The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate voted against holding yet another student referendum to restructure GUSA at an April 4 meeting.
The proposed referendum, which fell short of passing by two votes, would create policy committees and appoint student representatives to university boards, councils and committees. The goal of the proposal was to restructure GUSA to be more accessible, as well as increase involvement and participation in the organization.
Restructuring through a student referendum is the best way to make meaningful changes to GUSA, according to GUSA Senator Bora Balçay (SFS ’23), who introduced the bill.
“I think the biggest problem that we face right now is an excess of bureaucracy and a lack of direction,” Balçay said in an interview with The Hoya. “Few people in a very large organization are dedicated to the actual path, and unless we fundamentally change how we do things, I don’t think that can be solved. I think it is very easy to get involved on the ground level, but I think it is impossible, if you’re a dedicated person, to be satisfied with the institutional constraints of the organization.”
Still, GUSA Senator Zev Burton (SFS ’22), who voted against the referendum, said the primary issue with GUSA is not its structure, but rather low involvement from current members.
“When you have a third of senators not showing up, that’s as big a red flag,” Burton told The Hoya. “The real issue here isn’t students wanting to be a part of GUSA. It’s just that once they’re part of it, once they have that title of senator, they don’t actually show up. Restructuring doesn’t get rid of the lack of willingness to show up and do the work like that.”
GUSA previously attempted to restructure itself through a student referendum that failed Nov. 7 due to lack of student turnout, with only 20.11% of the student body voting in the election, which fell short of the required 25%.
Unlike the previous referendum, which called to abolish the GUSA Senate and Executive and replace the bodies with a student activist assembly, the most recent proposal would have maintained the GUSA Senate and Executive.
If the recent referendum had gone to the student body and succeeded, it would have increased enthusiasm for GUSA, thus promoting student involvement in the organization, according to Balçay.
“We would have seen a lot more excitement around elections in the first place. Also, we would have a lot more dedication and a lower turnover rate,” Balçay said. “As is, too many people are on tasks that really don’t make sense and don’t really deserve their time.”
However, Burton said that the referendum failing to make it out of the Senate is a victory for both GUSA and the student body.
“I think it was rushed, and I think it would be too embarrassing if it were to have gone to the student body and failed again,” Burton said. “I think the student body has already weighed in. Let’s move on. Let’s start working on getting textbooks into people’s hands and getting laptops — stuff we can actually change. If we want to improve the perception of GUSA, doing internal restructuring isn’t going to solve that issue.”
GUSA President Kole Wolfe (SFS ’24), who remains in favor of GUSA restructuring, said it is necessary for the organization to effectively serve students.
“Some senators believed that we would not be able to reach the minimum number of votes needed to pass a referendum, and said that this failure would be ‘embarrassing’ for GUSA,” Wolfe wrote to The Hoya. “I believe in, and vocalized, the notion that we should be more concerned about be able to fulfill our duty to adequately provide for student need instead of public opinion surrounding GUSA, especially when we are already generally viewed in an unfavorable light.”
Wolfe said GUSA leadership plans to reintroduce similar legislation again in the fall and will focus on internal reform in the meantime.