If last year was a year of stagnancy and administrative pushback, this year was one of concerted movement and building momentum. From the push for greater workers’ rights to the tangible initiatives instituted to shift student social life on campus, this year was one characterized by mobilization. Here is the editorial board’s final word on the 2012-2013 academic year.

 

A Campus Plan in Motion

Last summer, the university presented the 2010 Campus Plan agreement as a positive compromise between equal parties, but the months since its announcement have proved a clear reminder of the uphill battle Georgetown faces against neighborhood restrictions.

Much of the student body views the university’s concessions — housing 90 percent of students on campus by 2025, for example, and maintaining the “more likely than not” evidentiary standard for off-campus violations — as signs of an unfavorable relationship.

Beneath the overarching context of restrictive zoning laws and extreme neighborhood pressures, however, the administration has done an admirable job in responding to student desires and envisioning a flexible new model for Georgetown. Even as the spring’s crackdown on off-campus parties ignited student discontent, the policy was well-balanced by extended GOCard swipe access, the addition of food trucks on campus and the elimination of on-campus party registration requirements, which were all instituted in the fall. The long-term plan for satellite campuses will allow the university to expand throughout Washington, D.C., while maintaining a distinct Hilltop for undergraduates. Thus far, the inclusion of student voices in the design for the Healey Family Student Center has proved a successful model for administrator-student partnerships on campus plan adaptations.

In some respects, these concessions gave students leverage with administrators, allowing organizations like the Georgetown University Student Association to push long-discussed reforms into action. The introduction of weekend night shuttles to Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan, the elimination of the one-keg limit for on-campus parties and the return of some beloved Georgetown Day features can all be interpreted as administrative efforts to compensate for frustration and to regain the good faith of the student body. Going forward, the university should continue in this year’s model of updating on-campus policy in proportion to off-campus concessions.

 

Progress for Student Rights

Based on Georgetown’s administrative inertia and a tense relationship with its neighbors, we would have been more than a little skeptical at the beginning of the year to hear that there would be a landmark Code of Student Conduct change.

However, this past October brought the decision to raise the university’s evidentiary standard for on-campus conduct violations from “more likely than not” to “clear and convincing.” Fought for passionately by the Student Advocacy Office and championed by former GUSA executives Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13), the passing of the referendum was perhaps only overshadowed by the fact that GUSA was able to mobilize the student body enough to effect administrative change.

We can only hope that the new GUSA executive, Nate Tisa (SFS ’14), and Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) will take up the helm and approach other palpable deficiencies in student rights, like the now-incongruous evidentiary standards for off-campus violations or the university’s troubling free-speech policy, with equal vigor.

 

2013 GUSA Executive Election

This year’s GUSA executive election was marked not only by record-high voter turnout but a dramatic progression that caught the attention of almost every student on campus.

On the eve of the election, GUSA presidential candidate Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) was disclosed to be a member of the Second Society of Stewards. Speculation about other candidates’ memberships in similar secret groups arose, and Appelbaum admitted to his membership without hesitation. Ramadan was initially critical of the Appelbaum campaign’s legitimacy and transparency. His complaints, however, lost ground when — after initially lying to the press — he admitted to an association with a secret society. With a platform rooted in expanding students’ rights, Ramadan’s deceit betrayed the voters that his ticket professed a determination to serve.

Above all, the election, perhaps regrettably, focused in on secret societies more so than the issues being debated. Nearly every GUSA executive candidate from the past few years has emphasized the need to legitimize their organization in the eyes of the student body. The Stewards leak diminished the association’s fledgling reputation.

Ramadan’s involvement did not cost him and his running mate the election, and the duo have since proved themselves worthy executives. Under their lead, in recent months GUSA has effectively capitalized on the university’s pressure to assuage student frustration with the 2010 Campus Plan and the transition to on-campus social life. Taking advantage of the university’s new responsiveness to student requests, Tisa and Ramadan have been instrumental in signing a high number of bills in a short amount of time. We hope this momentum continues as the new academic year commences.

A Move for Labor Rights

A movement toward improved workers’ rights has characterized this academic year. Manifested both on and off campus, these labor struggles have both celebrated victories and struggled through stalemates.

After Adidas was accused of failing to pay severance to former employees overseas, thereby violating the university’s Code of Conduct for Licensees, Georgetown terminated its sports apparel contract with the company. Despite delaying the decision for almost a year after the company was first accused in January 2012, this action showed Georgetown holding its affiliates to higher moral standards and taking a responsible stance against the abuse of workers.

A similar victory was found off-campus, at M Street’s Tackle Box. Brought to students’ attention via social media by the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, the restaurant’s proprietors agreed to properly compensate their employees after threats of organized protest.

Not every story, however, has gotten its happy ending. More than a year after unionizing under Unite Here, O’Donovan Hall workers found themselves yet again subject to unfair working conditions. In an attempt to cut costs, Aramark altered shifts to reduce the number of full-time salaries it would need to pay. In October, Aramark’s management agreed to weekly meetings with workers to hear their concerns, but discontent persists. Aramark seems to come up short with every attempt at outreach, whether in its dealings with its workers or with students in their “We Hear You” campaigns. And with its misguided prioritization of social media promotions and its alarming number of food violations this year, any meaningful change to the dining hall remains to be seen — let alone heard.

As this conflict drags on, Georgetown’s adjunct faculty begin the process of unionizing under Service Employees International Union Local 500 Coalition of Academic Labor. Even as it is evident that the push for workers’ rights is far from concluded, this year has shown the potential for students to stand by workers in their fight for their rights.

 

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