The 2016 Georgetown University Student Association executive race began as the presidential and vice presidential ticket of Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Chris Fisk (COL ’17) launched its executive bid at midnight Wednesday in Red Square. They are the only candidates to publicly launch their campaign so far.
According to GUSA Election Commissioner Grady Willard (SFS ’18), the presidential and vice presidential ticket of Tony Pezzullo (MSB ’17) and A.J. Serlemitsos (COL ’17) has also filed to run.
Even with the Pezzullo-Serlemitsos campaign, this executive campaign cycle of two tickets stands to be one of the least-contested in GUSA history.
Just before midnight, around 50 students from Khan and Fisk’s team entered Red Square from the Intercultural Center accompanied by a portable stereo with strobe lights and the song “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar, before taping up their poster with the slogan “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.”
Alex Bobroske (SFS ’17), Khan and Fisk’s campaign manager, said the slogan is focused on unifying various student groups to come together and advocate on behalf of students when working with university administration.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy in the administration, a lot of reasons that different communities on campus aren’t connecting with each other, or not getting the best advocacy they can,” Bobroske said. “And so that’s the first part of our campaign is identifying those barriers, and then the second part is building bridges between different communities on campus to make GUSA more inclusive and actually representative of campus, rather than being perceived as a club itself.”
Khan explained that following last year’s executive election, she and Fisk wanted to focus on bringing the Georgetown community together.
“I think coming off of last year, there was a really divisive and toxic election, I think a lot of people were dissatisfied with what happened there,” Khan said. “This is student government at the end of the day, and what we saw was all that division was not what was good for Georgetown and we wanted to really see people working together.”
Fisk said inclusivity will feature prominently in his and Khan’s campaign.
“We’re also strongly pushing a message of inclusivity overall. Restructuring GUSA is the main way of talking about that inclusivity,” Fisk said.
According to Fisk, inclusivity, restructuring GUSA and socioeconomics are three principal topics of their platform.
Kotryna Jukneviciute (COL ’18), executive officer of the GUSA senate and co-director of outreach on the Khan-Fisk ticket, said the campaign will focus on increasing student body engagement with GUSA.
“I think the central goal of this campaign is student engagement because up until this point, you’ve had a lot of very competitive campaigns that have been focused on winning, whereas our goal is more engaging the student body and getting people to have a voice in GUSA, and to have them heard,” Jukneviciute said.
Khan and Fisk’s campaign is one of the largest in GUSA executive campaign history, with around 200 members.
According to Bobroske, the Khan-Fisk ticket also took a more open approach to policy development.
“One of the differences that we did this year compared to past years, was generally GUSA campaigns would dole out a platform from one or two key experts in the field and just adopt that as their plan,” Bobroske said. “This year we started with that, we went to the experts, but that was only step one. The next part was sitting down and having a meeting open to anybody in our staff, anybody who are experts in the field.”
Serlemitsos wrote in an email to The Hoya that the team has been preparing its candidacy for months, even though they were unable to launch their campaign Wednesday night.
“Tony and I are very excited to announce our candidacy. We have been working in private with our team for months. We are very excited to roll out the campaign in segments,” Serlemitsos wrote. “We apologize that we couldn’t be at Red Square tonight, as we were both out of town. But we are very excited about the race.”
According to Pezzullo, his and Serlemitsos’ plans to launch their campaign Wednesday night fell through at the last minute.
“We had sent two of our campaign staff Suneel Mudaliar (MSB ’17) and Jack Maher (COL ’17), but the two of them evidently forgot about campaigning tonight. But we’re looking forward to re-energizing them tomorrow … hopefully getting the campaign started in full,” Pezzullo said.
According to Pezzullo, Mudaliar and Maher will serve as co-campaign managers of the Pezzullo-Serlemitsos ticket.
Willard said even though this year’s election has fewer candidates, it still stands to be an interesting race.
“I think there’s some good debates that we’re going to have. As you know, there is a referendum on live registration versus pre-registration. … There are also critical issues on [Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle] bus turnaround, dining, we just had some news from Todd Olson on Kehoe Field,” Willard said. “A lot of issues to be talked about with a couple of candidates, so I think it will be a good election year.”
Giving indications of the nature of the Pezzullo-Serlemitsos platform, Pezzullo explained some of their initial policy ideas.
“We don’t want to give away our entire platform just yet; we want to roll this out sort of in parts,” Pezzullo said. “Something that we do want to oppose is going to be the … legislature that would expand the [Georgetown University Police Department] jurisdiction off campus and if we can’t get the full movement on that, we at least want to stop pre-emptive patrolling.”
Regarding actions to take with results from the University Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey that ends Feb. 15, Pezzullo indicated that results will form a significant part of their platform.
“For [the survey], we’re going to move to a different part, putting forward our platform of how we’re going to work with those results later on in the campaign,” Pezzullo said. “We think that’s an extremely important issue that deserves the attention of an entire interview or an entire day.
We don’t think that’s something that we want to address alongside all the other issues because it is so important.”
Pezzullo expressed confidence in his campaign’s ability to win with competitive edge.
“I think right now we are the greatest campaign on this campus,” Pezzullo said. “We respect our competition very much, but we expect to squash them. I’m not worried, and I feel very confident. All I’d like to say is that for too long Georgetown has been mired in slow growth and in policies that haven’t really taken shape in any substantive way. At one time, Georgetown was great and I think what we’re going to do is, we’re going to make Georgetown great again.”
Fisk said their ticket will take a down-to-earth approach with its campaign.
“Yes, we’re going to be very serious in terms of policy, but we’re also people first, we’re students first. And I think that us approaching this whole situation with the fact that we are just like everyone else and all of us need to work together,” Fisk said. “I think we will just be unabashedly ourselves.”
The presidential and vice presidential debates will be held Feb. 10 and Feb. 15, respectively, before the election is held digitally Feb. 18.
Hoya Staff Writers Molly Cooke, Ashwin Puri, Patricja Okuniewska and Jack Lynch contributed reporting. A full story will be printed in this Friday’s issue of The Hoya.