As we approach the one-year mark of Georgetown University’s shift to a virtual learning environment, it is clearer than ever that the leaders of the Georgetown University Student Association must connect with and advocate for all members of the student body.
Though neither ticket is perfect, both campaigns in this year’s GUSA executive election offer detailed, thoughtful platforms and an admirable vision for Georgetown’s future. Still, one ticket’s dozens of thorough policies and aspirations for a more dynamic student government have shown it would be better equipped to govern in the virtual environment and manage the community’s eventual return to campus. These candidates’ efforts to serve all student voices in their campaign, combined with their leadership in GUSA and experience lobbying for student interests, make Nile Blass (COL ’22) and Nicole Sanchez (SFS ’22) the Georgetown community’s best choice in this year’s election.
Blass and Sanchez offer well-informed policy proposals that address problems from every corner of the student body. Their plans, though often sweeping and idealistic, are backed by the ticket’s pragmatic, action-oriented leadership and their experience in student government: Blass currently serves as the provost of the Student Advisory Committee, while Sanchez chairs the GUSA Senate Ethics and Oversight Committee. Their experience in organizing students and drawing concessions from the university would undoubtedly help them achieve their advocacy-minded goals that can benefit all Georgetown students.
Among Blass and Sanchez’s more than 100 policy goals is a plan to reform academic rules and policies at Georgetown. Once in office, they plan to push to make Georgetown’s language offerings more accessible by allowing non-language majors to take their courses pass/fail and by adding new languages like American Sign Language and more non-European languages. Further, they hope to ease the academic burden on students during and after the COVID-19 pandemic by pushing for less severe grading curves at least while campus continues in a virtual setting and working with the provost’s office to establish an anonymous reporting system for students to hold faculty accountable for inappropriate actions.
Their campaign also highlights a number of other issues facing students at Georgetown. Blass and Sanchez plan to continue GUSA’s advocacy for more generous financial aid in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, while urging more consistent communication from the university’s highest officials. And their COVID-19 plans cover the entire community: Blass and Sanchez’s administration would push Georgetown to protect staff who feel unsafe doing in-person work during the pandemic and advocate equal access to COVID-19 relief for workers contracted through Aramark.
Students can also expect substantive improvements to daily campus life from the Blass-Sanchez administration. The pair has a comprehensive platform to improve accessibility at Georgetown. They plan to continue efforts to ensure all buildings are physically accessible for all students and to improve accessibility on Georgetown’s websites. Additionally, they hope to establish new financial resources for students ineligible or unable to receive services through Georgetown’s Counseling and Psychiatric Service, while also holding CAPS accountable with an expert panel to assess its operations and performance.
The other campaign in the race, that of Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22) and Leo Arnett (SFS ’22), also has a strong policy platform and important experience within the leadership of GUSA. Their combined experience in the organization — including Daniella’s time as speaker of the senate — is certainly formidable, and their platform presents some creative solutions to university issues.
Sanchez and Arnett offer thoughtful proposals regarding club culture at Georgetown and the discrimination some students face from the Georgetown University Police Department. Their proposal to eliminate the expensive costs that student groups must pay to GUPD when hosting large events is a strong, practical step toward distancing the student body from GUPD. And their plan to establish a forum of student leaders that would meet three times a year to confront problems facing the student body, offers a balanced approach to bringing organizations together to confront problems with campus culture and exclusivity.
However, the Editorial Board has some critical concerns regarding one of the campaign’s most important planks: the Student Bill of Rights. Sanchez and Arnett’s Student Bill of Rights offers a creative and well-intentioned solution to protect and empower students against university administrators. However, the extent to which this high-minded proposal would actually be negotiable or enforceable with Georgetown officials is unclear. We cannot depend on the university to reliably enact student demands, and direct pressure campaigns would likely remain the most effective way to advocate the will of the student body going forward.
Both campaigns are well developed, and both sets of candidates would serve well in their positions. But on balance, Blass and Sanchez bring more to the table — both in terms of the strength of their policy positions and their backgrounds in GUSA leadership and other student groups within the Georgetown community. Both were involved with the Black Survivors Coalition and its #GeorgetownDoesntCare protest last spring, in which student organizers pressured the university to better support Black women and nonbinary survivors of sexual assault. The protest was successful in mobilizing student protestors and achieved some concessions from university administrators. This approach to leadership — centering direct action and pressure on the university — has proven successful in extracting demands from the university, making these candidates better suited to address problems, including everything from accessibility to sustainability to equity.
Blass and Sanchez’s advantage is especially clear when comparing the two campaigns’ plans to continue advocacy for the implementation of the GU272, which called on the university to enact a reconciliation fee to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved people sold by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1838. Sanchez and Arnett’s relatively sparse plan affirms the pair’s commitment to supporting the implementation of the 2019 GU272 referendum, but it does not offer further detail on their plan to advocate alongside the descendant community.
Blass and Sanchez, on the other hand, go beyond simply supporting the referendum and offer feasible, concrete plans to feature Georgetown’s history with slavery more prominently in New Student Orientation, memorialize enslaved gravesites across campus and push the university to address the other recommendations made by the GU272 working group.
The pair also distinguishes itself from its competition with its sustainability platform. Blass and Sanchez go further than Sanchez and Arnett with their plans to confront Georgetown’s contribution to climate change. Though Sanchez and Arnett would continue to build on advances like the divestment referendum and the Blue Campus referendum, they do not offer innovative ideas of their own. Blass and Sanchez, on the other hand, promise leadership on this issue. The ticket, like Sanchez and Arnett, would continue to support the goals of the referendums, but they would go further with plans to negotiate sustainable food sources for on-campus dining options and incentivize students to take greater advantage of Washington, D.C.’s public transportation.
As students continue in the virtual environment, setting these kinds of specific, measurable goals will be particularly important for effective student governance. Blass and Sanchez have shown during the campaign that they are capable of offering thorough and achievable plans; if they continued to do so in office and simultaneously draw on their backgrounds as leaders, they would likely find great success.
For their comprehensive, attainable plans, as well as their actionable approach to governance, Blass and Sanchez represent Georgetown’s best. For this year’s GUSA executive election, the Editorial Board urges students to vote for Nile Blass and Nicole Sanchez.
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.