Georgetown University Student Association President Nico Ferretti (SFS ’21) and Vice President Bryce Badger (MSB ’21) inherited progressive projects from their executive predecessors, such as advocating for gender-neutral housing and increasing accessibility on campus. Their term has reasonably become dominated by unprecedented obstacles, sidetracking their original initiatives and those of previous administrations to improve a widely criticized organization.
They have done an exceptional job reversing this negative opinion in many areas by communicating with the Georgetown University community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While some areas lacked adequate representation of student voices, the current GUSA administration has done a superb job given the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the virtual environment.
Inheriting a Progressive Administration
As Ferretti and Badger announced their campaign in January 2020, former GUSA President Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Vice President Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) were finishing their term, in which they focused on a platform of transparency, reform, accessibility and progress.
During their tenure, Francis and Olvera made strides to increase transparency in their platform but did not fully transform these internal changes into successful advocacy. To name one instance, they created the online GUSA Library to publicize meeting notes, but the collection was poorly publicized, so few students knew it existed. In an interview with The Hoya, Ferretti and Badger acknowledged the struggles with the GUSA Library and have made a point to improve GUSA transparency.
However, the duo noted the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated most of their attention, and that many reforms are difficult to enact in the virtual environment. As a result, their platform adjusted significantly, and they began to focus heavily on COVID-19 advocacy just weeks after they assumed office. Therefore, their original goals that focused on club inclusion and sustainability took a back seat to the pandemic.
Extensive Communication, Advocacy Surrounding Pandemic
Given the turbulent start to their term, Ferretti and Badger have exceeded expectations regarding communication with students about Georgetown’s COVID-19 plans.
Ferretti and Badger, along with their cabinet, worked to publish the GUSA Live COVID-19 Update Tracker. This document educated the student body about COVID-19 updates in the early months of the pandemic, when there was still a great deal of uncertainty about student life in the summer and fall. Publishing and subsequently publicizing this information was just one example of the Ferretti-Badger administration providing reliable and up-to-date information to their already overwhelmed and confused constituents.
Badger was also notably active in various GroupMe chats organized by different student groups, which allowed for direct connection with students. Badger particularly focused on spreading accurate information in classwide GroupMes, meaning that COVID-19 updates were reaching a large crowd. Strong communication from Badger and his colleagues alleviated the struggle of the lack of direct and clear communication from the university throughout COVID-19 negotiations.
The GUSA president and vice president also advocated for quick, decisive action from the university to ensure students had adequate time to plan. They rallied behind student activists at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and they sent an email May 9 to university administrators asking them to release fall 2020 plans.
The duo also gave students the opportunity to be their own advocates. Ferretti spoke to GUSA’s extensive use of surveys and feedback forms, stating they had used significantly more surveys in their administration than he had seen during previous GUSA terms. These forms were distributed using the already established GUSA Weekly emails that go to the entire undergraduate student body. GUSA promised to share feedback from forms to Georgetown officials during COVID-19 meetings throughout the summer. Given the extreme stress caused by the pandemic and the ongoing sense of uncertainty concerning students’ futures, Ferretti and Badger went above and beyond to inform and advocate for students.
While GUSA administrators exceeded expectations in terms of communication and advocacy, some of their positions during times of uncertainty were counterintuitive. Ferretti and Badger should have made a much greater effort to consolidate and represent the larger student body’s interests during COVID-19 negotiations with the university.
For instance, GUSA released its official support for the Double A grading system March 23 via Instagram, encouraging students to sign a petition. While GUSA did release a survey to hear from students about their grading policy preferences, responses did not close until April 8. They chose to endorse a policy before the deadline of their survey, meaning they did not fully take student voices into account.
To improve their representation of the student body, Ferretti and Badger should have reached out to the student body and polled opinions on the different grading policies before endorsing a policy. The editorial board believes it is not their job, or their administration’s job, to choose a policy that is best for the student body. Instead, they should have gathered student opinions and backed the most popular option, whether or not that was the Double A grading system.
As the university makes decisions about spring 2021, the editorial board asks Ferretti and Badger to ensure they are accurately representing the majority of their constituents without allowing their personal preferences to inform GUSA advocacy.
This year also brought issues of racial equity and police brutality to the forefront after the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as well as other unarmed Black people. Throughout the summer, Georgetown students, along with GUSA, advocated to reform the Georgetown University Police Department’s and the Metropolitan Police Department’s relations with students.
On June 8, the Georgetown community had garnered thousands of signatures on a petition calling for Georgetown to cut all ties with any police department. On June 7, the GUSA Senate passed a resolution asking Georgetown to reduce its contracts with the MPD. While this project was not solely executive-led, Ferretti and Badger led advocacy efforts to create reform.
In addition to these previous movements, Ferretti and Badger must continue using their power to fight for further police reform. They are actively working to minimize the effects of policing and are pushing to publish a widespread survey on policing to the student body, according to Ferretti and Badger. Since GUPD has replaced GERMS as the on-campus emergency response force during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are working with the university to create alternative emergency response strategies for those living on campus to ensure student safety.
However, the GUSA administration must continue its advocacy as we enter the coming weeks, during which uncertainty about spring 2021 plans will become increasingly prominent. Despite the pressing issue of the pandemic, the editorial board calls on Ferretti and Badger’s administration to continue being strong advocates for police reform in the Georgetown community.
The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly continue to cause feelings of uncertainty and frustration in the coming months. The editorial board urges GUSA administrators to be mindful of prioritizing important, nonpandemic related issues during the rest of their term. While the pandemic necessitates everyone’s attention and focus right now, GUSA must continue to advocate for reformed GUPD and MPD relations with students and expanded club inclusion measures.
The GUSA Senate, which does not fall directly under the purview of Ferretti and Badger, has previously faced criticism for an exclusive culture and creating an environment that prevented women senators and senators of color from feeling comfortable. We hope Ferretti and Badger foster an inclusive and safe GUSA Executive branch for all as they round out their semester.
While this GUSA administration has done a phenomenal job at maintaining communication during an already disconnected time, the editorial board urges Ferretti and Badger to continue improving communication, to give priority to both pandemic and nonpandemic related issues, and to ensure they are accurately representing the beliefs and priorities of Georgetown students.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the opinion editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.