The Georgetown University Student Association Senate District Reconciliation Committee finalized legislation Wednesday evening that will redraw the boundaries of some senate seats.
The bill, which will go to a vote before the senate Sunday, aims to address freshmen and off-campus student underrepresentation as well as disproportionate representation among dorms. The bill must receive a two-thirds majority to pass.
The proposed changes would reduce the number of at-large seats from six to four, increase off-campus seats from three to five and add one on-campus seat. Overall, the proposal would increase the number of senate seats from 27 to 28.
According to Election Commissioner Ethan Chess (COL ’14), one of the members of the committee that drafted the bill, the new system would resolve several problems with the current districting formula.
“The first thing we had to do was to keep the senate seats about the same number and [then, based] on that number, determine the best way to make sure that everyone’s vote counted,” Chess said. “Our target was to get every student equally represented, on or off campus, upperclassmen or freshmen, large dorms or small dorms.”
The redistricting committee also included senate Vice Speaker Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), Senior Counselor to the Student Body President Sam Ungar (COL ’12), the three members of the Georgetown University Election Commission and three senators.
To boost the presence of freshmen in the senate, the bill would create two blocks of first-year students. Three senators would represent a grouping comprised of New South Hall and Village C West, and another three would represent Darnall and Harbin Halls. Currently, Harbin has two senators while all other freshman dorms have one.
In 2009, GUSA reduced the number of senate seats from 35 to 25, but due to increased interest from freshmen during the most recent Student Activities Committee fair, two at-large seats were added just before this year’s elections to increase freshman representation.
“The new blocking provides freshmen with a more certain and increased number of [representatives], which eliminates the primary need of the at-large seats added in the beginning of the semester,” at-large senator Ben Weiss (COL ’15) said.
Three students would also represent the Southwest Quadrangle as a whole if the bill passes. Under the present system, Kennedy, Reynolds and McCarthy Halls are each represented by their own senator. The change would allow the best candidates living in the Quadrangle a greater chance to be elected, according to Copley Hall Senator Sheila Walsh (COL ’14).
“Previously, Kennedy, Reynolds and McCarthy Halls each had one seat,” Walsh said. “Under certain situations, for example, three great candidates campaigning might all live in Kennedy, but only one of them could be elected. But under the new blocking system … all of them could be elected.”
In an effort to reduce the variance of the size of the geographic districts, the bill would also bring the number of students in each region closer to a target number of 277.
According to Chess, the committee worked to create a system in which senators would be more accountable and more closely tied to the students they represent.
“We wanted direct representation along with geographic representation,” he said. “We wanted to make sure the system would not only be user friendly in the way that students will be able to identify with their geographic and class location, but also democratically sound.”