Seven women were among the 18 students officially sworn in as newly elected senators of the 2019-20 Georgetown University Student Association in a weekly meeting Sunday, marking a rise in representation for women compared to previous elections.
The female senators sworn into the 2019-20 GUSA senate represent a significant demographic shift from the 2018-19 senate makeup. During the last GUSA senate elections, which filled 14 senate seats in October, the student body elected only one woman, Hayley Grande (COL ’21), who lost reelection this term. Additionally, the 2018-19 senate included an all-male freshman class.
Newly elected rising sophomore senator Olivia Kleier (SFS ’22) hopes to improve campus inclusivity and well-being during her tenure. Female representation in student government is important because it more accurately reflects the makeup of the campus community, according to Kleier.
“It is really amazing just because it is representing more of the student body on campus and that women will be able to have a voice for the senate as well,” Kleier said in an interview with The Hoya. “It is really a momentous occasion for me to be a part of.”
Female representation in the GUSA senate will also provide valuable new perspectives on a variety of issues, according to newly elected rising sophomore senator Zev Burton (SFS ’22).
“When you have women being elected to the senate being able to voice their concerns, it does two things: First, it offers a perspective that a lot of men can’t have,” Burton said in an interview with The Hoya. “Additionally, it serves as a sense of empowerment.”
A student referendum to establish a semesterly fee to benefit descendants of the GU272, which passed with 66.1 approval, was attached to the senate elections held by the GUSA election commission April 11. Last week’s election broke GUSA election turnout records, with 57.9 percent of undergraduates voting.
GUSA Vice President Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) will serve as senate speaker until the senate votes to replace former speaker Eliza Lafferty (COL ’21) and vice speaker Patrick Walsh (SFS ’21) on April 16, according to GUSA executive press secretary Harper Thomas (SFS ’22). The vote will determine a transition chair and transition vice chair to serve for the transition period over the summer. The transition positions will be vacated in the fall and replaced by a speaker and vice speaker elected in the first meeting of the senate following the swearing in of the fall class of senators.
Walsh, who served in the GUSA senate for the past year, did not run for reelection. Looking ahead, the incoming senate class should look to pursue meaningful, achievable policy goals, according to Walsh.
“I am hoping that the senate continues to try to focus on tangible issues that are working towards helping people on campus, supporting people on campus, supporting advocates on campus,” Walsh said in an interview with The Hoya.
Among the senators reelected was former GUSA president Juan Martinez (COL ’20). Martinez served as the speaker of the GUSA senate in fall 2018 until he assumed the role of GUSA president after the resignations of former President Sahil Nair (SFS ’19), Vice President Naba Rahman (SFS ’19), Chief of Staff Aaron Bennett (COL ’19) and nine other members of the GUSA executive. Nair resigned Sept. 11 amid sexual misconduct allegations.
No complaints had been filed against Nair through the Title IX office or the Office of Student Conduct, he wrote in a May 28 email to The Hoya. A university spokesperson confirmed that, as of May 2019, Nair was not the subject of any complaints through either office nor had he been found responsible for any violations of the Student Code of Conduct.
The five new rising sophomore senators sworn in include Daniella Sanchez (COL ’22), Zev Burton (SFS ’22), Layla Weiss (MSB ’22), Olivia Kleier (SFS ’22), Julia Moreno (SFS ’22) and Leo John Arnett (SFS ’22), who won reelection.
Newly elected rising juniors Natalie Kim (SFS ’21), Mikail Husain (COL ’21), Joshua Marin-Mora (SFS ’21) and Leo Teixeira (COL ’21) were sworn in on Sunday, joining reelected senators Sam Dubke (SFS ’21) and Samantha Moreland (MSB ’21).
Rising seniors Jessica Richards (COL ’20), Peter Lee Hamilton (COL ’20), Miguel Zambudio (COL ’20) and Martinez also officially joined reelected senators Harrison Nugent (SFS ’20) and Matt Buckwald (COL ’20).
The elections also come after the formation of Abolish GUSA, a movement seeking to replace GUSA with a more efficient and inclusive system of student government, emerged during the GUSA executive elections in February. Three of the senate candidates in last week’s elections publicly affiliated themselves with the Abolish GUSA movement throughout their campaign, though none of them won their senate races.
The 2019-20 GUSA senate should work to rebuild trust in GUSA by bridging the gap between GUSA and student constituents, according to Burton.
“I really like to take notes whenever I have conversations with people about what they want, so I’m doing that and trying to put that into policies and maintaining open and constant communication,” Burton said. “That’s how you restore trust, by not making GUSA on some elevated pedestal which some people have in the past.”
This article was updated July 2 to indicate the absence of Title IX or Office of Student Conduct complaints against Nair and to include comment from Nair.