The Georgetown student body is consistently ranked as one of the most politically active in the country. Government internships are ubiquitous and politics is generally fair game for discussion, yet every season the Georgetown University Student Association becomes the most derided spectacle on campus.

With approximately one -third of students not voting, why is Georgetown’s involvement in its own politics so reminiscent of the general electorate’s apathy?

This question did not go unrecognized during the election; indeed, the race had candidates advocating for changes in GUSA’s culture and relationship to the student body.

Whether through a humorous or serious approach, several tickets took more direct issue with GUSA’s character than the quality of its past policies.

Even the campaigns with exhaustive, curated platforms emphasized bringing marginalized student groups into GUSA’s deliberations, further evidencing general concerns of a removed and distant student association.

Despite appeals for a change, this past election largely embodied politics as usual. The heated exchanges that students saw during the presidential debate were in many ways the tip of the iceberg of tension and mistrust between campaigns.
While assessing the machinations made in the shadows may be impossible, enough information floats to the surface to inspire worry.

How candidates receive support from other student groups is an inherently murky process that cannot help but be colored by personal animus and connection. Despite a spending limit of $300 per campaign, it would be naïve to deny that those with more time and resources possess an advantage.

Finally, the large pie of executive jobs with which candidates reward their staff presents another source of tension within campaigns.

In many ways the problems with GUSA elections mirror those of American politics at large. Patronage politics and revolving doors exist even at our level. The process for executive appointments and candidate selection is troubling. Moreover, the way in which a small group of involved student insiders muddle the priorities of the rest of the electorate is cause for serious concern.

These issues are far more salient on the national level, but if Georgetown students are seriously passionate about resolving the pathologies of national politics, they must first look to the fixes they can make at home on the Hilltop.

Though prospects may appear dim, creating a better campaign culture and a better GUSA is possible, and an election cycle that serves to measure ideas and policies is not out of reach.

This past season we were fortunate to witness instances of involved and constructive debate, leading us to believe that every candidate was motivated out of an earnest desire to see a better Georgetown.

Yet, much too often, petty intrigue overshadowed real dialogue. These divisions are not the product of any individual campaign but rather the results of a system biased toward divisive competition.

We should have enough humility to accept the relative importance of GUSA in the grand scheme of things, yet we should be equally self-aware as to recognize that politics, whether national or local, can never fully escape self-indulgent pettiness.
Free speech rights on campus matter. Funding for student groups matter. And the 2018 Campus Plan matters.

The 2012 Georgetown Student Life Report details a list of recommended fixes for improving the experience on the Hilltop. Many of these are incredibly simple.

The report stands as a stark reminder that basic changes can make Georgetown not just a more effective place but a happier place. For all its faults, GUSA has the potential to take a lead role in promoting such changes and fighting for the interests of students.

Here at the commission we wish the best of luck to the new executive. We hope that they go further than just appealing for change and instead make the institutional adjustments necessary to guarantee a healthier system for elections to come.

Alden Fletcher is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service and one of the three GUSA election commissioners.

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