Twenty-nine students from all four graduation years were sworn into the 2017-2018 Georgetown University Student Association senate Sunday, as the senate chose new leadership for the body and finance and appropriations committee.
A confirmation for Mattie Haag (COL ’18) to serve as a councilor for the GUSA Constitutional Council, the student association’s interpretative branch, was unexpectedly postponed after a senate motion led by Christopher Holshouser (MSB ’18) to investigate unclear developments he said constituents had brought to him.
Haag’s appointment is needed for the Council to function as a judicial body, as bylaws require all three councilors to be present for official business to take place.
Councilors must be nominated by the GUSA President and approved by a majority of the senate, according to the GUSA constitution and bylaws, and assume office after the outgoing President administers an oath of office. Appointments to the council by incumbent presidents rather than the outgoing have been heard by the senate in 2015 and 2016.
GUSA President Kamar Mack (COL ’19) nominated Haag after former councilor Natalie Brown (COL ’17) graduated at the end of former President Enushe Khan’s (MSB ’17) term.
The Constitutional Council previously ruled against the GUSA Executive and senate leadership in December 2016 after students opposing a planned dissolution of the senate and restructuring of club funding filed complaints to the Election Commission for election irregularities and appealed the Commission decision to certify the referendum results.
The senate voted to reconsider Haag’s appointment at its 5 p.m. meeting this coming Monday.
Ben Baldwin (SFS ’19) will serve as speaker of the senate and Sylvia Levy (SFS ’18) will serve as vice speaker. Baldwin previously served two terms as a senator from Freshman South and West Campus, as well as a member of the Finance and Appropriations committee, which allocates the student activities fee to club advisory boards, both years.
Holshouser will serve as the senate FinApp committee’s next chair, overseeing allocation of more than one million dollars in student activities fees.
Holshouser said he would work to engage a group diverse in gender, sexual identity, race and ethnicity to run for Fin/App positions, after senators raised concerns that the previous Fin/App committee featured mostly straight-identifying white males.
Holshouser said he pushed for the senate to postpone Haag’s confirmation to give senators time to consider any objections.
“Given that the senate was just seated for its first meeting I was of the opinion taking a week to get senators acquainted with senate function and not get bogged down in procedure on the first meeting was more beneficial to the constituents as the docket already was likely to take two hours,” Holshouser wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Baldwin, Josh Sirois (SFS ’20), Hunter Estes (SFS ’19), Owen Hayes (COL ’18), Javon Price (SFS ’20), Scott Lowder (COL ’17), Alejandro Serrano (MSB ’17), William Morris (COL ’19) and Zach Oschin (COL ’20) previously served on FinApp.
Levy previously served in the GUSA executive, chairing the mental health policy team during the 2016-2017 school year and sitting on the Mental Health Policy Committee from 2014 to 2016.
Baldwin said the newly inaugurated senate features students driven to hold the university administration accountable.
“In conversations with newly elected Senators, I have seen a drive and an optimism that truly sets this senate apart,” Baldwin said. “I would expect to see a number of resolutions and initiatives over the coming weeks that focus on holding ourselves and the University accountable to the greater student body, whether that comes as a response to hate crimes on this campus or ensuring that students’ activities fees are spent solely on student activities.”
Levy said during a speech before the election that she will focus on sexual assault and mental health advocacy.
“It’s very important that we use the GUSA senate to make some major statements about a broad range of issues pushing the university and the administration to really own up to different commitments and promises they’ve made around a wide variety of issues,” Levy said.
Levy said her term as vice speaker will be successful if she facilitates the senate’s advocacy work.
“My goal is to help my peers in the senate to do what they want to do – connect them to administrators and relevant student advocates – and really send some powerful messages from the GUSA senate about what student life should look like,” Levy said.
The Sunday swearing-in ceremony administered by GUSA Vice President Jessica Andino (COL ’18) marked the end of a two-week campaign cycle which saw the highest voter turnout — more than 30 percent of students — for a senate election without a referendum on the ballot in recent years.
Mack said he looks forward to working with the Senate.
“Under the strong leadership of Speaker Baldwin and Vice Speaker Levy, we’re hopeful that this year’s body will be an effective partner in delivering meaningful change on shared priorities — affordability of student life, accessibility of campus resources, and advocacy on behalf of all students,” Mack wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Above all, we’re excited for the limitless potential of a united student government actively working to better the student experience at Georgetown.”
GUSA Election Commissioner Grady Willard (SFS ’18) said only the 2013 referendum vote on a satellite campus in Rosslyn, Va. saw a higher turnout.
This election was also the first time the Election Commission included student biographies on the Hoyalink voting page for students to read candidate statements.
Two formal complaints were filed to the Election Commission this year, including a candidate filing a complaint against themselves.
The second complaint involved violation of Office of Residential Living policy regarding distribution of posters and flyers in Darnall Hall.
The policy prohibits the distribution of materials door to door inside any residence hall and sets clear guidelines for posting indoors, including that posters must be 8.5 ” x 11” or 11” x 17” in length, submitted to the residence hall community director for approval and posted to designated bulletin boards.