Georgetown University Student Association candidates Nicolo Ferretti (SFS ’21), Arisaid Gonzalez Porras (COL ’21) and Joshua Marin-Mora (SFS ’21) all announced their support for three upcoming referenda and discussed their platforms at the GUSA presidential debate Feb. 3.
The debate comes days before the Feb. 6 GUSA election, in which students will vote on the next GUSA Executive administration and decide on three referenda. In one referendum, students will vote on whether to support Georgetown University’s divestment from fossil fuel companies by 2024. In a second referendum, students will vote on whether Georgetown should adopt a Blue Campus designation, which affirms Georgetown’s commitment to ocean preservation. In the most recently approved referendum, students will decide whether to enact a fund that would appropriate student activities fees to help finance large student-directed projects.
Students must vote in favor of university fossil fuel divestment to encourage Georgetown to take action in the fight against climate change, Ferretti said at the debate.
“We really want to make sure that we are pushing them to get this done, because the world is literally on fire. This is one of the biggest issues we’re facing right now,” Ferretti said. “We cannot be a university that claims to Jesuit values without divesting from fossil fuels.”
Divestment from fossil fuels and a Blue Campus designation would prompt the university to strive toward more responsible practices, Marin-Mora said.
“These are the best ways to hold true to its commitments to its sustainability approach. It is what is most consistent with our values, and it is the most ethical way to go forward with this,” Marin-Mora said. “Georgetown cannot afford to not be a leader in this movement. We cannot fall behind, for the good of the university but more importantly for the good of our students and our planet.”
Each presidential candidate also supported the Student Empowerment Fund referendum, which passed the GUSA Senate on Feb. 2, for its capacity to give students more voice in future campus projects.
“I think it is a perfect investment for the long term,” Marin-Mora said.
All three tickets also expressed dissatisfaction with the university’s response to the GU272 referendum, the most recent referendum to be passed by the undergraduate student body. In April 2019, 66.1% of students voted “yes” in support of the GU272 referendum to establish a semesterly fee of $27.20 to benefit the descendants of the GU272, the 272 enslaved people sold by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1838 to financially sustain the university.
Despite overwhelming student support for the referendum, University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) announced in November that the university would not enact a semesterly fee and would instead pursue other initiatives to support descendants.
If elected, Gonzalez Porras would collaborate with the GU272 advocacy team and press the university to take more steps to address the concerns of the descendant community, she said.
“I remember voting for the GU272 and realizing, wow, finally Georgetown is doing something that I’m proud of; I’m proud to be part of Georgetown. Unfortunately, that ended really quickly,” Gonzalez Porras said. “If we have to do civil disobedience, we’re here for it. Even if we don’t get elected, you know where to find me.”
GUSA Election Commissioner Kareeda Kabir (COL ’20) moderated the presidential debate held in the Healey Family Student Center before giving students the floor to ask the presidential hopefuls questions about their campaigns.
Georgetown University Pride Co-President Siena Hohne (COL ’22) asked the candidates how they would encourage diversity and representation in the GUSA. GU Pride alongside other campus organizations released a Feb. 2 report card ranking the campaigns on their policies regarding issues concerning the LGBTQ community. The report card gave Ferretti’s campaign a 94%, Gonzalez Porras’ a 73% and Marin-Mora’s a 72%.
The diversity of Gonzalez Porras’ executive team would encourage students from underrepresented communities to run for office, she told attendees.
“If we do get elected, we would want a whole campaign of leaders with women of color slash femmes,” Gonzalez Porras said. “I think that would make a huge impact, especially if you’re an incoming student, to see that our whole campaign is literally women of color slash femmes.”
To encourage more diverse student representation in the GUSA Senate, Ferretti’s administration would prioritize conversations with students to encourage them to run, he said.
“I think a lot of times cisgender men feel much more entitled to these positions than any other group on campus, and so we really have to go out of our way and encourage every single person to run,” Ferretti said.
Marin-Mora agreed with Ferretti that the GUSA Executive should communicate with candidates considering running and helping navigate the senate if they are elected.
“More students just need to feel supported when they’re going out to run,” Marin-Mora said. “Rather than focusing on diversity, I think we have a lot of work to do regarding the inclusion factor as well and making sure that student voices are being heard.”
The debate comes after GUSA Executive candidate Julio Salmeron-Perla (SFS ’22) left the election Feb. 3, four days after his co-presidential candidate Gabby Elliot Brault (SFS ’21) dropped out of the race.
Marin-Mora’s former running mate Isbel Deleon (COL ’21) also left the race Feb. 3, citing mental health concerns. Deleon will be missed, according to Marin-Mora.
“I am sad of course that she won’t be on the ticket, but at the same time, mental health takes precedence over anything else,” Marin-Mora wrote in a statement to The Hoya.
The GUSA vice presidential debate will take place Feb. 4 in room 108 of the Intercultural Center at 8 p.m.