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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GUSA Presidential Debate Focuses on Need to Increase Affordability, Health Services

CAITLYN BRANDON/THE HOYA GUSA presidential candidates Kamar Mack (COL '19), left, Garet Williams (COL '18) and John Matthews (COL '18) met Monday evening for an Election Commission-sponsored debate in the Healey Family Student Center.
GUSA presidential candidates Kamar Mack (COL ’19), left, Garet Williams (COL ’18) and John Matthews (COL ’18) met Monday evening for an Election Commission-sponsored debate in the Healey Family Student Center.

Three of the four presidential candidates for the Georgetown University Student Association executive office found common ground on the need to make Georgetown more affordable at last night’s debate.

Kamar Mack (COL ’19), John Matthews (COL ’18) and Garet Williams (COL ’18) participated in Monday evening’s debate, organized by the GUSA Election Commission. Candidate Jenny Franke (COL ’18) did not attend the debate.

Each of the three candidates offered varying solutions on reducing the cost of attendance. Williams suggested the university should incorporate greater student input within the budgeting process through a task force, while Mack pushed for the university to be more frugal when reevaluating its annual budget allocation. Matthews said he believes the university should hold professors accountable in ensuring that required textbooks are reasonably priced.

The candidates also proposed changes to make the structure of GUSA more representative of the student body. In addition, the candidates pledged to advocate for improvements to student health on campus.

The Healey Family Student Center, where the debate took place, packed an audience of 75 students, including many members of the tickets’ campaign staff. Energy in the room picked up during the question-and-answer session an hour-and-a-half into the debate, when GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) noted that several of the candidates’ proposals are already being worked on by GUSA.

In the span of three minutes, Khan listed a series of policies GUSA is already working on, including the introduction of a racial climate survey next Fall and expanded hours at the Student Health Center. Khan also said the Matthews platform promise to abolish the three-year housing requirement is not possible with the 2017-2036 campus plan, which mandates a 90 percent on-campus housing requirement for the university.

“What is one of your policy changes that is not already been worked on, is not already being worked on or is not impossible?” Khan asked.

The question prompted a fiery exchange between Khan and the candidates. Matthews claimed that Khan’s question was targeted against his platform, and criticized the success of GUSA’s efforts in the past year.

“I mean we can talk all day long until we’re blue in the face that GUSA is working on the issues for the people, GUSA is defending, GUSA’s doing this, GUSA’s doing that, but at the end of the day, what action has actually been happening?” Matthews asked.

In their responses to the question, Williams proposed the creation of a “hub” dedicated to developing innovation around college affordability, while Mack said he would emphasize targeted reforms to student health.

The debate also saw the first official cross-endorsement of the campaign, with Mack and running mate Jessica Andino (COL ’18) cross-endorsing with Matthews and Nick Matz (COL ’18).

In his opening statement, Matthews said his campaign is aiming to solve the frustrations of students toward GUSA.

“Matthews and Matz represents this frustration with Georgetown student government,” Matthews said. “We are committed do everything in our power to change GUSA and advocate what the average Georgetown student wants.”

According to Williams, who is running with Habon Ali (COL ’18), GUSA must look to develop opportunities for student engagement with the administration to create change.

“In a rare moment, GUSA actually did what it was supposed to do, which was connect the student who cared about an issue personally to administrators who could actually do something about it,” Williams said with regard to his becoming involved with dining issues his freshmen year.

Mack said his campaign’s main priority is making Georgetown more affordable.

The trio also offered competing visions for the future of GUSA. Williams said the executive policy teams — first established by Khan and GUSA Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17) to develop policy for individual issue areas — must be adapted to better serve individual student groups.

“What we’re looking to do is make sure that really when we’re saying GUSA’s inclusive at this policy team, with whatever they look like, depending on the structure,” Williams said.

The Mack-Andino campaign is proposing policy coalitions to join different student groups and GUSA together in advocacy.

“That means it’s not cookie cutter. That means we want to approach organizations like Startup Hoyas and say ‘What does GUSA need to do in respect to entrepreneurship?’” Mack said.

The greatest point of difference over how best to restructure GUSA came in discussion of the senate. This Friday, the Election Commission is set to release the results of the Dec. 1 referendum on replacing the senate with an assembly focused on making decisions for club funding, which have been declared invalid by the Constitutional Council.

Williams said the current senate is no longer serving a purposeful role.

“Within the senate, it shifts more and more towards the club funding process. The role of the senate has become more and more redundant with the policy teams,” Williams said.

Mack said he wants to further consult students before introducing another reform plan for the senate, but that he wants to further involve clubs in the funding process.

“We want to bring in more insight, and we want to bring in more understanding, into that allocation process,” Mack said. “But that doesn’t mean you have to completely abolish the senate, it doesn’t mean you have to completely revamp the way things are done.”

According to Matthews, the current club funding process, where club boards submit proposals to the Financial and Appropriations Committee of the senate to receive funding for their member clubs, is representative of a lack of transparency in GUSA today.

“Is that the transparency that we want in GUSA? That we just let these boards decide for themselves whatever money they have? You can talk about transparency but at the end of the day you have to have some type of plan,” Matthews said.

On the topic of improving student health and wellness, Mack said he wants the university to allocate resources to serve students in the Student Health Center more efficiently.

“We want to use data mining in order to makes sure that the student health center is staffed efficiently,” Mack said. “We are advocating that the university to use data in order to track who is coming into the student health center, what illnesses are they bringing and where they are living on campus, and using that to understand who needs to be on the staff and at what time.”

Matthews proposed introducing a new health insurance program in conjunction with other universities to provide better health care options for students.

“It would include working with large universities across the United States to form a collective ultra-low risk pool. Then negotiating a single contract with insurance companies using that ultra-low risk pool to get out-of-pocket payments even lower than they are today,” Matthews said. “With this you will be able to improve sexual health services, psychological services. Since we would be with public, large universities, contraceptives would be included in this plan.”

Mack said he and Andino will look to work with the Sexual Misconduct Task Force, set up by University President John J. DeGioia in July to help address sexual misconduct at Georgetown.

“We will work hand in hand with the sexual assault task force to make sure that the university listens to them, to make sure that the Title IX office responds to them in a timely manner when issues are upsetting because we want to streamline the entire investigation process,” Mack said.

Williams said he would look to increase participation in bystander intervention training by making it a part of the What’s a Hoya program for freshmen to receive housing points. He also said he would look to increase the availability of resources for survivors of sexual assault.

Matthews said he wants to require all incoming freshmen to receive bystander intervention training, as part of a series of actions to address sexual assault on campus.

“We want to increase the university and the officials with the police so we can put rapists or those who commit sexual assault to real jails and get them out of here so they can get the punishment they deserve,” Matthews said.

Candidates ended the debate with two-and-a-half minute closing statements to wrap up the hour-and-a-half-long event. Election day is Thursday, Feb. 23.

Hoya Staff Writers Joe Egler and Yasmine Salam contributed reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Matthews suggested the university should subsidize textbooks. The Matthews-Matz campaign advocates for accountability in assigning required textbooks.


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  • U

    UmmmFeb 22, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    What the hell is a cross-endorsement?

  • T

    The Real SFS 2016Feb 22, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Because Enushe ran unopposed she won her election and has had all of the last year to speak, including the ability to send emails to every single student each week and publish op-eds whenever she wants in the Hoya.

    How much more time does she need and expect us to give her?

    Why does she need to take up a significant portion of the debate to read from her phone for three minutes and tear down the two tickets she’s against? Please explain. I’m genuinely curious to hear your answer.

    I get that she’s friends with Garet and Habon and wants them to win but what she did was inappropriate at best and unethical at worst. It confirms GUSA’s insularity and self-serving nature. GUSA and Enushe’s administration both already have an image problem as confirmed by the poll out in today’s Hoya. She just exacerbated it, and frankly, didn’t do Garet and Habon any favors.

    The purpose of the “debate” was for people to ask questions and hear the candidates, not listen to Enushe promote Garet’s campaign or issue a defense for her lackluster administration.

    The truth is she and Chris both defended the tuition increases by the administration when they came out and both called the new campus plan, which imposed a three year housing requirement on students, a success. But in her defense maybe she didn’t know it wasn’t a good deal for students considering she surprised everyone by skipping out on her GUSA responsibilities and heading up to New York for her internship. If she hadn’t kept that a secret during the campaign perhaps people would have chosen better.

    Enushe and Chris botched and wasted money (not to mention a lot of people’s time) on a simple referendum because they couldn’t get the dates right and spent a lot of money on useless things like ice cream sandwiches. They boast about how they talk to administrators and have access but aside from “saving” the Brown House for a year (which was just as much the result of student objection as GUSA “leadership”) and giving “input” they really haven’t accomplished anything, you know, tangible. Sorry, but having another meeting and forming another committee doesn’t really accomplish anything tangible for students, no matter how much they claim.

    Enushe/Chris and Garet/Habon have also been implying that GUSA is responsible for keeping tuition low and it would have been a much higher increase had it not been for them. That’s patently false, just spin like the campus plan was a “success.” GUSA had nothing to do with the tuition increase not being higher. Fact is they go into a meeting, get played by administrators, and come out and try to sell everyone else on whatever else the administration does. They’re the rubber stamp administration.

    Bottom line is she shouldn’t have hijacked the debate. She could have made the case for Garet and Habon in other ways, like on her Facebook page. It just wasted people’s time makes her and GUSA look bad and hurts student government in the long.

    I am glad that this year we have an actual choice. If GUSA is going to continue to be irrelevant to your average student than vote for Garet and Habon. If you want someone to fight on behalf of students and address the high cost of attending Georgetown and put money back in you pocket then your choices are Williams/Andino or Matthews/Matz. Either ticket would be preferable to more of the same.

    • T

      The Real SFS 2016Feb 23, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Correction. Mack/Andino. The Williams/Ali ticket is just more of the same.

  • T

    The Real SFS 2016Feb 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Why at the debate last night did the GUSA election commission let Enushe read for three minutes from her phone a defense of her administration, the main purpose of which was to disparage the two outsider tickets of Mack and Matthews and promote Williams who is her deputy chief of staff?
    She spoke longer for one continuous stretch than any of the three candidates did that whole night. I thought it was supposed to be a debate without commercial advertisements or endorsements of her own administration and the Williams and Ali campaign?

    She wasted time other students could have used to ask meaningful questions, but instead she went on a rant to tear down Mack and Matthews, focusing mainly on Matthews, saying the things he talked about in terms of reducing tuition, fees, and textbook costs couldn’t be done because she thinks they can’t be done, and then asked a lame five second question at the end. That was highly inappropriate. Add yet another incident to the list of reasons why GUSA is considered so insular and self-serving.

    The response from Matthews was great and got huge laughs from the audience and is must see TV, (“Are you running for another term, Enushe? Would you like to come up here and debate?”), but what was sad about it is GUSA still doesn’t realize why people don’t vote and why the organization is considered a joke.

    Just look at what they did with the VP debate where The Heckler asked questions which along with other media were all repeated by the GUSA elections commissioner, including one where the election commissioner asked the candidates what they thought of his own underwear. Why was The Heckler asking questions and wasting time that could have been used better and could have been used by the candidates to answer important questions. If GUSA treats its own debates like a joke why shouldn’t students treat GUSA as an organization like a joke? That’s a serious question.

    The good thing about the debate is it ultimately offered a clear distinction.

    If you want more of the same, if you’re happy with your GUSA and want to keep your GUSA, if you consider hundreds of student activities fee dollars spent for i cream sandwiches for GUSA members a worthwhile use of funds, and if the next time the administration raises costs you want your GUSA to do nothing and instead explain to you why you should just accept it, then vote for Garet and Habon. The are the GUSA status candidates who will not focus on saving students money but will add more administrators, programs, do diversity audits, and keeping GUSA doing what it’s been doing.

    If you want candidates that are focused on reducing tuition, fees, and text book costs, and will advocate for students and not worry about being liked by administrators, then vote for Matthews or Mack.

    • R

      Ricardo MondolfiFeb 21, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      Just a comment: the ice cream sandwiches were NOT for GUSA members – they were given away to students who voted at the polling station in Red Square similar to how many other organizations give away free food.

      Regarding Enushe: I think she earned her right to speak – especially given she’s done something that none of the candidates there have done before: win an actual election. After they do, they can talk all they want, but until then, they should show some respect.

      I also encourage you to start posting under your real name, especially when you claim to be “the real” anything. It becomes a bad habit otherwise.

      • J

        JoeFeb 22, 2017 at 9:36 am

        Not OP.

        Regarding Enushe: she won an UNCONTESTED election. She didn’t even have to run a campaign. Although, I suppose planning your election almost a year in advance will help you make friends with the right people and intimidate all those who were considering running against you to drop out of the race (think Reed Howard, Chris’s alleged ‘friend’).

        I don’t respect an elected official that 85% of the Georgetown student body did not vote for.

  • J

    John MatthewsFeb 21, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Hello Ian and Tara,

    Could you please provide the transcript with textual evidence that backs your statement that I believe that the university should subsidize textbooks (third paragraph)? That statement is frankly not true. We want to require professors to provide reasoning when they assign exorbitantly priced textbooks. You can read more about what we advocate at

    John Matthews