Georgetown University Student Association President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12) and Vice President Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) campaigned in 2011 to improve student life, neighborhood relations andGUSA accountability.
As the pair leaves the executive office, Meaney is still surprised that he and Laverriere won the race.
“About a year ago, upon taking the oath of office, I said that it was funny to think that a grumpy, awkward kid from Long Island and a kid with a stutter from Tucson had been elected president and vice president of the Georgetown University Student Association,” he said in his farewell address to the GUSA senate Sunday. “It’s still funny, because Greg is still awkward and grumpy, and I still stutter.”
Meaney and Laverriere initially focused on initiatives that could bring tangible, immediate benefits to students such as the reinstitution of the College Readership program and the inauguration of Project Move-In, during which GUSA members helped new students settle in to their housing on the first day of New Student Orientation.
According to Meaney, these initiatives helped him and Laverriere build enough political capital to devote the second half of their term to working toward the long-term goals on which they had campaigned.
“We had been building and building our capital for our big things, which were Code of Conduct, Student Life Report and Access to Benefits,” he said. “People run on [these initiatives] every year. We made progress, and that’s something we’re proud of.”
A FIGHT FOR STUDENT RIGHTS
A primary focus of Meaney and Laverriere’s campaign was reforming the university’s Student Code of Conduct. The duo has been working with university officials to revise the code since November, when it released its proposed changes. They hope to raise the burden of proof required to issue a disciplinary violation and better communicate student rights during the judicial process.
Their campaign also promised to revamp the Access to Benefits Policies, which outline the benefits granted to student groups. While the Student Life Report, released Saturday, provided detailed recommendations for reforming these policies, Meaney and Laverriere’s administration did not tangibly change them during its term.
The pair, however, was able to implement initiatives absorbed from other 2011 campaigns. Most notably, they charged their former election adversaries, Ace Factor (COL ’12) and James Pickens (COL ’12), with the establishment of the Student Advocacy Office. The initiative was the focus of Factor and Pickens’ campaign platform and is intended to provide a resource for students faced with disciplinary violations.
CATERING TO THE STUDENT
Following through on the Student Activities Fee Endowment reform would have been a significant issue for any ticket that won the 2011 election. In a student body referendum passed in January, $3.4 million was allocated to Georgetown Energy, the Social Innovation and Public Service Fund and the New South Student Center renovation effort. While the GUSA Senate Finance and Appropriations committee led the reform, the executive also played a part.
“We wouldn’t have been able to get the necessary coordination of the student body or even get the reforms through without Mike and Greg’s knowledge and commitment,” Senate Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ’12) said.
While running for office, the two also promised to create a website allowing students to submit ideas and vote on other suggestions related to university issues of concern. An online forum allowing interactive user feedback, called Hoya Ideas Community, was launched Tuesday.
Meaney and Laverriere also proposed changes to Georgetown dining options in their campaign, but an idea to institute hot Grab ‘n’ Go meals proved unsuccessful. According to Meaney, the project was dropped after GUSA ran into issues with sanitary regulations.
TAKING GUSA TO THE STREETS
As promised in their campaign, Meaney and Laverriere made efforts to improve neighborhood relations by pushing for the M Street shuttle, offering Georgetown residents tickets to campus events and testifying at neighborhood commission meetings. But neighbors have continued to voice their complaints about Georgetown students and the 2010 Campus Plan process has been drawn out much longer than expected.
“If Georgetown was running a convent, these neighbors would say we were praying too [loudly],” Senior Counselor Sam Ungar (COL ’12) said.
Meaney and Laverriere also placed particular campaign emphasis on the creation of a GUSA Rides program to supplement SafeRides with extended hours of service on weekend nights. During their administration, they ran into funding difficulties that prevented the implementation of the idea. Instead, the executives refocused their efforts on expanding the number of GUSA volunteers driving SafeRidesvans and instituted the Snack Cab prize program.
Meaney and Laverriere also promised the creation of a Hoya Housing Finder for students seeking off-campus roommates. Although some initial research was conducted, the plan never came to fruition.
Over the summer, GUSA’s scope expanded beyond the Georgetown neighborhood with the “Do We Have A Deal Yet?” campaign. Meaney spearheaded a coalition of more than 140 university student body presidents that demanded a compromise in the federal debt limit negotiations.
Although the effort had little to do with the university, Laverriere defended it saying that a failure to compromise on the debt ceiling debate could have reduced funding for Pell grants, a form of federal financial aid.
In his final address Sunday, Meaney asserted that Georgetown’s place in the nation’s capital gives it the opportunity to have a voice in federal issues.
“Our location allows us to put students, and our generation more broadly, at the heart of the national conversation,” he said.
In his speech, Meaney advised GUSA members to focus on projects aligned with GUSA’s strengths.
“Moving forward, I hope GUSA can capitalize on the tremendous foundation that has been built over the last four years,” he said. “I hope that it realizes its limitations and continues to build on its strengths. I am happy to have played my part.”