During my four years in GUSA, the student association has come a long way due to the efforts of the large number of students active in it. This last year has been particularly productive, seeing the GUSA Senate come into its own as an institution capable of creating both immediate, tangible results as well as long-term planning.

Still, as I leave Georgetown, there is much work left to do, both to continue strengthening GUSA and to continue improving and supporting Georgetown. To that end, I think it’s important that all students are aware of what GUSA can and has accomplished, as well as what it needs to take its advocacy for students to the next level. I hope that when you read this you will realize that GUSA can be a real agent for substantial change on campus, but it is only as influential as the student body wants it to be, and it still needs your support.

In the last four years, I have seen GUSA defeat a keg ban. I’ve seen it quintuple GUTS bus service on the weekends. I’ve seen it help bring brand-name restaurants to Hoya Court, improve Grab-n-Go, pass a referendum to drastically reform and expand student government in which more than 3,500 students voted, open up Riggs Library for study days, sponsor a very profitable and popular student spirit film and run the Supper with the Jesuits program that brought hundreds of students into contact with our wonderful Jesuit community.

This last year, however, has truly been incredible. First of all, GUSA made good on its promise to take a long, hard look at student finances using the powers and mandate given to us in last year’s landmark reform referendum. We launched the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which looked at the reserve funds accrued over the last decade by the six advisory boards, and have worked with them to plan how to best use this money. Many of the advisory boards are now beginning to spend down those funds, investing heavily in the expansion of programs such as Alternative Spring Break as well as capital projects to improve clubs’ facilities. Strategic planning and oversight of student finances will be paying off for years to come.

GUSA has also been investigating the Student Activities Endowment, exercising the first active student oversight that the endowment has received in several years. We are working to set the endowment back on course to ensure the long-term financial health of Georgetown’s student life.

In addition, Ben Shaw (COL ’08) and Matt Appenfeller (COL ’08) made good on their campaign promise to bring free national newspapers to campus, working with InterHall and The Corp to get the unquestionably successful readership program off the ground. They also took significant steps forward in improving wireless on campus, coordinating with the administration to prioritize the gradual, complete rollout over the next two years.

Pat Dowd (SFS ’09) and James Kelly (COL ’09), meanwhile, have already had a major success, working with the senate to appropriate the money for a pilot GUSA Summer Fellows Program, which will pay for the summer housing of five students on financial aid so that they can take unpaid internships in D.C. over the summer, bringing that valuable part of the Georgetown tradition into more students’ grasps.

There’s much more than can fit in this viewpoint. We worked with housing and facilities to reverse a policy that left many broken water fountains around campus unfixed. We co-created the Alcohol Policy Working Group, which just announced recommendations addressing many of this year’s problematic alcohol policy changes and recommending, among other things, raising the keg limit and making the three-strike “progressive sanctioning” policy more realistic. We created the Student Commission for Unity, which is in the middle of a major research project already participated in by almost 1,500 Hoyas. We completed a comprehensive review of the Code of Student Conduct. We appointed students to and worked on the LGBTQ working groups that resulted in the planned creation of an LGBTQ resource center. We continued and expanded on the Riggs study days program. We researched, debated and supported causes like the creation of an Arabic language living-learning community and THE HOYA’s independence. We began work to create a DC-wide student government capable of addressing concerns such as Metro fares and student voting rights. We have begun work to drastically increase the role that students play in fundraising for Georgetown, including how the university creates priorities and deploys funds. In all of this we have worked with countless students, faculty and administrators, notably our adviser Erika Cohen-Derr, who have been invaluable allies.

eanwhile, we built and defined the strong identity of the new and expanded GUSA Senate by doubling the number of senate meetings, increasing the number of candidates (65 students ran this year), achieving record election turnout, notably improving attendance and holding a series of regional town hall meetings across campus. The newly vitalized, 35-member GUSA Senate will hopefully continue to grow as an institution for student empowerment and tangible change on campus, becoming a true forum for student concerns and activism.

Still, GUSA must continue to advocate for students in new ways. We must work with the advisory boards to increase accountability to students among these self-selecting, unelected groups, and we should continue to seek student governance of the last of the student activities funds. We need to develop more direct ways of listening to and acting on the concerns and needs of Georgetown’s many clubs, and we should continue to fight for a full, voting member on the university’s Board of Directors. We need to increase student involvement in the secretive, proposed intellectual life reforms, and continue the significant work already done to extend the add/drop period and revive the online course information system. Lastly, though we have made many great strides in improving our diversity in other respects, we need to continue to encourage women to run for elected office.

I have been incredibly proud to have the opportunity to lead GUSA as treasurer, chief of staff and speaker of the GUSA Senate, and to work with the many dedicated and excellent people who have tirelessly served the student body, and who have my thanks. Georgetown, its students and its student association still face many challenges, but I have been blessed to see great improvements in all three during my time here. I am thrilled about GUSA’s rising new generation of leaders, in whom I have faith to carry on the work.

This year GUSA has turned a corner, and it has demonstrated what it can do with a bit of hard work, planning and more hard work. All it needs to continue and to grow is your support and participation.

Eden Schiffmann is a senior in the College and the outgoing speaker of the GUSA Senate.

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