New Georgetown University Student Association committee chairs, chosen at a GUSA senate meeting Sept. 29, plan to start their terms this week with a renewed emphasis on transparency in the organization and the addition of a policy and advocacy committee.
The new chairs include Ethics Committee Chair Zev Burton (SFS ’22) and Vice Chair Chris Ziac (SFS ’22), Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Juliana Arias (SFS ’20) and Vice Chair Layla Weiss (MSB ’22), and Policy and Advocacy Chair Leo Arnett (SFS ’22) and Vice Chair Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22). The new chairs of these committees, which oversee other committees within the GUSA senate, were nominated and elected to their positions by fellow GUSA senators, including the new class of freshman senators sworn in on Sunday.
The Policy and Advocacy Committee is a new addition to GUSA this semester. GUSA formed the committee this fall to focus the organization by assigning policy issue areas, such as facilities issues or the support of under-funded groups, to each GUSA senator based on their interests, according to Arnett, the committee’s chair. The chairs also intend to meet with each senator to discuss policy areas that they are interested in.
An early goal for the committee will be to promote the use of the Georgetown University Events Calendar, a platform for student organizations to publicize scheduled events, according to Arnett and Sanchez.
“This committee will be structured like a think tank where senators will come together to brainstorm policy and will break into groups to implement this policy,” Sanchez wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The group’s work will include a diverse set of initiatives ranging from fixing facilities to promoting the work and events of student organizations, according to Arnett.
“Policy captures both the tangible and communal support that a student government should provide to its students,” Arnett wrote. “Supporting under-funded groups, marginalized campus communities, and the ideals of tolerance and understanding that give Georgetown its identity are a few examples.”
GUSA has not created a new committee since October 2018, when the organization added an Ethics and Oversight Committee to track senators’ attendance records at meetings and monitor potential conflicts of interest within GUSA. The committee is also able to investigate the financial activities of GUSA and can subpoena any GUSA member and initiate articles of impeachment after investigation if necessary. Last April, several senators accrued dozens of unexcused absences from senate meetings, leading to a formal disciplinary act from the organization for some members.
This year, the Ethics and Oversight Committee will focus on holding senators and the GUSA executive accountable for accumulating absences or engaging in conflicts of interest, according to Burton, the new committee chair.
“We hold elected officials accountable for their actions in the most direct way. In a sense, we are the ones who ensure that Senators and Executive members are not shirking their duties to the Georgetown Community,” Burton wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I’m excited to ensure that the Senate and the Executive are doing ethical and beneficial work.”
The chairs will also seek structural reforms within the Ethics and Oversight Committee to ensure the future sustainability of the committee, Burton wrote.
“We want to increase the standardization of the committee, so that actions taken by the committee don’t drastically change based on the whims of whoever is in charge,” Burton wrote.
Transparency-building measures will include increasing involvement of other GUSA senators in the committee’s work and possibly adding input from members of the student body, according to Ziac, the committee’s vice chair.
“I believe the Committee can bring positive change by increasing faith in GUSA and encouraging students to be more aware of the doings of their elected officials,” Ziac wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The senate considered legislation last month to abolish the GUSA Fund, which provides ad hoc funding to student groups. As the new Finance and Appropriations Chair, Arias does not intend to eliminate the Fund in her new position as the committee’s chair, she wrote.
“GUSA fund will stay, but we don’t have set parameters for how it will be reformed,” she wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The Finance and Appropriations Committee allocates money in an annual budget to seven advisory boards, the Georgetown Program Board, the Georgetown University Lecture Fund and the GUSA executive.
The Finance and Appropriations Committee will implement a four-year plan for the allocation of its funds and aim to increase communication with other senate groups, according to Arias.
“We are committed to minimizing cost-prohibited activities for low-income students by having an increased support for organizations constituting underrepresented communities on campus,” Arias wrote. “There will be a need for increased transparency and communication between the different boards and FinApp.”
Hoya Staff Writer Harrison McBride contributed to this reporting.