This year’s Georgetown University Student Association Senate swearing-in ceremony, held in Dahlgren Quad on Sunday, featured an unusual sight: A Wisemiller’s Deli Chicken Madness sandwich, represented by Matthew Gregory (SFS ’17), attempted to assume the off-campus electoral district position it won during last Thursday’s elections.
However, before Chicken Madness could pledge to assume the Senate seat, it was officially unrecognized by the previous senate through an almost unanimous vote, as its status as a non-undergraduate violated GUSA’s bylaws regarding candidacy.
Chicken Madness’s seat was transferred to fifth-placed candidate Alejandro Serrano (MSB ’17).
This year’s election also saw an increase in turnout from 19 percent to 24 percent compared to last fall’s election. Senate Speaker Richard Mullaney (COL ’18) attributed this to last year’s redistricting — which consolidated the number of districts from 11 to 7 — and a general increase in interest towards GUSA.
Matthew Gregory (SFS ’17), who assumed the de facto leadership role of the Chicken Madness movement this year, delivered a speech to the rest of the newly-elected senators arguing that the satirical movement was a representation of what he called the average Georgetown student’s unfulfilled desires.
Anirudha Vaddadi (SFS ’16) represented the Chicken Madness ticket in the GUSA Town Hall last year during the executive election.
Chicken Madness was previously a candidate in last year’s executive elections, where it lost to current GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ’17). The election saw the Hot Chick and Chicken Madness ticket come in second, with 878 votes in the final round of voting.
Gregory said its recurrent appearance as a candidate signifies much more than an attempt to make students laugh.
“We see the campaign as a symbolic movement that represents the fact that for the vast majority of students, GUSA does not represent the concerns that they care about,” Gregory said. “It doesn’t represent the factors that impact daily student life. It doesn’t represent anything that students have a reason to care about.”
Khan, who attended the ceremony, said she saw Chicken Madness’ victory as a reflection of the student body’s humor.
“I think it also shows that GUSA can continue to be engaging with the student body and showing that it is a serious body,” Khan said. “It’s important for GUSA to also take itself not too seriously at times and to have fun.”
Gregory said the fact that many students were willing to vote for a sandwich in lieu of a regular student candidate for GUSA is illustrative of the gap that exists between them and the government that represents them.
Although the Election Commission reported an increase in turnout, fewer than 50 percent of students in each district casted their vote. In spite of a 10 candidate increase with respect to last year, some districts had no candidates for available seats.
South Campus Senator Christopher Grocki (MSB ’17) said a variety of factors, beyond perceived misrepresentation, could potentially account for these phenomena.
“As time goes on and Georgetown students settle in their niche in different social circles, they just find less of a desire to participate,” Grocki said.
Grocki said voter turnout declines as students grow older, because freshmen are more enthusiastic about getting involved. Upperclassmen are usually busier and miss out on the short fall senate election period, according to Grocki, while the longer executive election campaign season allows more students to be involved.
“While the information’s out there, it becomes an oversight,” Grocki said. “Ultimately, I think it’s important. There are issues that matter, there’s a body that can deal with those issues, and it would be really great to have input from as many students as possible. For us, trying to increase that is going to be a priority.”
Mullaney, who is representing the at-large seat, said he believes the election’s results indicate the success of previously implemented measures such as redistricting but also pose new challenges for this year’s administration.
“A lot of people laugh at the Chicken sandwich. I don’t,” Mullaney said. “I take it seriously. I know it represents apathy and exhaustion. A lot of people know that GUSA exists, but they don’t know what GUSA does. This year, my task as Speaker of the Senate will be to address the concerns of the Chicken Madness cohort and make sure that they know that the students in GUSA are actually working to make Georgetown a better place.”
Mullaney said students incorrectly believe that GUSA does not represent them. According to Mullaney, this is partly the result of students not seeing the executive and the senate as separate bodies.
“Last year, Enushe and Chris restructured all of GUSA, so, instead of committees, in the Senate, we now work in policy teams,” Mullaney said. “It used to be that the Senate worked on the same things that the Executive worked on but in a completely different sphere.”
This year, besides managing the Finance and Appropriation Committee which assigns over $1 million to the different advisory boards that further divide them among student organizations, senators will also work to enact policy concerning a wide array of areas, from residential living and dining to mental health and security.
Mullaney said he hopes this strategy, combined with a higher degree of outreach, will make the Senate’s actions more tangible to the rest of the Georgetown community. He also considers the inclusion of more communities on campus in policymaking a primary objective for this year.
“[These students] don’t necessarily feel that they can be a part of the Georgetown community,” Mullaney said. “I want to make sure that everyone makes sure that they have a place in GUSA, because GUSA does not belong to people in GUSA, GUSA belongs to all Hoyas.”