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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GUSA Candidates Face Off in VP Debate

ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA Left to right: Jimmy Ramirez (COL '15), Dan Silkman (COL '15), Omika Jikaria (SFS '15), Sam Greco (SFS '15)
Left to right: Jimmy Ramirez (COL ’15), Dan Silkman (COL ’15), Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15), Sam Greco (SFS ’15)
Candidates in the Georgetown University Student Association executive race answered questions from the media and members of the student body during the vice presidential debate Saturday.

Held in an Intercultural Center classroom, the debate allowed vice presidential hopefuls Jimmy Ramirez (COL ’15), Dan Silkman (COL ’15), Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) and Sam Greco (SFS ’15) to describe their platforms and stances on issues such as student engagement, diversity initiatives, sexual assault policy and collaboration with the university administration. The debate was moderated by GUSA Election Commissioner Audrey Atencio (SFS ’14).

A question from multiple audience members prompted the candidates to reveal their cross-endorsements. Each candidate chose another ticket to support as his or her number two choice for executive office. Jikaria expressed support for Weiss and Greco’s ticket, and Greco, in turn, offered support for Jikaria and Tezel. Ramirez, however, chose to cross-endorse Singer and Silkman, and Silkman did the same for Lloyd and Ramirez.

The four candidates began by presenting brief opening statements, outlining the central points to their ticket platforms. Ramirez, emphasizing a theme upon which he would touch throughout the debate, noted his desired for GUSA to empower and help individuals and organizations achieve their goals.

“Our ticket is about, above all, this philosophy of giving student leaders, who care about specific issues and student groups, those resources and access to free speech to actually talk about these issues,” Ramirez, who is Thomas Lloyd’s (SFS ’15) running mate, said. “The specific goal is to establish a specific type of student government, one that acts as a conduit, not one that has all the power.”

Silkman emphasized the necessity of incorporating different perspectives into a GUSA administration to ensure the accurate representation of the needs of the entire student body.

“We recognize that there is no one story that is able to capture the unique and special things that make this place our home,” Silkman said. “So we’ve been reaching out to really craft a campaign platform that reflects the unique stories of these Georgetown students to make this place better.” He also emphasized the “balanced” nature of his ticket arising from his running mate Zach Singer’s (SFS ’15) experience as a three-year GUSA senator and as chief of staff combined with Silkman’s own outsider perspective.

Jikaria similarly described the benefit of combining her experiences with those of a GUSA insider, Deputy Chief of Staff Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), as well as the necessity of GUSA advocating on the behalf of all students, as a priority over programming.

“GUSA really is an advocacy body, and it should be the top priority of GUSA to represent all student interests and to be able to channel this to the administration,” Jikaria said. “Our mission is to connect students to Georgetown, we really want to make this campus one that is collaborative and connected.”

Greco, who is running with Ben Weiss (COL ’15), framed his campaign through the premise of enabling student leaders to achieve goals, a process he believes has been hindered in the past by the administration and GUSA itself.

“Ben and I are running to create a GUSA that works for you, and we have the expertise and ideas to make that happen,” Greco said. “It’s time to cut superfluous bureaucracy that only makes it harder for students to achieve results.”

Candidates then submitted to questions from campus media — GUTV, The Georgetown Voice and The Hoya — as well as from students, who could submit questions via paper or Twitter.

The first question asked which aspects of the candidates’ respective platforms made their message unique. Ramirez noted the use of the housing boost incentive, currently utilized in the “What’s a Hoya?” program, to increase student engagement in educational events sponsored by different student groups. Silkman expressed ambitions of breaking down social barriers, such as financial obstacles preventing students from preregistering or seeking leadership roles. Jikaria emphasized the timelines she and Tezel plan to attach to all of their proposals, which would ensure that any programs or initiatives would be held to a strict timetable. Lastly, Greco described his philosophy that GUSA should primarily serve to help students achieve their individual ambitions for the university.

The candidates were asked to name their number one priority were they to be elected to the office of vice president.

Silkman described promoting collaboration and mutual interest between GUSA and the student body as his main objective.

“The collaborative piece of our platform is one of the most important aspects of our platform and something we wouldn’t want to compromise,” Silkman said. “If there’s any way to find out what students care about, from the bottom up, and then create programs, committees, initiatives to address those concerns, that’s definitely something we want to do.”

In contrast, Jikaria cited the promotion of student rights through promotion of the Student Advocacy Office and revisions to the Code of Student Conduct as her paramount issue, while Greco named enabling student success through funding reform and removing bureaucratic obstacles as his top priority. Ramirez emphasized giving students access to resources, including sexual assault support and initiatives designed to promote diversity and cultural appreciation.

The candidates were also called upon to address the issue of referendums; in particular, they were asked whether they would have used the same tactics GUSA employed in fall 2013 when a referendum was used to back advocacy against a satellite campus that was proposed by the university administration. While Silkman, Jikaria and Ramirez said they would have followed the example of the current administration, who deployed the” One Georgetown, One Campus” effort, Greco said that he would have taken a different, less combative approach.

“There was no reason to start a war,” Greco said.

Atencio ended the debate without the stipulated candidate closing statements, after the event reached its 75-minute limit.

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