The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate will aim to restructure itself through an internal bylaw reform after a referendum on the same matter failed to pass last month.
Despite 72.12% of students voting in favor of the referendum to replace the GUSA Senate and Executive with a single body student assembly, the referendum failed to pass because it did not meet the 25% minimum voter threshold required for referendums to pass. In contrast to a student referendum, an internal restructuring process amending the bylaws would only require approval within GUSA and not the broader student body.
Bylaw amendments are expected to be drafted during the first week of the spring 2022 semester and scheduled to be voted on by the GUSA Senate in late January or early February of 2022.
Although the referendum failed to pass, GUSA perceived it as approval for restructuring, according to GUSA Executive Restructure Co-Director Dakyung Ham (COL ’22).
“The referendum results show that a lot of people are very interested in restructuring GUSA, especially in aspects like elections and policy areas, and having more of a policy focus in GUSA,” Ham said in an interview with The Hoya. “It shows in the election results because a majority of people voted ‘yes’ for the referendum.”
The current structure of GUSA prevents the organization from effectively addressing student needs on campus, according to GUSA Senator Bora Balçay (SFS ’23), one of two senators who introduced the restructure referendum in October.
“I think that it’s overly bureaucratic, and not enough people work on policy,” Balçay said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “Others have said that the system of hierarchy, from their experience, has been toxic and unwelcoming. I think that it is important for us to, going into a new decade, make sure that our student government is as welcoming, as diverse, as accessible, as the student body itself.”
Through a bylaw reform, the restructure will be restricted to merging legislative and executive policy teams, according to Balçay.
While internal restructuring is narrower in scope and does not abolish the constitutional council and leadership positions, GUSA is still committed to meeting the original goals outlined in the referendum, according to Balçay.
“We’re just moving both to the long term,” Balçay said. “The feedback we’ve received overwhelmingly is that there’s some desire for change in the areas of particular policy, which is something we can do through bylaw changes. We want to do that now so that we can do the hierarchical change and the constitutional council change somewhere down the line. So we’re still not abandoning those goals.”
However, according to GUSA Senator Zev Burton (SFS ’22), who opposed the referendum, problems with GUSA will not be resolved with procedural changes.
“The problem with GUSA is people don’t show initiative,” Burton said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “People run and say they’re going to do all of these things and then they don’t. You have an attendance problem. You have people not signing up to be on executive boards. Once people have the title, on balance, they aren’t doing anything after that.”
The decision to pursue an internal restructuring process came after much discussion and deliberation within GUSA, according to Ham.
“We are very much more so considering doing the bylaws or planning a lot more towards it,” Ham said. “Myself and the executive committee overall is very much leaning towards the bylaws option.”
An internal restructure process takes attention away from more important issues that GUSA should address, according to Burton.
“When GUSA does stuff right; when we focus on students, we can be really really beneficial to the community. When we focus on ourselves, it’s just pandering to ourselves and building up our own ego,” Burton said.