Nearly a month after winning the race for GUSA executive, Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) were sworn in as president and vice president of the Georgetown University Student Association on Sunday.
After the GUSA senate officially certified the results of the Feb. 28 election Saturday, Tezel and Jikaria acknowledged a subtle ideological shift in the role they believe GUSA should play in students’ lives. While continuing “What’s A Hoya?” student conduct events, they hope to move GUSA’s focus away from programming and toward advocacy.
“We’re looking to continue to keep that going, while also looking to … the great programming being put on by other student groups and see if we can integrate that into ‘What’s A Hoya?’ so that we are letting them do what they do best, and GUSA can continue to focus its resources on being primarily an advocate for the student body,” Tezel said.
Jikaria sees this shift as playing to GUSA’s strengths.
“I think based on the resources that GUSA has and the connections that it has, it should be an advocacy body because that’s kind of its strength — and why not capitalize on that?” Jikaria said. “That being said, obviously a lot of student organizations put on great programs, so if we can facilitate that great work that’s awesome. But our priority should be kind of advocating for students.”
The new executive administration is creating a GUSA Transfer Council to address the interests of transfer students, as well as a Multicultural Council.
Senate Speaker and former vice presidential candidate Sam Greco (SFS ’15) said he thinks this shift toward advocacy will change the approach of the executive.
“I know that Trevor and Omika … think GUSA is an advocacy body and not a programming body, and I think that is one of the bigger philosophical differences that exists in the student government,” Greco said. “I think that that will affect how they operate a little bit.”
Conversely, outgoing GUSA Vice President Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) did not see this difference of approaches as important.
“I think that what matters is as long as they continue to be the voice of students, ‘how?’ is going to be an afterthought,” Ramadan said.
He noted that the “What’s A Hoya?” program came about in response to a student need that surfaced.
Tezel and Jikaria hope to build upon former GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) and Ramadan’s legacy, while at the same time accelerating the progress made by the previous administration.
“We need to always be looking not just to improve upon GUSA at the same rate as last year, but get an even faster clip of changes and improvements to the student body,” Tezel said.
The new executives are currently finalizing their cabinet, which they see as key to achieving their policy goals.
“In terms of leadership style we are definitely taking one where we expect and are putting together a staff and cabinet that has the types of personalities that will go out and work on these initiatives without having to be pushed and prodded, and I think that that’s the difference between a GUSA executive which gets a bit done during the year and a GUSA executive which gets a lot,” Tezel said.
According to Tezel, an improved senate-executive relationship is also key to the student government’s success.
“It’s time for the senate and the executive to bury the hatchet and join together for the betterment of Georgetown. Some of the brightest and most capable students are sitting in this room today, and every day we are not working in a cooperative manner, we are falling short of our potential,” Tezel said in his inaugural speech.
The administration released executive staff appointments on Sunday, including a position for an executive-senate liaison, filled by senior advisor Ben Weiss (COL ’15), who ran for president with Greco as his running mate.
“There has not really been the greatest of relationships between previous executives and the senate — or at least a lack of communication — and having someone in the executive actively working to make sure that it is a positive, collaborative relationship is a priority for both the new executive and current senate leadership,” said Weiss, a current senator.
Tisa and Ramadan delivered their farewell addresses Saturday, with Tisa reflecting on the importance of student opinion in decision-making.
“Georgetown is a massive institution. It has an educational mission but it balances financial constraints, differing entities, different viewpoints, differing philosophies. And sometimes it gets it wrong. And Georgetown students are the conscience to that situation,” Tisa said.
The outgoing GUSA president also reaffirmed GUSA’s role as an advocate for students and a way to give a voice to student needs.
“GUSA doesn’t really have any power,” Tisa said. “We have a voice and when we mobilize students, when people vote in our elections and engage with us, that voice starts having power.”