The Georgetown University Student Association senate elected the second female speaker, Enushe Khan (MSB ’17), in the institution’s history Sunday, a move that reflects the growing diversity of the legislative body.
Twelve of this year’s 28 senators are women, which is the highest ratio in Georgetown’s history. The past two years saw 10 female senators in GUSA.
Khan, who previously served as the chairwoman of the Student Life Committee, is the first female speaker since Christina Goodlander (SFS ’07), who held the position in 2006, the senate’s inaugural year.
According to Khan, the number of women in GUSA has steadily grown in recent years, which signals a change in GUSA’s traditionally male-dominated culture.
“We are an inclusive body,” Khan said. “We want a GUSA that is representative of the student body. … They’re really trying to be a representative body and eliminate the ‘boy’s club’ vibe.”
GUSA President Joe Luther (COL ’16) said that Khan’s election is a positive step towards greater inclusivity in student government.
“The election of a female senate speaker is an important milestone,” Luther wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I hope this election works to change GUSA’s image. … GUSA, whether it’s the senate or the [executive branch], can only work when it’s representing everyone.”
Khan and Elizabeth Oh (SFS ’15), the longest-serving members in the senate, have each served for three years. Oh, who serves as the townhouse district representative and is the former chairwoman of the Intellectual Life Committee, said that Khan brings a significant amount of experience to the position.
“The past two years, she has dedicated herself to the Student Life Committee, including everything from dining to safety to sustainability,” Oh wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Khan said that she is committed to engaging with cultural groups that have been largely absent from GUSA proceedings, including the South Asian Society, the Latin American Student Association and the International Student Association.
“There are a lot of big, major groups here that are just not part of the conversation,” Khan said. “My goal as speaker is to sit down with [their] leaders, bring them in and figure out what core issues [their] group or community members are facing.”
The recent surge in GUSA’s diversity can be attributed to a variety of programs. Khan herself led a program called “A GUSA That Looks Like Georgetown,” a pre-election initiative that encouraged traditionally underrepresented student groups to run for office.
Another nationwide initiative, Elect Her, held a forum on campus in September encouraging female students to participate in student government.
Khan said that Elect Her encouraged her to run for senate two years ago, when she was apprehensive about running as a freshman woman of color.
“I won and that was a big shock, but I stuck with it,” Khan said. “Very few girls were in the senate, but there was still more than the year before.”
According to GUSA Secretary for Campus Planning Ari Goldstein (COL ’18), GUSA’s executive cabinet and staff, who are selected through an application process, typically have more equal gender ratios than the competitively elected senate, president and vice president positions.
“I hope Enushe’s election shows women on campus that they can and should get involved with GUSA,” Goldstein wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It’s especially important to have women at the table. … We are all strengthened when decision-making bodies become more representative of the communities they serve.”
Khan said that she plans on expanding the Intellectual Life Committee and reforming the Finance and Appropriations Committee. She attributed negative perceptions of GUSA to shortcomings in the two committees.
“Fin/App is the only body with the power to do something other than just advocacy,” Khan said. “My goal is to make it a more transparent body. … I’m trying to find a way to bring different students into the room from different advisory boards.”
Tyler Bridge (SFS ’17), the former GUSA speaker whose resignation led to Khan’s appointment, said that the Fin/App is in need of huge reforms, and that Khan’s biggest challenge will be changing the way the committee operates.
“Today, the system is corrupt,” Bridge wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Fin/App has become a monster run amuck and out of control within the current structure.”
As speaker, Khan will be responsible for publicizing the senate’s operations and maintaining order in GUSA. Other members of GUSA have said that she is well-prepared to lead in this regard.
“She’s a highly competent and exceptionally personable woman and I have no doubt that she will be a great success in her new position,” GUSA Vice President Connor Rohan (COL ’16) wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Goldstein, who worked closely with Khan in the senate last year, said that she was a valuable resource to him and other senators working on specific projects.
“I’m confident she’ll bring wisdom, policy expertise and phenomenal integrity to the role of speaker,” Goldstein wrote.
Correction: An original version of the article wrote that Khan led the Elect Her forum in September. She led the “A GUSA That Looks Like Georgetown” program.