Three tickets launched their campaigns and a fourth confirmed its candidacy for the Georgetown University Student Association 2019 executive election early Friday morning, with candidates calling for greater campus inclusivity and stressing realistic goals.
The four announced tickets are: Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Aleida Olvera (COL ’20); Nicki Gray (NHS ’20) and Sam Appel (COL ’20); Sina Nemazi (COL ’21) and Roya Wolfe (SFS ’21); Ryan Zuccala (MSB ’20) and John Dolan (MSB ’20). All four tickets are officially registered to run, co-chair of the GUSA Election Commission Grant Castle (SFS ’21) said.
Typical to the start of every GUSA executive election season, Francis-Olvera, Gray-Appel and Nemazi-Wolfe arrived in Red Square with their campaign staff and posters just after midnight to mark the official start of their campaign season.
While not present alongside the three tickets in Red Square, Zuccala and Dolan are confirmed to have entered the race. The pair are both members of the Georgetown men’s lightweight rowing team.
The election is set for Friday, Feb. 8. Additional tickets are permitted to enter the race if they collect and submit 100 student signatures to the GUSA Election Commission by Monday, Jan. 28.
Francis and Olvera
With rap music playing from a speaker and a lit candle, Francis and Olvera emerged from the Intercultural Center to Red Square, holding their campaign poster and leading a group of supporters behind them.
If elected, the candidates will prioritize achievable targets, according to Francis.
“We’re really big on trying to do things that we really can accomplish,” Francis said in an interview with The Hoya. “We don’t want to just give empty promises; we want to actually make sure we can actually have attainable goals and make tangible change at the university during our tenure.”
The pair intends to run a platform based on four main policy themes — transparency, reform, accessibility and progress — which will guide their approach to tackling student issues, according to Olvera.
“We want to push the university to bring about these four key points, and our platform is basically a scaffold from there,” Olvera said.
Francis is a student office assistant at the Georgetown University department of African American studies and serves as a tour guide for Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society. Olvera serves as co-director for Georgetown University’s inaugural hackathon Hoya Hacks, is the technology director of Georgetown Radio and is a Georgetown Community Scholar.
Though neither has any previous GUSA experience, the pair are confident they can use student government as a platform to elevate the voices of students who may otherwise feel excluded.
“I know people are really competitive about this but me and Norman, we’re really, like, relaxed, chill and laid-back people; it’s kind of us just trying to see if maybe we can have our voice heard because we haven’t been a part of these big, established organizations like this,” Olvera said. “We’ve never had this certain type of position, so we’re trying to see what kind of impact we can make as students who don’t have that much experience through this opportunity.”
Gray and Appel
Followed by a cheering crowd of campaign staff, Gray and Appel carried their banner out of the ICC surrounded by supporters calling their names.
The candidates spoke about their distinct experiences in different on-campus groups and their campaign’s intended emphasis on underrepresented student voices.
Gray, who has not previously been involved in GUSA, said her other experiences on campus give her an educated perspective on student issues.
“I’ve seen campus from a lot of different angles: as an RA, as a member of GERMS and as a member of a lot of different cultural and other student organizations,” Gray said. “But I recognize that my experience isn’t exhaustive. My vision for Georgetown is a home that promotes the safety, comfort, curiosity, creativity, spirit and overall well-being of all of its members, all of the members of its community.”
Gray underscored the value of her running mate’s previous positions and work in GUSA.
“Sam has a lot of experience inside of student government and has been an amazing, outspoken advocate for students and community members who often go unheard in policy discussions,” Gray said.
Gray currently serves as the director of personnel for Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service and as the standards chair for Delta Phi Epsilon professional foreign service sorority. Appel serves as a GUSA senator representing the class of 2020 and was corresponding secretary for the Georgetown Philodemic Society in fall 2018.
The pair also voiced their excitement for the opportunity to hear and learn both from their fellow candidates and the larger Georgetown community.
“I’m honestly so excited to get to know all the other tickets, all the other candidates and what they stand for,” Gray said. “But also getting to know the rest of the students on this campus, because there are just so many students who have so many different backgrounds and experiences and important issues that they want to address.”
Nemazi and Wolfe
Nemazi and Wolfe, along with campaign staffers, were the first ones to arrive in Red Square. The candidates announced a platform focused on increasing student awareness on issues of mental health, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability.
The pair seeks to represent the entire Georgetown community, pursuing initiatives they hope will highlight issues not traditionally addressed by university administrators.
“Our slogan is ‘run for all’ and we really do stand by that,” Wolfe said in an interview with The Hoya. “Our fear is inaction and ignorance and that’s what we want to change.”
Nemazi currently serves as GUSA’s dining policy chair and also as the director of communications for the Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service’s student-run online publication, On the Record. Wolfe works for Uncommon Grounds, a coffee shop owned by Students of Georgetown, Inc., commonly known as The Corp, and was a former member of the Georgetown women’s club ultimate frisbee team.
Nemazi plans to draw on his GUSA experience advocating for improved on-campus dining quality, efficiency and affordability.
“I basically had a couple things I wanted to do and that’s increasing efficiency, bringing halal and increasing time for, like, dining,” Nemazi said. “I did that and I achieved that, so that’s what I’m bringing to this campaign.”
Unlike her running mate, Wolfe does not have experience working with GUSA, but she looks forward to serving the student body.
“I’m excited to meet the other people running in the race,” Wolfe said. “I’ve met a couple of the candidates and I’ve never done anything like this before. I did student council in high school but not here at Georgetown so I am excited to see what GUSA holds and see where we can help.”
GUSA in Review
This year’s election comes in the wake of a series of GUSA executive resignations last fall.
On Sept. 11, former vice president Naba Rahman (SFS ’19) and 10 other executive cabinet members resigned effective Sept. 14, to put pressure on then-GUSA president Sahil Nair (SFS ’19) to resign amid sexual assault allegations against him. Nair resigned later that morning. After an emergency GUSA senate meeting that night, senators demanded all of the resignations be upheld. Rahman and the remaining cabinet members officially resigned Sept. 13.
Per GUSA bylaws, former GUSA senate transition chair Juan Martinez (SFS ’20) became president Sept. 16 as a result of vacancies in the roles of vice president, chief of staff, and speaker and vice speaker of the senate, the latter two of which had not yet been filled. Martinez nominated Kenna Chick (SFS ’20) as his vice president Oct. 1 and the GUSA senate confirmed her nomination Oct. 2.
Candidates are barred from spending more than $300 on their campaigns. All tickets are required by the GUSA Election commission, an independent body of undergraduate students who fairly administer all student government races, to submit receipts of all campaign expenses by midnight on election day. Last year’s executive election results were delayed after the use of Snapchat filters was not included in a submission of Nair and Rahman’s campaign finance receipts. However, the election commission concluded that the pair did not exceed the $300 spending limit.
On election day, students can vote on the student organization portal HoyaLink or at a polling station operated by the GUSA Election Commission, expected to be in Red Square or the Leavey Center.
The debates for vice presidential and presidential candidates will be held Thursday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. in room 115 of the ICC and Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. in the Healey Family Student Center Great Room.
Hoya staff writers Deepika Jonnalagadda and Yasmine Salam contributed reporting.