allows students to create strong student organizations separate from stifling administrative control, participate in a student government capable of action and revive a unique Georgetown tradition.

Jack Ternan is a freshman in the College.

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