After December’s unsuccessful referendum to replace the Georgetown University Student Association senate with a new assembly, some may balk at another vote aimed at GUSA senate reform. But the initiative up for election April 25 to 27 represents welcome — and necessary — change to a system struggling to better represent the student body.
The sweeping change would have senatorial candidates run based on class year rather than location of residence halls, in addition to protecting candidates from discrimination and shifting most senate elections from fall to spring. Besides being the more intuitive choice for students, shifting from geographic to class representation will bolster the effectiveness of GUSA’s elected body.
While GUSA’s last referendum also focused on internally reforming the organization, this referendum has the potential to substantially improve the way GUSA operates and ensure its initiatives better reflect the interests of the university community. As such, students should turn out to vote for this proposed improvement.
Aside from freshmen, students have much more in common with their class than their residence hall, particularly on an academic basis. Students of different years confront different requirements in their professional and personal development, and ensuring each year is accounted for in the GUSA senate allows the body to broadly track interests across years.
Despite the promise of greater inclusion, the proposed measures have nevertheless encountered discord within the senate by detractors who argue that one of the proposals — dropping the number of senate seats from 29 to 24 — would achieve the opposite effect. While this change would make getting elected more difficult, this is not necessarily to the detriment of the legislature’s inclusivity.
In fact, this editorial board believes that expanding voting districts will instead allow senators to better represent the needs of their constituents. Currently, GUSA senate elections suffer from abysmally low turnout rates, meaning senators can virtually guarantee the election by shoring up the votes of a handful of neighboring apartments. In the last senate elections in September, the off-campus turnout rate was a measly 9 percent; in the central, east, at-large, north, west and south districts, turnout fell to 26 percent or less.
Now, instead of knocking on nearby doors, candidates must appeal more broadly to the needs and desires of their class, requiring them to better represent larger and more diverse swaths of the student body. This reduction may very well result in more substantive platforms that better cater to students groups beyond their location.
Even with voting sprawled over three days, the referendum could encounter difficulty meeting the 25 percent threshold of voters, a majority of whom must approve the measure. For this reason, it is important to acknowledge that the responsibility to assure a more representative GUSA not only falls on the organization itself, but also on the student body to mobilize in support of this measure.
The senate should be applauded for looking inward and seeking to prioritize inclusivity by using the common-sense measure of class to represent the student body. But now that the organization has advanced its own proposal to bolster representation, the mantle of responsibility falls on students to hit the polls and approve the measure.