Candidates in the Georgetown University Student Association executive race participated in the presidential debate Sunday evening, which was held by the GUSA Election Commission in the Leavey Program Room.
Presidential candidates Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15), Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15), Zach Singer (SFS ’15) and Ben Weiss (COL ’15) represented their platforms and answered questions from students and campus media. GUSA Election Commissioner Ethan Chess (COL ’14) moderated the debate.
The debated commenced with the candidates presenting their opening statements. Lloyd stressed the importance of the student body growing and learning in unison.
“I’ve also walked with Hoyas and worked with Hoyas whose struggles I didn’t even think were part of my own,” Lloyd, who is running with Jimmy Ramirez (COL ’15), said. “I learned over three years by collaborating with dozens of student leaders that a problem for one Hoya is a problem for all Hoyas.”
Tezel spoke of the importance of GUSA being a policy-oriented organization.
“We do believe that GUSA can accomplish great things, but it’s only if we keep ourselves focused on a policy-oriented approach to that institution,” Tezel, who is running with Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15), said. “That’s why some of the main points of our platform include things like reforming the speech and expression policy, the access to benefits reform policy and truly finding ways to solve the free speech problems on campus.”
Singer, whose ticket partner is Dan Silkman (COL ’15), described how their vision is the defining part of their platform.
“Ultimately, this election is a choice. It’s a choice between two types of tickets: those that define change as a laundry list of policy solutions and those who display a true vision,” Singer said. “We need a proactive and not a reactive GUSA. We need one that’s ready to fight for the campus plan and fight for what students need. We need one that’s ready to fight for the residential experiences and fight for the sophomore experiences on campus.”
Weiss, Sam Greco’s (SFS ’15) running mate, emphasized that GUSA is an institution to aid students.
“It’s about GUSA working for these individuals. It’s about GUSA recognizing that we are limited and that there are only so many experiences that one person or two people or even a cabinet can have. Every change that needs to be made at this university needs to come from the students themselves,” Weiss said. “Our GUSA is one that says, ‘I don’t want you working for me.’ My GUSA is about us working for you.”
Chess asked the candidates to reflect on GUSA’s actions this past year. Tezel expressed his appreciation for the “What’s a Hoya?” program and how it should be institutionalized outside of GUSA. Singer noted that GUSA’s use of combining advocacy and programming to produce change is an effort that should be lauded. Weiss emphasized that GUSA was instrumental in beginning conversations and tackling new issues. Lloyd stated that GUSA could be too insular, on occasion.
Candidates were also asked about what they think is the most overlooked issue at Georgetown.
For Lloyd, diversity was the most overlooked issue, noting that when President John J. DeGioia was asked about institutionalized racism, he allegedly replied that he was unaware of such occurrences. Tezel agreed with Lloyd, adding that his platform would allow those who are most invested in particular issues to be heard. Singer expressed that he and Silkman noticed a divide along socioeconomic lines, citing that some cannot run for elected office because they cannot afford the additional fees. Weiss stated that he would dedicate himself to allowing for leaders of communities to be heard.
Additionally, candidates were asked which proposals on each other’s platforms were not feasible in execution. Singer questioned whether Tezel’s proposed multicultural council would be feasible to keep running in the long term. Weiss broached the feasibility of Singer’s student campus plan, considering the time and manpower needed to put together the document and the possibility that the administration would ignore it. Lloyd inquired about the feasibility of the multicultural council as well, in addition to stopping New South construction and additional dining options, which are on Weiss’ platform. Meanwhile, Tezel expressed that it would be difficult for student groups to request access to benefits, which is a component of Lloyd’s platform.
The candidates ended the debate with closing statements. Weiss stressed his devotion to using GUSA as a mechanism to help students if he were to be elected.
“We need to take the focus away from GUSA, away from student government, away from packing as many people as we can into a room on the third floor of Leavey and focus it on the campus and the student body and on the student — what they’re doing, what they’re passionate about, what they’re working on and saying, ‘how can I help,’” Weiss said.
Singer spoke of his campaign as an envisioning of what GUSA should be.
“It is a vision to say, GUSA needs to be bold, GUSA can’t just sit on its laurels, GUSA has the right to do something new,” Singer said.
Tezel expressed his and his running mate’s desire to give back and contribute to the Georgetown community.
“What Omika and I realized is that Georgetown had also given us so much and that there’s one more way we could give back to it, and it could be through this position and through this election to create real change for Georgetown,” Tezel said.
Lastly, Lloyd emphasized the importance of unity within the Georgetown community, after critiquing his competitors in his closing statement.
“At its core, Jimmy and I believe that as a Georgetown community, we grow together, not apart,” Lloyd said. “We came into this race understanding that people involved in GUSA generally had to do a trade-off between being involved in these specific issues and being advocates and being student leaders. We want to end that pattern.”
The Leavey Program Room exceeded seated capacity. Voting opens 10 p.m. Wednesday and extends through Thursday.