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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 Presidential Hopefuls Clash in Heated Debate


The five presidential candidates in the Georgetown University Student Association executive race participated in a heated debate Monday evening in the Healey Family Student Center.

The debate featured presidential candidates Chris Wadibia (COL ’16), Abbey McNaughton (COL ’16), Tim Rosenberger (COL ’16), Sara Margolis (COL ’16) and Joe Luther (COL ’16). GUSA Election Commissioner Pavan Rajgopal (SFS ’14) moderated the debate, which featured questions from members of campus media and the GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee, as well as those posed through Twitter and written on paper by members of the audience.


Indicative of the divisive nature of this GUSA executive race, supporters of all campaigns flooded the venue, providing resounding applause as candidates made statements. The debate also uncharacteristically provided a venue for candidates to address issues of the character of other candidates, integrity and elitism, with broad generalizations often receiving vocal objections by the crowd. At points, Rajgopal was forced to ask the audience to stifle applause in order to maintain the continuity of the debate.

Opening Statements

The debate began with five-minute opening statements from each candidate.

Margolis, a transfer student from George Washington University, started by explaining her unconventional path to Georgetown, her experience in transfer student advocacy as GUSA’s first Secretary of Transfer Affairs and her and running mate Ryan Shymansky’s (COL ’16) passion for social justice issues and connecting with students through advocacy.

“The strength of our platform comes from acknowledging what GUSA can do on its own and on day one — what we can only achieve through collaboration and advocacy work — and what we can begin to do throughout our term to lay the groundwork for the future,” Margolis said. “I am running for GUSA because I believe every student on the Hilltop deserves an advocate.”

Luther, who initiated his opening statement by ripping up a prepared speech, explained his and running mate Connor Rohan’s (COL ’16) motivation for running for GUSA executive, the legitimacy of their candidacy and their vision for the Georgetown of the future.

“The position of GUSA executive is about informing the student body and advocating for them; in order to do that you need an administration that is committed to transparency and to mobilizing the student body about things that they care about,” Luther said.

Rosenberger opened by explaining the significance of the GUSA executive role, the importance of electing an executive that will take bold action and his passion for promoting student funding reform and bringing a voice to students who are underrepresented on campus.

“We have the solutions and we have the vision that will make this university better,” Rosenberger said. “We have a vision that should make you excited about GUSA, because we will be a GUSA that actually matters.”

McNaughton discussed her top policy concerns in her opening statement, citing funding, sexual assault and mental health reforms, as well as her and running mate Will Simons’ (COL ’16) qualifications and plan for representing all communities at Georgetown as executives.

“What matters is who’s in the room when the decisions are made; look at our platform, look at our campaign … we are about changing who’s in the room when the decisions are made,” McNaughton said. “Now more than ever, we need a strong, unified and pluralistic voice.”

Wadibia opened by explaining his experiences in the campaign so far, citing this past week as “the worst week of [his] life.” Wadibia said that he was accused of being a homophobe, that his social media posts were flagged for pornography and that he saw his campaign banner in Red Square torn down multiple times.

“I have been accused of being homophobic. … I have been accused of being pro-sexual assault, yet every individual on this campus knows that when I speak to persons — particularly women — I speak to every individual with respect,” Wadibia said.

Wadibia concluded by explaining his intentions for becoming GUSA executive, outlining his experience working with 11 administrators to create his platform and emphasizing his desire to change the attitude and reputation of the association.

“Most students look down upon the student association because the student association looks down upon them,” Wadibia said. “Unless you elect an individual that has a heart for people, GUSA will remain the same.”

Media Questions

Candidates then answered questions from campus media outlets The Georgetown Voice and The Hoya — the GUTV representative was absent — as well as from members of the GUSA Finance and Appropriations committee and from students via Twitter and paper. According to Rajgopal, Fin/App asked for a seat at the debates to delve more deeply into the candidate’s budgets.

Candidates were allocated 45 seconds to answer each question. The election commission at its discretion allowed an additional two-minute discussion period per question.

The first question referenced the recently created Designing the Future(s) initiative by University President John J. DeGioia and Provost Robert Groves, asking candidates how they see Georgetown in the future, as well as how aspects of their platforms may influence the university in the coming years.

Wadibia emphasized the importance of not regarding the administration as antagonists in order to affect meaningful change, explaining how he and Cheney’s short platform is achievable and substantive, while reaching the “hearts and minds” of students.

“We must be very careful that we don’t take the adversarial approach towards the administration,” Wadibia said.

McNaughton explained the importance of maintaining what makes Georgetown special, while citing her experience actually working on the Designing the Future(s) initiative over the past few months.

“Wherever Georgetown goes in the next 20, 25 years, we need to make sure that we are maintaining what makes Georgetown special,” McNaughton said. “That can’t happen unless we have the resources available to do it; that can’t happen unless we have a unified, strong student voice.”

Rosenberger took a pragmatic approach to the question, citing specific issues with facilities, housing requirements and study-abroad housing issues, as well as continual funding for academics and scholarships as tantamount to maintaining Georgetown’s prominence in the future.

Margolis emphasized the importance of focusing on the next campus plan, encouraging an agreement with the university to push for additional green space as well as a construction plan that mitigates impact on student life.

Luther answered by highlighting continual student input on university decision-making as incredibly important moving forward as an advocacy body, balancing student and administration goals.

“Georgetown is over 200 years old, but it is never too late for a growth spurt,” Luther said. “The administration has been single-handedly making all the decisions, when we’re the student body who actually goes to school here.”

The candidates were then asked to name a reform made by Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) that they would change or eliminate as GUSA executive.

McNaughton emphasized her and Simons’ desire to reform the relationship of the existing multicultural council with student organizations, citing the “multicultural” label as potentially being levied upon student organizations without choice.

Rosenberger explained a need to expand the existing “What’s a Hoya?” program, allocating more money from GUSA to it — as well as expanding the program to transfer students and allowing student groups to host events — while proposing far more liberal criteria necessary to participate.

Margolis also advocated for the reform of the multicultural council, expressing an intent to roll back the council, consult with student groups and create a multicultural advisory board.

Luther said that his southward-bound GPA during the time of Tezel and Jikaria’s administration was something he wanted to roll back but also emphasized a need to garner additional student input when making decisions and encouraging greater transparency in the GUSA executive.

Wadibia also advocated for reform of the multicultural council, citing issues of funding as well as relatability and seeing a need to reform both how and from where multicultural groups receive funding, as well as the input that goes into decisions involving multicultural groups.

Candidates were also asked how their positions as either GUSA outsiders or insiders would influence their ability to relate to the current GUSA senate in order to make policy. The GUSA Finance and Appropriations committee also questioned candidates on where additional money to facilitate “big-ticket items” in their platforms would come from.


Candidates were also asked what their biggest weaknesses as GUSA executive would be.

Candidate-Specific Questioning

In the audience-solicited questioning period, candidates were asked questions through Twitter and paper in the format of group questioning as well as candidate-specific questions.

Candidates were asked which solutions in their platform addressed sexual assault reform on campus as well as their plans for unrecognized student groups to receive access to benefits.

In the candidate-specific questioning portion, Margolis was questioned on her and Shymansky’s Student Activities Capital Campaign, explaining that young alumni are not necessarily incentivized to donate to Georgetown. According to Margolis, the campaign would allow alumni to donate specifically to groups with which they had an affiliation during their time at Georgetown.

Margolis was asked by fellow candidates about how she would justify the Student Activities Capital Campaign to the University Office of Advancement.

The commission asked Rosenberger as to the reasoning behind committing to the Georgetown Israel Alliance’s leadership endorsement criteria pledge. Rosenberger said that he carefully considered the petition and that it “absolutely falls under GUSA’s purview.”

Wadibia questioned Rosenberger on potentially siding with one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by signing the GIA pledge.

“I have so many friends that are Jewish, and so many friends that are Muslim. … This document has no place in GUSA because it is inherently divisive,” Wadibia said. “You signed that document, you cannot sign the document without taking a stance, it is fundamentally impossible.”

Rosenberger countered by mentioning Wadibia’s previously panned sexual assault platform and accused Wadibia of misinformation and not fully understanding the complexity of certain issues.

“You know Chris, you signed the thing and then you reneged. You wrote the sexual assault platform that got panned, then you got hung up for it. … You don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s clear — you keep flip-flopping. … We’re not worried about sexual assault because we think you’re pro-sexual assault — we are worried because we feel unsafe,” Rosenberger said. “We wouldn’t feel safe with you as GUSA executive.”

Wadibia was questioned as to allegations of not having enough student-leader input in his platform. Wadibia responded by stating that he consulted with student leaders from many student groups, and wrote his platform together with such leaders.

“The reason that my platform is succinct and yet powerful is because every part of my platform reaches out to all students,” Wadibia stated.

Rosenberger responded by stating that he is on the board of GU Pride and that Wadibia did not attempt to garner input from the organization.

Wadibia explained that Rosenberger’s claims were unfounded and explained that his character is what set him apart from his fellow candidates.

“The reason each of these candidates cannot be elected is that they don’t have the character to lead,” Wadibia said.

Wadibia also questioned Luther and his ability to perform administrative duties as GUSA executive while connecting with certain communities on campus.

Luther responded by saying that a candidate cannot go into the executive race knowing everything, and that he and Rohan will advocate for “all students.”


Wadibia responded by questioning Luther’s competency to lead, asking him to explain the difference between the Black Student Alliance and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, saying that “leadership must be rooted in experience.”

“You have a talent, Joe, that is humor. But it is sad because that is the only talent that you have,” Wadibia said.

McNaughton was questioned as to how her experience as a student representative to the university board of directors would prepare her to lead as GUSA executive and responded that her experience is beneficial, as she worked on issues that affected students directly, albeit admitting that there is still much work to do in regards to student-administrator dialogue.

Candidates ended the debate with 2.5-minute closing statements to end the nearly two-hour long event.

The GUSA executive election voting will commence Wednesday night. Ballot links will be sent through HoyaMail.

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  • C

    Crystal WalkerFeb 18, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    The debate on Monday proved just about everything that is wrong with Georgetown. And GUSA.

  • A

    AnonymousFeb 18, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Imma let you finish but Abbey and Will had one of the best campaign videos of all time

  • B

    BurrFeb 17, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    The award for the most hyperbolic comment of the night must go to Rosenberger:

    “We’re not worried about sexual assault because we think you’re pro-sexual assault — we are worried because we feel unsafe,” Rosenberger said. “We wouldn’t feel safe with you as GUSA executive.”

    Seriously, dude? If you are so unmanly that the you feel “”unsafe” on campus and need to verbalize that you wouldn’t feel safe with Chris as president, then you’re not strong enough to lead the students of Georgetown and perhaps you should get some counseling. Wow. And I say that as a Luther-Rohan supporter. To be fair, Chris showed himself not worthy of the presidency either with his whiny performance, his attacks, and his race-baiting with the BSA/NAACP question.

    The sad thing about McNaughton is she revealed her feminists alliances and proved how the group that yells the loudest get the most attention by citing as her top policy concerns as sexual assault and mental health issues, both of which affect a small subset of students (spare me the “sexual assault is everyone’s problem” line . . . so is poverty, racism, and every other social ill . . . we live in a world with limited time and resources and GUSA has very limited power, so the time, attention, and influence of the GUSA executive can be better used elsewhere). Bottom line, if you’re a man, you shouldn’t be voting for McNaughton.

    Margolis came off sounding the best b/c of the student funds allocation thing, but GUSA is a joke so don’t vote for her, though if Luther-Rohan weren’t running she would be the best.


    • M

      McNaughton SupporterFeb 18, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      I think it’s unfair to label McNaughton as a feminist that caters to “groups that yell the loudest”. I think it’s refreshing to see a GUSA representative (specifically a Republican) that wants to place some emphasis on creating a safer and happier campus. That obviously won’t be her sole purpose–they have a pretty extensive platform that you may want to look into.

  • M

    mo shmoFeb 17, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Can someone explain what dignity means to Chris Wadibia?

    It does not mean arrogance.

    It does not mean that you don’t have to do the footwork to built a legitimate platform.

    This is some foolishness.

  • C

    ConcernedFreshmanFeb 17, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I genuinely hope Sara Margolis doesn’t win. My few interactions with her have shown her to be rude, cold, and unapproachable. The only thing special that her ticket brings is the capital project, which will fail miserably, because this proposed project already exists. Decentralizing a fundraising center is completely useless and will do more harm than good. Unfortunately, Ms. Margolis is not familiar with the school’s current funding system. She seems to know very little about very important issues. Her familiarity with dining is sad. Most freshmen will and always will care about the dining options on campus. GET ME BETTER FOOD GUSA!!! Unfortunately, she really doesn’t know anything about dining, so you can expect her/her crew not to make any changes on that front next year. Her little dig at the GUSA Senate was very exclusivist. I mean how can she claim to not have any familiarity with a whole branch of GUSA when she claims she’s super involved with GUSA?! I feel like the exec wasted a lot of their efforts on a failed Multicultural Advisory Board (that’s all I’ve ever read about them in campus media…) and the same will happen next year with Sara’s capital project. Aside from transfer affairs, Ms. Margolis doesn’t seem to be very informed about the core issues. I do think Chris’ elitist dig does sort of apply to the Margolis-Schmansky ticket.

    • N

      NotIgnorantFreshmanFeb 17, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      I suggest before making baseless claims, I would read their platform. Their meal-plan ideas are extensive. The platform covers Leo’s problems in detail and offers several solutions. In fact, it is one of the main freshman focuses of the Marmansky campaign, so your claim is utterly invalid and only shows blatant ignorance of the realities of the GUSA campaigns. This is not to say that other tickets do not support meal plan changes, but to say that Leo’s is not on their radar is just entirely wrong. For more detailed information about this, see page 23 of their platform found on their website. As for her experience in GUSA, an attack on minimal experience on the exec is applicable to almost all of the candidates. Once again, for someone who claims that Sara is uninformed about core issues should refer to a very detailed and passionate platform full of feasible and delineated ideas.

      • H

        Huh?Feb 17, 2015 at 10:47 pm

        What is a marmansky campaign?

        • N

          NotIgnorantFrshmanFeb 18, 2015 at 9:55 am

          MARgolis + shyMANSKY = marmansky, it’s just a nickname using their last names

    • S

      ScaevolaFeb 17, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      Although you’re probably working for a campaign that’s competing against Sara and Ryan, and are therefore not an impartial observer – I have to concur. There is a frustrating, frightening misunderstanding of the issues in this GUSA Campaign. Sara and Ryan’s funding reform looks great on paper but is impractical, Chris and Meredith are running on vague platitudes, Abbey and Will have great individual ideas but no big signature one that they’ve pushed, and Tim and Reno are lagging so far behind in support that they’re resorting to reverse hit jobs in arcane internet publications. Finally, you’ve got similarly good ideas from the Luther-Rohan camp, but no big headliners. At least they’re entertaining though.

      The entertaining part here is that this one is shaping up to be a 3 1/2 to 4 horse race – Abbey/Will, Sara/Ryan, Luther/Rohan, and Chris/Meredith if the fireworks at last night’s debate don’t hurt them too much. Here’s hoping for a barn burner.

    • H

      HoyaGalFeb 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      I think Sara and Abbey have similar platforms, but I’m voting Abbey because I don’t think the capital project is doable.

  • M

    MasonFeb 17, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Did somebody catch this debate on video? I can’t find it on the Hoya youtube page like the VP debate. If somebody could post it ahead of voting, that would be superb.

  • D

    Debate AttendeeFeb 17, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Something I thought was pretty telling about how the debate was received: each candidate besides Chris received a small amount of applause from everyone in the room after their closing statements. Chris received a raucous standing ovation from his campaign team, while no one else even thought of clapping. I guess no one else wants to support a guy who says he was personally attacked this week, then proceeds to personally attack all the other candidates.

  • Y

    Young AlumFeb 17, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Sara and Ryan do know that we already have the ability to give back to student groups, right? I’ve been giving back to one of my student groups since graduation through the fundraising emails.

    • A

      AnonymousFeb 17, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Exactly! I don’t understand why they’re just decentralizing the process. The rest of their platform is pretty solid but they lose my vote because of this. I’m voting Abby/Will or Tim/Reno.

  • J

    JackFeb 17, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I thought Tim was probably the most impressive, although he’s probably not a frontrunner for the actual election. He handled himself well and brought up a lot of good points. Luther also did a great job of combining humor and real platform points, although his comments tended to be brief.

    I thought it was ironic that Chris built his entire campaign around his personal character and dignity, and then proceeded to mudsling far more than any other candidate. He attacked Sara despite having cross-endorsed with her early. In addition, his questioning of Luther was amateurish and unnecessary. Not only did he look ridiculous when Luther knew the difference between the BSA and and the NAACP, but the question itself was absurd. His comments about Joe having only one talent were openly hostile, and totally betrayed the entire premise of his opening remarks about getting to know people personally.

    It’s safe to say that the GIA discussion was ridiculous, which I think Joe summarized nicely. Chris’s questioning of Tim on the topic is ludicrous considering that he signed and then reneged. Tim seemed far more educated about what the agreement entailed.

    I thought the highlight of the debate was Tim’s closing when he totally put Chris’s “worst week of my life” comments in perspective and generally poked fun at Chris’s repeated attempt to mark GUSA as elitist.