After the tumultuous resignations in the Georgetown University Student Association last fall, this executive election promised a fresh start. Yet, in a campaign season marked by an attractive “Abolish GUSA” movement and another resignation, no ticket offers the solution students need and deserve.
Georgetown’s student body needs a strong executive to restore confidence in GUSA, but all four tickets fall short. Because all candidates currently running are woefully unprepared and tout flawed policy platforms, this editorial board will not be endorsing a ticket in the 2019 GUSA executive election.
If they seek to effectively represent students, GUSA executive candidates must genuinely improve their platforms to present specific solutions to student concerns before elections.
Student trust in GUSA plummeted after the Sept. 11 resignations of former GUSA president Sahil Nair (SFS ’19), vice president Naba Rahman (SFS ’19) and 10 other executive cabinet members. Though current GUSA president Juan Martinez (SFS ’20) and vice president Kenna Chick (SFS ’20) made a valiant effort to pick up the pieces and move forward, an executive without legitimacy breeds concern that students are not effectively represented to the university.
Though the current platforms do not inspire confidence, they all demonstrated elements that can be improved upon and a sincere commitment to updating their proposed policies according to student feedback. With extensive reflection and platform restructuring, tickets may come closer to what Georgetown’s campus needs.
Of the tickets, Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) offer the most substantive platform of the bunch, with clear policies addressing over 20 issues. With a catchy campaign slogan, “T.R.A.P.,” that captures the core of what they stand for — transparency, reform, accessibility and progress — the platform is certainly the most organized.
However, Francis and Olvera also demonstrated a worrying lack of knowledge of these policies in a Jan 27. interview with The Hoya, as the only specific policy they mentioned was introducing a pamphlet informing students of alternatives in Georgetown’s curriculum. An impressive website does not hide the fact that the candidates are unaware of what is on it.
Francis and Olvera view their lack of GUSA experience as an advantage, allowing them to make the institution more approachable and accessible to students. While the fresh perspective is appealing, previous administrations have proven an understanding of GUSA processes and university policy is essential to successful advocacy.
Georgetown students already lack faith in GUSA and cannot afford another year of glacial change. We cannot afford to elect executives with a painful unawareness of how to enact the change they seek.
Still, if Francis and Olvera use the next week to adequately inform themselves of the university’s administrative processes — as well as their own policies — their actionable, specific platform could effectively address student concerns.
While no other ticket matches Francis and Olvera’s presentation of comprehensive or transparent policies, Sina Nemazi (COL ’21) and Roya Wolfe (SFS ’21) make a decent attempt, focusing their platform on five main areas: sexual assault and women’s rights, dining, mental health, affordability and sustainability.
While the pair proposed specific and feasible policies such as free feminine hygiene products in campus bathrooms, other policies made evident their utter lack of campus knowledge and inexperience — unsurprising, as they are the only sophomore ticket.
For example, Nemazi and Wolfe suggested creating a meditation center on the first floor of Lauinger Library to improve mental health: With beanbags hardly a solution to mental health inaccessibility and the John Main Meditation Center located just down Library Walk, these policies are absurdly irrelevant.
More concerning, however, is the ticket’s tendency to follow a trend of GUSA leaders — taking credit for student advocacy. Nemazi, who currently serves as the chair of GUSA’s dining policy team, claimed he “brought halal to Olive Branch” in an interview with The Hoya, only to later concede that the restaurant became fully halal because of the Muslim community’s concentrated advocacy, with GUSA marginally involved in the process.
Despite Nemazi and Wolfe’s limited and flimsy policy goals, however, the pair could offer a mediocre platform if they acknowledge student advocacy and do their research on policies that are actually necessary.
Similar to Nemazi and Wolfe’s, Nicki Gray’s (NHS ’20) platform is largely composed of blanket statements criticizing campus issues but offering few actionable solutions.
Still, Gray’s decision to run alone after her former running mate, Sam Appel (COL ’20), stepped down from the ticket Monday night is commendable.
Gray’s platform also offers limited initiatives on supporting survivors of interpersonal violence by facilitating access to pro bono legal counsel in the Title IX process; regardless of the winner of the 2019 executive race, this policy should be seriously considered by future GUSA executives. She also plans to advocate for the recommendations of the GU272 advocacy team.
Gray’s campaign is filled with buzzwords, but lacks substance on campus issues she identified, including affordability and diversity. Though Gray expressed an intent to upload policy proposals on a piecemeal basis, her campaign has yet to release any such policies.
Gray should use this week to flesh out specific solutions to the problems she identified. She should also improve the campaign’s transparency by abandoning her strategy of gradually posting policies and immediately release the ticket’s platform on her Facebook page.
Ryan Zuccala (MSB ’ 20) and John Dolan (MSB ’20), in a departure from the tickets that cover numerous policy areas but lack concrete solutions, have narrowed their platform to three topics: facilities, affordability and dining plans.
Zuccala and Dolan limited their campaign to these three issues because of shared frustration among students, they said in an interview with The Hoya. Yet even these main points lack policy depth, beyond sweeping promises to reduce meal plan prices, lower tuition and expedite work orders.
Focusing on these issues demonstrates the ticket’s lack of understanding about GUSA limitations: Facilities, as well as the costs of meal plans and tuition, are areas over which GUSA has little control.
Though the pair recognize student frustrations with GUSA, they are not informed enough about issues beyond their three main policies to address student concerns.
Moreover, Zuccala and Dolan’s apparently satirical slogan, “Vote Handsome,” presents a legitimate source of confusion about whether the campaign is serious, especially as the pair did not attend the campaign launch and Dolan did not participate in the vice presidential debate.
Overwhelming disillusionment toward GUSA has led to the emergence of an “Abolish GUSA” movement. While presented as a panacea, the movement is merely in its preliminary stage: Abolishing GUSA without a cohesive alternative will jeopardize advocacy for students. (Full disclosure: Editorial Board member Rowan Saydlowski is involved with the Abolish GUSA movement.)
Instead of abolishing GUSA, students should channel their anger at the student government into constructive reflection about necessary reform.
This election should be a sharp wake-up call. Students deserve better than a fractured student government and lackluster candidates.
Candidates need to present actionable, feasible policies that acknowledge the limitations of GUSA. Rather than using buzzwords like diversity and inclusion, candidates should actually publish steps to incorporate minority communities into their administration. Campaigns must also reach out to student groups and policy chairs to solicit feedback about their platforms.
The executive tickets should also enhance their transparency: Candidates’ social media pages must do a better job of actively informing followers about their platforms. Seven days into the campaign, Gray and Zuccala have no policies posted on their pages. Nemazi and Wolfe’s two Instagram pictures similarly disappoint.
Though the onus to present viable platforms is on the candidates, students have the responsibility to do their research. Read all the ticket platforms — those that are published — and candidate profiles. Attend campaign debates and events to question candidates on topics you are passionate about. Propose solutions and ask for policy clarification — hold our representatives accountable.
Students cannot fall into a state of apathy. With voter turnout low in recent years — 39 percent turnout in 2018 and 38 percent in 2017 — our complaints about the status quo will not change if we are not actively involved.
Georgetown deserves a GUSA that effectively and passionately advocates for students’ concerns. As it stands, no ticket offers the solution that students need from their future representatives.
Still, if candidates genuinely take into account these recommendations before elections Friday Feb. 8, they may come closer to restoring trust and hope in GUSA. Students deserve better.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and 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.