The 2015 Georgetown University Student Association election, which began Thursday at midnight in Red Square, features five student pairs, who have publicized their platforms on their respective websites and social media pages. The presidential and vice presidential tickets include Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan (COL ’16), Sara Margolis (COL ’16) and Ryan Shymansky (COL ’16), Abbey McNaughton (COL ’16) and Will Simons (COL ’16), Tim Rosenberger (COL ’16) and Reno Varghese (SFS ’16), and Chris Wadibia (COL ’16) and Meredith Cheney (COL ’16). A sixth candidate group of Mike Minahan (COL ’16) and Stephen Paduano (COL ’16) officially withdrew from the race Sunday morning. The candidates will discuss their platforms further in two debates on Feb. 11 and Feb. 16 and the race will culminate in a vote Feb. 19.
Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Connor Rohan (COL ’16) have developed a satirical platform called “YouTopia” in order to bring issues within the university and GUSA to light. The platform addresses topics such as religious pluralism, transfer students and student funding through satire.
One example of satire in the Luther-Rohan platform is its description of student athletes. The platform states that student athletes should have, “first access to lifeboats in the event of a great flood” and, “get to be President of Georgetown for a day.” Rohan said that satire allows the campaign to criticize the university and its treatment of athletes.
“The athletics portion is clear satire of the amount of privileges they’re giving to athletes,” Rohan said. “I believe that it can be a little insane sometimes, and the amount of privileges that are afforded to athletes are not in the spirit of academia. The university, first and foremost, is meant to, in my opinion, serve the students.”
Despite the satirical elements of the platform, Luther and Rohan remain entirely serious on their description of student health. The Luther-Rohan ticket resolves to increase support for mental health by subsidizing CAPS appointments and expanding its emergency call services, work with the administration to prioritize disability access and improve sexual assault resources by training all employees on Title IX.
“If we don’t touch [health], it looks bad,” Rohan said. “If we make fun of it, it’s terrible and tasteless. And if we do it right not only does it show that we’re serious, but it shows that we are cognizant of the most important issues that people are facing at Georgetown.”
The ticket also aims to increase student involvement in GUSA, especially in relation to the 2018 campus plan.
“I think GUSA’s biggest failing is that it really does not mobilize the student base well,” Luther said. “At the end of the day, GUSA’s power does not lie in one or two individuals, or the executive position, or the senators or things like that. Its power lies in mobilizing the people and allowing them to have a say what is going on in the university.”
BELIEVE IN GEORGETOWN
Sara Margolis (COL ’16) and Ryan Shymansky’s (COL ’16) platform, at approximately 30 pages, is the longest of the five tickets. Through a focus on diversity, student experience, cura personalis, social justice and education, the pair hopes to serve as advocates for the student body.
The platform is unique in its call for a $5 million Student Activities Capital Campaign, which will partner over the next five years with the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, 1634 Society, the Office of Advancement and the Alumni Association to solicit donations from alumni that will go directly to funding student organizations.
In the student experience portion, Margolis and Shymansky emphasized the importance of the upcoming 2018 Campus Plan, in which the pair will fight to forgo the construction of new buildings until necessary renovations of existing residence halls occur. Similarly, the pair plans to push the university to sign a Green Space Agreement that will require every foot of green space removed by future construction to be replaced in exact square footage elsewhere on campus.
Other major components of the platform focus on marginalized groups ranging from transfer students to undocumented students to veterans to minorities to those identifying as LGBTQ.
“If you flip through our platform, we have specific micro-level policies for every single one of those marginalized student groups, every single one,” Shymansky said. “And in a lot of cases we are the only platform that addresses those specifically.”
The pair also said that exploring options for a new food distributor would be a priority since Aramark’s contract with the university expires in 2016.
Abbey McNaughton (COL ’16) and Will Simons’ (COL ’16) “Rise Together” platform aims to promote cultural change within GUSA by engaging and representing the entire student body. Their platform promotes constant interaction and collaboration with student organizations and leaders and McNaughton and Simons have committed to meet with one student representative from every student organization on campus, but have not defined “student organization” definitively.
To encourage GUSA involvement with student groups, the platform is collaborative, with sections written by specific student leaders and alumni with expertise in certain issues such as dining, entrepreneurship and free speech.
“I’m not only talking about bringing in new people and making sure every single student group is represented or feel as if they can get involved or share their problems with GUSA, but also make sure that GUSA is actively engaging the students, even with really easy things like social media and revamping emails,” Simons said. “It’s supposed represent all 7,500 of us.”
Some major initiatives in the McNaughton-Simons campaign include plans to increase student involvement in the 2018 campus plan by encouraging administrators to share information and collaborate with student leaders, to increase the student activities fee to ensure all Georgetown students have equal opportunity to student organizations and to advocate for increased mental health support on campus.
In addition, they hope to advocate for students with demonstrated need by providing a fund for clothing and transportation to internships, as well as a fund to help students cover the cost of laundry.
“We know that students don’t think GUSA does much,” McNaughton said. “We are committed to changing that. I think that our campaign and platform represents that and I want people to trust in that and vote.”
FOR THE LOVE OF GEORGETOWN
Tim Rosenberger (COL ’16) and Reno Varghese’s (SFS ’16) platform is a mix of short-term and long-term goals that ultimately look to better the school “for the love of Georgetown,” as stated in the campaign’s slogan.
Short-term projects include reform of CAPS and mental health, funding reform, improving workers’ rights and the quality of food at Leo’s, expanding the What’s a Hoya? Program, making the GU Farmer’s Market a larger part of campus and adding a more diverse selection of newspapers to the College Readership program.
Long-term goals include addressing the 2018 campus plan, increasing the Provost’s budget contribution to the student activities budget, making the campus more accessible to all students and improving life for transfer students.
The Rosenberger-Varghese platform addresses other aspects of Georgetown as well, such as athletics: ensuring the renovation of Kehoe Field, increasing the number of academic advisors for athletes and granting club sports greater access to varsity resources.
In the realm of academic life, the pair is seeking to greatly expand the academic opportunities available to undergraduates. This includes allowing SFS students to minor in MSB, NHS and College majors and allowing students in the NHS, MSB and SFS to get a certificate — or more than one certificate — in traditionally College minors.
One especially contentious issue that Rosenberger and Varghese look to mend is off-campus housing. They propose allowing juniors who live off-campus their junior year with the intent to return their senior year to receive four full housing points.
Eliminating special restrictions on off-campus students, increasing student representation on the Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commission and creating an online portal to allow students to advertise available housing are included in their platform as well.
Varghese said that his and Rosenberger’s platform is made of more than empty talking points.
“We didn’t want anything in our platform, any major campaign push, to be something you think about and ask, ‘Can anybody actually do that?’” Varghese said. “We think we can work with the fundamentals and make them better.”
Chris Wadibia (COL ’16) and Meredith Cheney (COL ’16), whose slogan is “Dignity,” established an 18-point platform, separated into three core principles entitled “Washington and the World,” “Access and Transparency” and “Spirit and Service.”
“Washington and the World” focuses on providing students with opportunities beyond Georgetown, particularly with the Washington, D.C., and international community, through a series of programs. One of the campaign’s most publicized programs is “Finance Your Future,” which aims to provide students with tax assistance and classes on personal financial management taught by Georgetown alumni.
The campaign also plans on integrating student input as part of the “Access and Transparency” section.
In addition to revamping policies related to free speech, sexual assault and mental health, Wadibia and Cheney hope to establish a philanthropy trust to allow students with demonstrated need to apply for funds to specific expenses, such as flights home during breaks.
The third section of the campaign, “Spirit and Service,” mainly aims to expand service-oriented initiatives on campus, from increasing sustainability efforts to providing more funding for the Center for Social Justice.
Although the platform lists out the campaign’s priorities, there are few details on how and when its programs will be implemented.
Wadibia said that the succinctness of their platform makes it accessible to students.
“Our platform is succinct because we know students aren’t going to read a 30-40 page platform,” Wadibia said. “But an 18-point platform that’s maybe three pages in length is something that they could read in literally three minutes. So as a result, our platform focuses on making practical efforts.”
Cheney said that the platform is more focused on the candidates’ passion for the programs rather than its details.
“Something that is near and dear to both of us is the overall concept of our platform. It is more vague,” Cheney said. “Ours is so unique in that it’s [our] desire and drive to be so inclusive of everybody. It’s beyond something that we can put on paper.”
Hoya Staff Writers Mallika Sen, Andrew Wallender, Toby Hung and Deirdre Collins contributed reporting.