Halfway through the term, the administration of Georgetown University Student Association President Kamar Mack (COL ’19) and Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’18) has made minimal progress on the core proposals of its campaign. A lack of cohesive vision and a disparity between the priorities of the president and vice president explain the meager progress achieved by this administration.
While Mack and Andino had an admirable platform centered on affordability, entrepreneurship and student health, they have failed to deliver concrete results. As such, this editorial board, with great chagrin, awards this GUSA executive a C+ for their efforts thus far.
Lacking A Cohesive Vision
The divergence between Mack’s and Andino’s priorities for the remainder of their administration indicates why they have failed to make significant progress on many of their initial goals.
When asked in an interview with The Hoya about his priorities going forward, Mack cited the GUSA executive’s proposed stipend for students seeking unpaid internships that is set to launch its pilot program in the spring. He also noted the importance of responding to student feedback about dining.
Andino, conversely, discussed responding to any future bias-related incidents in a substantive manner as one of her priorities for the remainder of their term. Both Mack’s and Andino’s responses, while touching on important issues, neglected a broader vision to address their campaign promises.
The lack of coordination between Mack and Andino has led to an absence of an overarching trajectory for their administration. The GUSA executive has made some noteworthy accomplishments, but it has failed to address much of its initial platform.
When asked about the administration’s proudest achievement thus far, Andino discussed the university’s vocal opposition to the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Both Mack and Andino have been strong supporters of the university’s stance on DACA. The GUSA executive also pushed for the appointment of a full-time associate director for undocumented student services, a laudable act.
Mack cited efforts in master planning and student conduct as among his proudest achievements. He discussed, for example, the executive’s success in repealing the no-warning policy in first- year dorms; now, first-year students receive a warning before being written up for a noise violation.
The members of the GUSA executive have clearly worked hard on the issues about which they are passionate, but their own efforts have been just that — their own. The executive should devote its time and resources to creating a cohesive vision and then achievable goals by which to guide GUSA.
Failing to Address Affordability
Perhaps the most salient failure of this GUSA administration concerns affordability. In a 2017 poll by The Hoya, 32.3 percent of students polled cited affordability as the most relevant issue in the 2017 GUSA election. Yet, Mack and Andino have made hardly any progress on this issue.
This executive has often discussed its commitment to addressing the hidden costs of attending Georgetown, and it has made some small progress on this promise. For example, enhanced weekend GUTS service — a joint effort of GUSA and the university — has sought to reduce student transportation costs.
Mack and Andino’s only effective initiative on affordability, however, has been its proposed creation of a stipend to assist students seeking unpaid internships. The GUSA administration hopes to launch a pilot version of the program this spring. This editorial board lauds this idea and encourages the GUSA executive to work to see this project through.
Still, one of this administration’s largest undertakings, the introduction of discount cards for low-income students, was both ill-conceived and poorly executed. The cards received immediate criticism, as many of the discounts they provided were either already available to all students or did not really address the needs of low-income students.
“15% off at Ralph Lauren or Vineyard Vines or Brooks Brothers doesn’t represent a major commitment to low-income college students,” wrote Missy Foy, executive director of the Georgetown Scholarship Program, in an Aug. 31 email to The Hoya. Clearly, GUSA’s implementation of this plan did not include careful thought of how these cards could be most useful to low-income students.
Under the program, 1,500 discount cards were produced. However, the initiative was poorly implemented. The GUSA executive failed to set up any sort feedback mechanism to gauge the efficacy of this pilot program, demonstrating a stark lack of monitoring and accountability on this project.
The discount cards cost around $2,000, with their funding coming from the Office of Advancement, the Division of Student Affairs and GUSA. If the GUSA executive is so serious about tuition transparency — about students knowing where their money is going — it should monitor the progress of projects it pours our tuition dollars into.
Seeking to Support Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship was another key plank of the Mack-Andino campaign. In an op-ed published in The Hoya preceding the 2017 GUSA election, Mack and Andino noted that “entrepreneurship is vital to Georgetown’s culture.”
Undoubtedly, Mack, and by extension the GUSA executive, has supported entrepreneurship on campus. However, these efforts have come largely through support of external, already-established entrepreneurship initiatives, such as Georgetown Ventures, a seed accelerator that supports student entrepreneurs and for which Mack serves as a board member. New entrepreneurship projects spearheaded by the GUSA executive have largely been neglected.
Mack discussed the success of various on-campus entrepreneurship projects, including Georgetown Ventures, the Startup Hotel — a platform in Lauinger Library for budding entrepreneurs — and Yellow House, a residence for students interested in entrepreneurship. Yet, none of these projects were begun by GUSA executive.
The Yellow House was in the works long before the Mack-Andino administration came to power: The deadline to apply to be in its first cohort of residents, who currently live there, was March 15, 2017. Mack and Andino were inaugurated March 18, 2017.
As Mack sits on the board of Georgetown Ventures, his experience and relationships are undoubtedly integral to the club’s continued success. Nevertheless, this club was not launched by the GUSA executive and should not be touted as one of its accomplishments.
Mack also noted that the GUSA executive is working toward the creation of an entrepreneurship minor, though progress on such academic ventures is often slow. For example, the disability studies minor, which the university began offering this fall, came to fruition after three years of advocacy. This editorial board encourages the GUSA executive to prioritize this endeavor during the remainder of its term, as it would be a tangible way in which this administration could further entrepreneurship on campus.
Committing to Mental Health
The Mack-Andino administration has made some notable progress in the area of student health.
This editorial board commends the prioritization of mental health by this GUSA executive, along with its policy teams. For example, the executive’s efforts have led to the hiring of the equivalent of two additional full-time employees at Counseling and Psychiatric Services.
Additionally, this administration’s mental health policy coalition has recently taken steps toward implementing a pilot program to subsidize off-campus mental health treatment. We appreciate their administration’s commitment to improving access to mental health resources on campus.
Moving Past the Midterm
This GUSA executive is clearly well-intentioned. While Mack and Andino have the passion and capacity to accomplish their campaign promises, a lack of clear vision and the divergence of their priorities have hampered their ability to achieve substantial progress.
This editorial board is disappointed to award the administration of Mack and Andino a C+ for its work thus far. If the GUSA executive hopes to better the Georgetown student experience and leave a strong legacy, it is time to work together to prioritize the issues that got it elected.