Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Progressive Coalition Could Bring Change to GU

In his great survey of American democracy Alexis de Tocqueville identified two veins of opinion “as old as the world itself.” Though they could be given different names and could be found in different forms, they could not fail to exist in any free society. One view, he wrote, would advocate the restriction of popular power, the other to extend it indefinitely.

Around these two irreconcilable beliefs on the nature of a just society, great organizations would form. Bringing together individuals motivated by a multitude of causes, these great organizations would seek to “convulse society,” to “save it by overthrowing it,” where smaller groups could create little more than “unprofitable trouble.” Unfortunately, de Tocqueville claimed, such great parties no longer existed in America.

Looking at Georgetown’s campus, one cannot help agreeing with that depressing assessment. Though there are notable exceptions, such as the recent unity rally in Red Square or the campus-wide response to the vandalism against the Jewish Student Association’s menorah in 1999, students and groups at Georgetown are fractious and largely uninformed about one another. Though student groups often do much more than cause “unprofitable trouble,” the lack of cooperation and communication among students prevents any meaningful change in Georgetown’s basic identity.

The reason for this lack of effectiveness is simple. There is a reccurring pattern played out every year in which the energy of incoming freshmen convinces student groups that they have the devoted membership that will allow them to reform Georgetown on their own, according to their group’s particular mission. Inevitably though, new students overextend themselves and as classes begin, the students slowly drop away from the many groups they signed up for and concentrate on just one or two groups, if that many. Thus, active students are divided up, and instead of reinforcing each other’s enthusiasm, a sense of isolation imposes itself on devoted group members. “Why doesn’t anyone else care?” becomes the common refrain.

By the time the groups realize they can garner interest for little more than holding a half-hearted planning meeting for a movie night, winter break is upon them and the interest level of students is further eroded by the general forgetfulness that comes with leaving campus.

When the spring semester starts, there is a burst of new interest, especially with the adoption of new leadership. That burst of interest keeps students groups from reaching out to each other but the interest is soon dissipated as nice weather arrives and students elect to go play Frisbee on Copley lawn rather than plan a speaker series. Before anyone knows it, the year has ended.

What ensures that this vicious cycle of ineffectiveness repeats itself is that just as students begin to recognize it, to understand that instead of trying to go it alone at the beginning of the year, they should cooperate with other groups, they start getting ready to graduate, look for a job and move on to the world beyond the Healy Gates. It is one of the curses of college life that just as one begins to understand how things work, the time has come to move on.

Enter the Progressive Coalition. The Coalition began informally this year in order to break the vicious cycle of lack of effectiveness and to bring students and student groups together solidly on one side of de Tocqueville’s great division of society, that of extending popular power indefinitely here at Georgetown. In its most simple form, the Coalition is designed as a forum through which similarly-minded student organizations can come together to discuss how they can better make Georgetown into a university that lives up to its ideals as an institution that “sees all persons as essentially equal, as endowed with a human dignity always to be respected.” It can also help them to to ensure Georgetown reaches its self-proclaimed goal of “being in the service of humankind.”

Hopefully, though, it can become more than that, an organization in which student groups can pool resources, information and knowledge to better accomplish each group’s particular mission. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if student groups had the consistent ability to inform the entire campus about upcoming events or to fill buses for rallies held on the Mall? The only way this can happen is if student groups work together.

Certainly not all students will agree on the particulars of what other students would like see change on campus or in society. But Coalition members should all agree on the general direction in which society should be headed, toward greater empowerment for those who are now in any respect neglected.

Furthermore, Coalition membership should not be restricted simply to students. Georgetown University is also made up of teachers, administrators and clergy, many of whom are similarly inclined in wanting a more just and democratically empowered world. The inclusion of such individuals will diversify viewpoints as well as help provide the institutional memory which will allow the cause of progressive change to continue uninterrupted through any student’s limited time at Georgetown.

The Progressive Coalition will become official on Monday, April 23, but it exists now wherever any two students want to overthrow the ambivalent attitude among many at Georgetown in order to save the spirit for which Georgetown and all of humankind should stand. In a democratic society, a small group can make a difference, but it takes the support of a majority to make a lasting change.

Jake Klonoski is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

More to Discover