The seven candidates vying for the GUSA presidency strived to set their platforms apart in this year’s crowded field at a debate Sunday night.
The candidates’ opening statements in the Leavey Program Room largely emphasized the components that made their respective plans for the presidency unique, although all the tickets propose several overlapping initiatives.
Colton Malkerson (COL ’13), Georgetown University Student Association senator and Finance and Appropriations Committee chair, began the debate by praising GUSA’srecent progress while touting his platform’s comprehensiveness and relevance to students.
GUSA Senator Daniel LaMagna (COL ’13) claimed to be the candidate with the most experience with facilities and government transparency. LaMagna, who represents half of Henle Village, has provided video updates for his constituents on his progress in the senate.
The debate was one of LaMagna’s first opportunities to advocate for himself as a candidate, because he delayed launching his campaign until Monday. Other candidates began campaigning last Thursday at 12 a.m.
LaMagna suffered a few setbacks during the debate – his cell phone rang and he rebutted GUSADirector of Special Projects Tyler Sax’s (COL ’13) point about engaging the student body with a nearly verbatim response.
Candidates made expanded student outreach a focus of the debate, although the most effective way of engaging with students was a point of contention. GUSA Fund Chair Murphy Kate Delaney (COL ’13) advocated for increasing the student services that GUSA offers, such as a bike share program. Sax proposed creating a website that would allow students to suggest initiatives for GUSA to pursue.
“No individual, not even a small group of people, can have a monopoly on good ideas,” he said.
Senate Vice Speaker Nate Tisa (COL ’14) worked to dispel possible criticism due to his standing as the campaign’s lone sophomore presidential candidate.
“The word ‘experience’ will be thrown around a lot tonight, and we want to remind you that it’s about quality, not quantity,” he said.
While fielding questions from moderators, Malkerson was asked to explain two controversial components of his proposed budget, which was publicly released on Friday. His estimated budget is $162,000, six times larger than the allocated budget of the previous winning campaign. Malkersondefended his budget by noting the increase in money available for allocation to student activities, as well as parts of his budget that would assist other student organizations. Malkerson’s GUSA-specific budget totals $19,000, while additional items, such as funding for the spring concert and the Collegiate Readership Program, are projected at $144,000.
Senator Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13), whose projected $23,400 budget represents a decrease from the previous administration’s, disagreed with Malkerson’s reasoning. She believed that other clubs should be allocated more money so that they can independently control how it is spent.
Malkerson was also asked to respond to a question submitted by GUSA Director of Funding and Administration Reform Shuo Yan Tan (SFS ’12), who expressed concern that elements of Malkerson’sbudget could be considered executive overreach. Malkerson emphasized that he does not wish to increase GUSA’s power and instead aims to protect student groups through his initiatives.
Malkerson also called Tisa’s platform much more concerning. Tisa has proposed removing what he terms a hierarchical structure in favor of an executive branch that would work collaboratively with the student advisory boards. Tisa said in response that he is inviting the boards to engage in a “cooperativedialogue,” not attempting to absorb them into GUSA.
The candidates initially struggled when asked who they believe is the second-best candidate in the field.LaMagna and Gustafson eventually settled on Malkerson, while Malkerson named Gustafson’s as the second-best ticket. GUSA Executive Deputy Chief of Staff John Morris (COL ’13) and Tisa selected Delaney, who in turn chose Morris. Sax avoided naming a candidate by jokingly asking voters to write him in as their second choice.
As the debate drew to a close, candidates were asked to name their top two priorities if elected. Morris cited strengthening the Student Advocacy Office and implementing a GUSA student fellows program that would allow students to lecture on topics in which they are well versed. Tisa, who has made increasing GUSA’s diversity a focal point of his campaign, proposed a unity fair that allows students of different races, religions and sexualities to come together to celebrate diversity.
In his closing statement, Sax praised the ideas that other candidates have proposed, and said that he hoped candidates implement them if elected. He distinguished his platform by emphasizing his ticket’s method of obtaining and implementing initiatives.
“I stand before you today not because I disagree with my opponents and the ideas being brought to the table, but because I believe in a different way of getting there,” he said.
Vice presidential candidates will debate at 8:20 p.m. Wednesday in White-Gravenor 201A.
Correction: The article previously stated that the vice presidential debate will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.