Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GUSA Makes Student Body Referendum on Restructuring Official

The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) Senate approved a student referendum Oct. 17 to abolish the GUSA Senate and Executive and replace the bodies with a student activist assembly.

The referendum, which the senate approved with a vote of 14 in favor and three opposed, will allow the student body to vote during the upcoming Nov. 4 to 6 GUSA elections on whether to restructure the organization by abolishing the GUSA Senate, presidency and vice presidency. 

If passed by the student body, the referendum would implement a proposal put forward by GUSA’s new restructuring committee. Under the plan, current organizational hierarchies would be eliminated and replaced by various policy committees that would oversee advocacy efforts, according to GUSA Restructuring Committee Co-Chair Dakyung Ham (COL ’22).

Kirk Zieser/The Hoya | The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) approved a student referendum to abolish the GUSA Senate and executive.

The changes to GUSA’s structure will break down bureaucratic barriers and allow GUSA to better advocate for students, according to GUSA Senator Bora Balçay (SFS ’23), who was one of two senators to introduce the referendum. 

“GUSA will no longer be structured like a national government. It will be a student government first and foremost,” Balçay said in an interview with The Hoya. “People that you elect will not be voting on legislation that doesn’t go anywhere. They will be doing the job you elect them for.”

Currently, GUSA is composed of three branches: the GUSA Executive, which consists of the president and vice president and oversees executive advocacy efforts; the GUSA Senate, which represents each class and passes resolutions; and the Constitutional Council, which determines if GUSA actions adhere to the organization’s constitution and bylaws.

Because the referendum is an amendment to the GUSA Constitution, to implement the proposed changes, at least two-thirds of voters must support the change with at least a 25% voter turnout among the student body. Low voter turnout has thwarted previous efforts to restructure GUSA.

Student involvement in the restructuring process is a key priority for GUSA, according to GUSA Senate Speaker Leo Rassieur (COL ’22). 

“Members of the Senate are working tirelessly to promote the referendum and make sure that the student body is informed on how to vote, regardless of whether they vote in favor of or against a restructured GUSA,” Rassieur said in an email to The Hoya. “We will be holding a town hall, flyering, and doing anything else we can to get the word out and get folks talking about the referendum in anticipation of the election.”

However, some senators and students have raised objections to the referendum because of confusion over simultaneous GUSA Senate elections for the Class of 2025. The ballot for the November elections will simultaneously include elections for new senators in addition to the referendum vote.

As part of his objections to the restructuring referendum, GUSA Senator Zev Burton (SFS ’22) introduced an alternative proposal at the Oct. 17 meeting; however, the move was not brought forward for a vote.

First-year students have not been able to effectively voice their opinions about the referendum because they do not have any representatives in GUSA yet, according to Burton.

“The freshmen are the ones that are going to be impacted the most by this because they will be here another three years. Yet, they are not in the senate. They weren’t able to approve the referendum,” Burton said in an interview with The Hoya. “It’s not like they will never be in the senate — we’ll have representatives in about two weeks when they would be able to speak their minds. It’s just shocking to me that people are willing to exclude 25% of the student body.”

GUSA should have held a restructuring referendum after first-year students had voted for senators in the Nov. 6 elections, according to Joe Massaua (SFS ’25), who opposes the referendum and was present at the Oct. 17 meeting. 

“For students to be voting at the same time for new senators and also voting to essentially abolish the senate or transition it to a new organization is wrong,” Massaua said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “What would have been better was to have it as a separate question, and what they’re doing is gaming the election to reach the vote threshold.”

GUSA will still pursue the restructuring plan despite these concerns, however, to ensure that students see immediate changes to the organization, according to GUSA Vice President Nicole Sanchez (SFS ’22). 

“In waiting, there’s always going to be a class who is not part of the discussion. There’s always going to be a group that’s going to be left out, and the truth is that we cannot keep pushing this back in the hopes that maybe next year everyone’s going to feel included,” Sanchez said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Those who actively want to be a part of the restructuring process have the opportunity to.”

Despite student concerns, the referendum’s sponsors remain optimistic it will be successful, according to Balçay.
“I think it will be an overwhelming majority,” Balçay said. “These are very common-sense changes and things that students have been asking for years.”

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