The Georgetown University Graduate Student Government is set to vote on a proposal to permanently represent the School of Continuing Studies in its ranks, paving the way for expanded advocacy across Georgetown’s graduate campuses.
Under the proposal, the SCS will be able to fully participate in GradGov activities, allowing students in the school to run for executive board positions, attend meetings and run for senate seats. Though the GradGov Senate is expected to vote on the proposal at its upcoming Sept. 17 meeting, the decision is also awaiting approval from an SCS student body referendum, which does not currently have a set date.
The inclusion of the SCS will give a voice to students and significantly enhance GradGov’s ability to advocate for graduate degree seekers at Georgetown, according to GradGov President Jonah Klempner (LAW ’22).
“This constitutes a seismic shift in the graduate student community, one that was achieved with unprecedented expediency,” Klempner wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Not only does it correct a longstanding mistake in the structure of the university that has long left SCS voiceless, this treaty will lead to a 50% increase in our constituency, Senate, and budget.”
The School of Continuing Studies, which offers graduate programs in professional and liberal studies, professional certificates and a part-time bachelor’s degree program, is housed on Massachusetts Ave. NW, largely outside of Georgetown’s main campus and has been separated from GradGov in the past.
The students in the SCS are often demographically different from those in other graduate schools and have not been as actively included in student advocacy, according to Henry Watson (GRD ’24), GradGov chief of staff and former GradGov president.
“I guess that they were presumed to be a bit of a different population since the School of Continuing Studies tends to be more professional, evening students who hold jobs and are also pursuing graduate education,” Watson said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “We’re excited to bring their perspective into our senate.”
With the addition of the SCS, the number of seats in the GradGov Senate will increase from 100 to 150, with 44 of the new seats added specifically allocated to programs within the SCS. Candidates for the SCS seats were able to file to run in the election beginning Aug. 30, despite the vote on SCS addition to GradGov expected to take place two weeks after the general elections. Seventy-three SCS students have already started the process of running for the new seats, and GradGov expects that 42 of the 44 SCS seats will be filled in the upcoming elections, according to Klempner.
The move to add the SCS to GradGov will promote inclusivity and make connections between graduate schools at Georgetown, according to Coulter Tallent (GRD ’22), who first began to advocate for the SCS’s inclusion in GradGov last fall and is now running for a Senate seat.
“The reason why I wanted to do this was because not only does it make the Georgetown community more inclusive, but it also affords Georgetown SCS students the same academic and extracurricular opportunities,” Tallent said in a phone interview to The Hoya.
GradGov will be a better means of representation for Georgetown’s SCS students and help integrate students further into the graduate community, according to SCS Dean Kelly Otter.
“SCS students are always eager to engage with the larger Georgetown community, and I’m pleased they will finally have an opportunity to do so through GradGov,” Otter wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The elected representatives will be an important voice for SCS, and I am confident they will make an immediate positive impact in the coming academic year.”
The move to include the SCS in GradGov comes as part of a larger series of reforms enacted by the group in April when a new constitution was ratified by the GradGov Senate, which outlined the expansion of GradGov to cover the SCS. Other reforms in the new constitution included reforms to standardize the representation of graduate programs within the senate, including the School of Continuing Studies, as well as steps to centralize the election process for both the senate and executive.
Many of the reforms are aimed at building a broader graduate identity across schools and programs, according to Watson.
“A big overarching goal is we want to have a better sense of the graduate student community on campus,” Watson said. “So, we want people to feel like, ‘I’m not just a member of my program, I belong to this community that is Georgetown graduate students.”
While the move to include the SCS in GradGov has not been finalized yet, for Tallent, the inclusion of the SCS is a positive step for graduate students as a whole.
“This is the direction to make us one community, one school,” Tallent said. “This is one step toward that direction but we still have more to go.”