The Georgetown University Student Association Senate voted to join the National Jesuit Student Government Association and to adopt the NJSGA constitution Sunday.
The NJSGA will be the first entirely student-run organization to be a part of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and will foster communication among student leaders on a variety of topics. Student leaders from 28 Jesuit colleges and universities collaborated on designing the NJSGA constitution.
The path toward the formation of the NJSGA began this past summer at the annual National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference in Santa Clara, Calif. GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) and Vice President Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) attended the conference.
“One of the things that we did was have a meeting with all of the student government representatives that were there, and we talked about how our student governments are organized, what we do, the problems we’re facing,” Tisa said. “And then, within that conversation, one of [the students of Creighton University] had a proposal to have a national [Student Government Association].”
Since then, the Jesuit schools have been working on a constitution, the final draft of which was approved by all student leaders, including Tisa and Ramadan, in mid-February. All student leaders were then given a month to get that constitution ratified by their respective student governments, which Georgetown has now done.
Tisa explained the reasons behind GUSA’s desire to help form and join the NJSGA.
“One [reason for joining] is the collaboration: idea sharing, finding out what really has worked well at other schools, and then also what works well here,” Tisa said. “An example of that is some schools were trying to raise the student activities fee, and we were able to talk to them about [Student Activities Fee and Endowment] reform, what that looked like, what our fee is, what we spend it on, how we allocate it.”
In addition to constant online meetings, NJSGA holds annual conventions as part of the existing NJSLC, which will take place at Boston College this summer.
Tisa described the communication network of the Jesuit Association of Student Affairs Administrators, one of many such groups under the AJCU whose successful meeting structure the NJSGA hopes to emulate.
“All the administrators for all these 28 schools have this thing called JASPA. So all these administrators have these different meetings,” Tisa said. “[Vice President for Student Affairs] Dr. [Todd] Olson sits down with the VPs of Student Affairs for all the different schools, and they share ideas and best practices. So we want to not just kind of passively let them decide what the best practices are, we want to have a voice in that.”
There are more than 30 different conferences, or groups, such as the one Olson takes part in, based on position and expertise.
Georgetown Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., has communicated regularly with the other 27 vice presidents for mission and ministry, and he emphasized the AJCU’s role both in convening the Jesuit colleges and in advocating for them before policy makers.
“It’s been extremely helpful, particularly sharing best practices. Rather than having to reinvent the wheel every time a new problem or situation comes up, or a new opportunity, others may have tried it at other places,” O’Brien said. “We’ve started some new programs that other people have liked and said, well, we might imitate that, which is fine.”
GUSA Senate Vice Speaker Kasey Ng (SFS ’16) discussed how Georgetown has provided knowledge to other Jesuit schools.
“We are one of the first Jesuit institutions, if not the first one, to have an LGBTQ Resource Center, so for something like that, we would be able to share our experiences with the other institutions.”
Meanwhile, another student-driven organization is poised to join the NJSGA in the AJCU. The AJCU recently announced that they have added the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network, which Georgetown established along with Fairfield University and Fordham University in 2006, and in which 10 Jesuit universities are now involved.
“GU’s JUHAN fellows serve as the university’s first responders in coordinating fundraising efforts following international humanitarian disasters, such as the [recent typhoon in the] Philippines,” Georgetown Center for Social Justice and JUHAN Director Andria Wisler said.
Both the NJSGA and the JUHAN serve as major organizational resources for students at Jesuit universities.
“Student government at Georgetown has grown leaps and bounds over the past few years,” Tisa said. “As student governments have grown and students have been more and more vocal at their universities, this just kind of grew out of that as a natural extension.”