The seven Georgetown University Student Association vice presidential candidates advocated their tickets’ respective platforms Wednesday in a debate largely centered on GUSA’s interaction with other student groups.
Taking the stage in a packed White-Gravenor classroom, the candidates generally shied away from the rhetoric of their running mates in favor of outlining their specific proposals.
GUSA’s influence over student groups was a point raised in Sunday’s presidential debate, but the topic became a major theme of the questions directed toward the vice presidential candidates.
Candidates disagreed on whether GUSA should subsidize room reservation fees that groups must pay to the Office of Campus Activity Facilities. GUSA Director of Executive Outreach Maggie Cleary (COL ’14) and Lauren Weber (COL ’13), a member of The Hoya’s board of directors, defended the policy. The budget laid out by Cleary and her running mate, Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Colton Malkerson (COL ’13), covers OCAF subsidies.
Weber and her running mate John Morris (COL ‘13) have proposed allowing groups to apply to the GUSA Fund, through which student organizations can apply for additional funding throughout the semester, for money to help defray reservation costs.
GUSA senator Sheila Walsh (COL ’14), running with Senate Vice Speaker Nate Tisa (COL ’14), disagreed and argued that student activities fee funding should be controlled by student groups themselves. Senator Vail Kohnert-Yount (COL ’13), on a ticket with senator Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13), acknowledged her own struggles with OCAF during her tenure as chair of the College Democrats but expressed concern that GUSA’s OCAF subsidies would not be distributed equally across organizations.
“The best people to equitably distribute that money would be the student groups themselves,” Kohnert-Yount said.
Men’s basketball point guard Markel Starks (COL ’14), who is running on a ticket with senator Daniel LaMagna (COL ’13), failed to produce a substantive response about OCAF subsidies and was unable to address the similarity of his ticket’s proposed Georgetown smartphone application to one currently being development by the university. He did, however, raise the point that students must also pitch in to improve campus life, suggesting that the campus rat problem could be avoided if students living in apartments took out their trash more frequently.
Candidates were also asked how they would aid the sports and arts communities if elected. Kohnert-Yount emphasized the necessity of increased space for these communities and more efficient use of the space that they currently have.
GUSA Secretary of Information and Technology Michael Crouch (MSB ’13) suggested that the arts community is somewhat isolated from the rest of the student body, something that his ticket hopes to combat through an outdoor concert by student performers. Crouch, who is running with GUSA Director of Special Projects Tyler Sax (COL ’13), also called for increased alumni engagement with the arts community. Sax and Crouch have proposed a program to strengthen the relationship between clubs and alumni.
All candidates expressed an interest in enhancing diversity-related outreach. Weber promised to engage both well-known diversity organizations such as the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and niche groups like the Caribbean Culture Circle. Kohnert-Yount, a member of the only all-female ticket in the campaign, proposed reaching out to diversity organizations and encouraging members to run for positions in GUSA.
Michael Appau (COL ’13), who is running with GUSA Fund Chair Murphy Kate Delaney (COL ’13), hopes to better publicize the diversity-related programs that GUSA offers. He also stressed the importance of diversity within the GUSA executive branch.
“By making diversity open at the top, people will be willing to approach us more easily,” Appau said.
Candidates concluded the debate by reiterating the qualities of their platforms that set their tickets apart.
Cleary emphasized her ticket’s experience and connections within the university administration, as well as her platform’s relevance to student concerns.
Crouch and Appau both expressed interest in raising awareness of GUSA by better engaging students. Kohnert-Yount advocated for an executive branch with a foundation in Jesuit values as well as community and diversity, while Weber said her ticket would strive to ensure that students felt at home from the moment they stepped on campus.
Walsh emphasized the importance of working collaboratively with advisory boards and other student-led groups.
“We’ll work with organizations like the [Student Group Union], people who are autonomous but will feed us ideas for which we can then advocate,” she said.
Starks promised, if elected, to stay involved with GUSA via Skype when his team is on the road.
“We’re all in,” he said.