After two weeks of giant flags, Rubik’s cubes, parody campaign videos and an entire forest’s worth of fliers, at last the Georgetown University Student Association executive election is complete.
In a remarkably competitive election, I congratulate Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13) for their victory. The celebration phase for them must be short, though, for there is much that needs to be done. And for all the campaign hours, makeshift mottos and obligatory promises, the future of their administration remains completely transparent.
Here’s my one piece of advice, channeling the spirit of a certain Hoya and former U.S. President: Don’t forget, it’s the students, stupid!
It is easy to promise the moon in an election campaign. But now GUSA and Georgetown return to reality: We are full-time students with limited energy, resources and attention spans. The incoming administration will have to prioritize and keep its focus on students.
GUSA should not, cannot and does not exist to solve every issue ailing the university. That’s the reason why Georgetown possesses an institutional framework: so the burden doesn’t fall on one organization. Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount should let these other institutions handle their specialties and foremost assignments. GUSA can and should at times play a supporting role for such groups, but GUSA has its own unique niche at Georgetown: student life.
Sustainability is an important issue, which is why we have a Sustainability Office under the Senior Vice President. Diversity, too, needs to be addressed — there are no less than five Georgetown institutions already devoted to it. Social justice is a fundamental aspect of a Jesuit education — hence why Georgetown created the Center for Social Justice. Yet there are no other organizations with as much potential and reach on behalf of students as GUSA. If GUSA will not work to devote the vast majority of its time and energy to improving students’ rights, space and experience, then no one will.
The new executive branch will have plenty on its plate: The organization serves as the primary conduit between students and the administration. Dialogue is easy when student and administrative interests converge, but some of the most important problems require GUSA to stand up against the administration on behalf of students. When visions diverge and the student body needs an advocate, GUSA must fight. GUSA, at times, must be a gadfly to the higher-ups at Georgetown, pestering and persisting in its biting until those in charge wake up and listen to student voices.
If I can offer one suggestion to the new executives, let it be this: Make humility the fundamental virtue of your administration. Reach out to the other candidates who took part in this impressive election campaign, and bring them into your administration; some of their ideas might be better for Georgetown than your own. Acknowledge that GUSA is only one part of Georgetown that can only leave a small but lasting impact on our university, and even then only with great dedication and a little luck.
Don’t try to change Georgetown — instead, seek to love Georgetown and the students here to the best of your ability. All else, including a healthier and better Georgetown, will naturally follow.
The eyes of Georgetown now fall on you. We look to you for leadership, for inspiration, for passion. The campaign was the easy part. Mistakes will be made. Accept them. Battles will be lost; show no signs of discouragement. Challenge the Georgetown community, in particular the undergraduate students, to be more authentic.
Student leaders come and go. It is all but certain that five years from now few will remember a particular administration. Don’t let this fact instill despair, but instead encourage resolve. For in the end, Georgetown — this Hilltop, Jesuit education, the Hoya spirit, what happens here — is larger than all of us. It will endure all of us. It will persist after us. As student leaders, whether as president of GUSA or of the most obscure organization on campus, we seek not fame, nor honor, nor success, nor approval. Instead, we hope that, long after we have graduated, a new student will feel the impact of our time on the Hilltop and think Georgetown is better for it.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But may Georgetown live forever.
Michael Fischer is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. CURA HOYANALIS appears every other Tuesday.