Georgetown students had the chance to “Yell at GUSA About Stuff” on Friday afternoon in an event created by newly sworn-in Georgetown University Student Association President Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Vice President Aleida Olvera (COL ’20).
Olvera and Francis created the event for students to express concerns about the role of GUSA on campus. The pair promoted “Yell at GUSA About Stuff” on Facebook, and the event entailed the executives tabling between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. in Red Square to hear from the student body. During that time, about eight students came and spoke to the pair, according to Olvera.
Olvera said that despite a small turnout, the executives were excited to hear from the students who did voice concerns at the event.
“We were happy that some students were comfortable enough to come up to ask questions! We wish more students came, but that may have been an issue on our end about marketing/communication,” Olvera wrote in an email to The Hoya. “To the students who came, we have decided to take more action towards the issues that were brought up.”
Former GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16) and Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16) held a similarly named “Scream at GUSA About Stuff” event in 2015, which Francis said served as precedent for this one.
The revived tactic comes at a time when many students are skeptical of GUSA’s efficiency. Two percent of respondents reported strong trust in GUSA, 23.9 percent had medium trust in GUSA and 38.9 percent had weak trust in GUSA. Thirty-five percent were indifferent or unsure, according to a Feb. 6 survey conducted by The Hoya, prior to the executive election.
Francis and Olvera narrowly defeated Nicki Gray (NHS ’20) in the final round of the election by a margin of 40 votes, in a year when voter turnout was the lowest since 2007. Their campaign emphasized T.R.A.P.: transparency, reform, accessibility and progress.
This year also marked the creation of the Abolish GUSA movement, an initiative led by an anonymous group of students seeking to replace GUSA with a more efficient and inclusive system of student government.
Abolish GUSA members did not send any representatives to the event and do not believe it is a productive solution to GUSA’s shortcomings.
“Abolish GUSA did not even know this event existed,” the group wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Though the idea is humorous, we do not believe that the very structural and institutional problems in GUSA can be solved by yelling.”
Francis said he and Aleida are aware of students’ disappointment with student government on campus and are exploring other means for students to voice concerns in a less public setting.
“We understand there’s a lot of pent up frustration at GUSA,” Francis said. “Of course, we’re still working on more private ways and more anonymous ways that folks can air their criticism.”
Members of GUSA are committed to delivering results the student body, but this work is hard to relay to the campus community, according to Olvera.
“There’s a lot of work that has been done,” Olvera wrote. “We’re trying to figure out different strategies that we can communicate that to the student body and also figure out different ways that the student body will feel comfortable enough with us to communicate.”
The pair also recognized the existing gap in communication between students and GUSA representatives in the past, which they hope to remedy with this event and future events such as a formal town hall for the community to focus on student engagement and participation.
Students had mixed reactions to the event and its concept. Oscar Matos (COL ’22) appreciated the pair’s gesture and valued their attempt at elevating student voices.
“I think that as recognizable figures around campus, it’s a great move on their part to be the medium for students to voice their concerns,” Matos wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Others were less optimistic about the student body’s willingness to engage with GUSA. Emma Vahey (COL ’20) was skeptical that outreach events could find success when much of the student body has shown indifference toward the executive in the past. (Full disclosure: Vahey is a former member of The Hoya’s editorial board.)
“Having not attended that event and honestly not even having heard of it beforehand, it doesn’t sound like a great way to connect with students, because as I said most people just can’t even be bothered,” Vahey wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I don’t know if it’ll be possible for them to ‘rebuild trust’ because so few people are invested enough, you know?”
This article was updated April 3 to include a full disclosure for Vahey.