Halfway done, Georgetown University Student Association President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) and Vice President Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) have yet to face many of their greatest challenges.

While Meaney and Laverriere say they have accomplished many of the goals that they campaigned on, they plan to focus the second half of their term on an attempt to alter major university policies that directly affect student life.

“Our difficult things still lie ahead,” Meaney said. “These are issues that come up year after year after year. The only way to really give students a chance to improve them is if a wide-scale, major, well-thought-out, well-researched, well-argued campaign is centered around it. And that’s what we’re planning to do.”

Since being elected to their year-long term last March, the pair said they focused on building up a strong staff and a good working relationship with the administration, all the while expanding services offered to students.

 

Laverriere said that one of their biggest successes has been the launch of the Student Advocacy Office, which was key to the campaign platform of James Pickens (COL ’12) and Ace Factor (COL ’12) when they ran against Meaney and Laverriere last spring. Pickens and Factor are now co-directors of the office, which will provide guidance for students dealing with code of conduct violations.

Both Meaney and Laverriere identified Project Move-In, a program in which GUSA arranged for students, faculty and alumni to help new students arriving alone on campus, as one of the most memorable moments of their term.

“It was something that was a simple idea, but that you could argue has made the greatest difference on campus,” Laverriere said.

“We hung out with this kid until 3:30 [a.m.], and that was really profound,” Meaney said. “I think it was just cool that we got to be there on his first night when he didn’t have anybody.”

Amid the debate over the 2010 Campus Plan, Meaney said the executive team has also begun to play a new role as an advocate for the university in the surrounding community. Meaney writes a biweekly column for The Georgetown Dish, a local blog, and has testified at Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E meetings. On campus, he co-writes a column in The Hoya with Matthew Hoyt (COL ’12).

Adam Mortillaro (COL ’12), speaker of the GUSA Senate, said the pair — especially Laverriere, a former chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee — had been instrumental in managing the Student Activities Fee Endowment Commission.

“Greg has been really helpful in that,” he said.

And although the team was unable to fund improvements to SafeRides shuttles, Meaney said that their input helped push the university to instate the new M Street bus loop.

“That, I think, is a huge one,” he said. “Because it’s something that we campaigned on pretty vociferously but then didn’t receive the funding to do it. We were a part of that conversation, so we’re very pleased to see that.”

Improving transparency and awareness of GUSA’s activities were also major parts of the duo’s campaign, but success on this front has been more mixed.

Laverriere said that they have stepped up use of Facebook and Twitter to keep students updated on their work, and initiated weekly office hours in The Midnight Mug.

“I’m not going to say it’s been overrun,” Laverriere said of the office hours, laughing. “Ideally Mike and I would like it if there were more people there, but understanding that it is what it is. It’s a good avenue that we’ll leave open for the rest of the semester because it holds us to being where anyone can come and approach us.”

Harry Xu (SFS ’15) said he vaguely remembered Meaney from a time the student association president spoke at New Student Orientation. For him, the blast emails keep him somewhat up-to-date about GUSA’s movements.

But other students said they still had little knowledge about the team’s recent projects.

“I’m pretty much completely uninformed,” said Isaiah Schulze (SFS ’12).

According to Meaney and Laverriere, one of their biggest pushes toward transparency has been the opening of the application process for members of their cabinet.

“We’ve been able to get 12 great people sitting in this room on Sunday that come from very different parts of campus,” Laverriere said. “In previous executives it was, you know, positions were generally not opened up, it was more of a ‘you helped me.'”

Now, cabinet positions are required to be advertised to the campus at large.

Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, said he admired the way Meaney and Laverriere have brought a broader group into the fold.

“I’ve been very impressed by the quality of their work and the way they’ve empowered other students to become involved in GUSA,” he said.

But the pair said that many of the issues they feel are going to be most difficult to address still remain. In the past, executives have often allowed their momentum to die down during the second half of their term, but Meaney and Laverriere say they intend to break any such trends.

“We’ve gotten so much done, we’ve built up all this capital and now we’re trying to use our last, most successful efforts for these kinds of more challenging problems,” Meaney said.

Laverriere outlined the “three pillars” that will dominate the rest of the term: an upcoming report on student life, a review of the Access to Benefits Policy that governs operations of student organizations and a review of the Student Code of Conduct.

Meaney said he hopes that the strong relationship he and Laverriere have cultivated with the administration will allow them to make changes to the latter two focus areas — a goal that has floundered in previous administrations

“Those are pretty massive undertakings, and they’re undertakings that GUSA and other groups always try to have a substantive change on, that usually don’t go anywhere,” he said. “So what we’ve been doing is very quietly building a really strong argument based on quantitative and qualitative analysis for why the code of conduct and access to benefits regimes should be changed.”

The report on student life — an extensive document that will scrutinize Georgetown’s funding boards and compare aspects of student life on campus to those of peer universities — is expected to be completed by January. Laverriere said that they will present the completed report to Olson and University President John J. DeGioia, using it as the basis for their recommendations on changes to university policy.

“I can tell you that the administration will take everything very seriously,” Olson said of the report.

John Morris (COL ’13), deputy chief of staff for Meaney and Laverriere, said that although the final review will depend on the results of the report, a committee has begun to brainstorm aspects on the Student Code of Conduct that they think need revising.

“It’s something that we feel has needed to be done for a while,” Morris said.

The executive leadership said they plan to focus on a few key aspects of the code that they believe will make the greatest impact.

“You can’t have freshmen drinking in their dorms — we get that,” Meaney said. “But there are a lot of rules and regulations on how clubs can spend money, and how students can celebrate and how students can hang out that are really cumbersome.”

Although he acknowledges that revamping the Student Code of Conduct and the Access to Benefits Policy will not be easy, Meaney remains optimistic.

“We’ve really tried to show people that we can be a positive instrument for student life and a positive tool,” he said. “We have 150 [and] some-odd days left, and we’re going to keep trying to prove that to people.”

GUSA President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) and Vice President Greg Lavierriere (COL ’12) reflect on their progress so far.
GUSA President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) and Vice President Greg Lavierriere (COL ’12) reflect on their progress so far.

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