In Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) and Richard Howell’s (SFS ’19) campaign pitch for the Georgetown University Student Association’s executive offices, the candidates promise they will be the student body’s “bulldog” against the rising costs of tuition and mandatory textbooks.
Estes and Howell are running for GUSA president and vice president, respectively, on promises to reduce Georgetown education costs, as well as efforts to instill a sense of community and a culture of service on campus.
In a Saturday interview with The Hoya, the pair emphasized their extensive student leadership experience, but acknowledged their similar personal backgrounds and conservative views may alienate some voters. They insisted they would “fight for every student” if elected, and said they hope students will evaluate them on their policy platform.
Estes and Howell are running against satirical ticket Logan Arkema (COL ’20) and Jonathan Compo (COL ’20), Sahil Nair (SFS ’19) and Naba Rahman (SFS ’19), and Josh Sirois (SFS ’20) and Casey Doherty (COL ’20). The election is set for Feb. 22.
Estes and Howell said they have devoted much of their time on campus to giving back to the Georgetown community.
A Maryland native, Estes has led Georgetown’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic service fraternal organization. He was also elected to the GUSA senate last year and served on the Finance and Appropriations Committee, which allocates over $1 million to student groups each year. Estes has also worked on GUSA’s free speech policy team, and he served on the board of the Georgetown University College Republicans in 2016.
Howell comes from a small rural town in southern New Jersey. He has worked with Estes as a member of the Knights of Columbus and the GUSA free speech policy team. Howell has also served as treasurer of GUCR and sits on the associate board of the Lecture Fund, which organizes speaker events on campus.
Estes and Howell said they first met during the second lecture of their freshman year economics class after Estes accidentally flung a pen across the classroom into the back of Howell’s head. They then bonded over their similar extracurricular interests and points of view.
“We thrive off each other. We’re energized by similar commitments and we formed bonds through similar desires in terms of what we want to do in our time here,” Estes said.
The pair only decided to run for the GUSA executive in the last three weeks after another ticket they had planned to support dropped out, Estes said.
Estes and Howell’s platform focuses on three core planks: cost, community and charity.
The pair’s plan to reduce costs includes advocating for a tuition-freeze policy, which would guarantee that each student pays the same tuition for the duration of their time at Georgetown, pushing the university to dismiss “redundant” administrators and asking professors to reduce textbook expenses by pledging to post their own textbooks and sections from other books online.
The pair said their platform on cutting cost is “ambitious,” but rightly so.
“Honestly, I don’t understand what the purpose of the student government would be if it weren’t trying to tackle this problem,” Howell said.
All three of the ticket’s major affordability proposals have been discussed at some level by Georgetown administrators, according to Estes. He said their goals are achievable in the hands of a GUSA executive willing to “actually stand up to the administration.”
If nothing else, Estes said, they hope their campaign will pressure the administration to take the issue of tuition costs more seriously.
The candidates’ second platform plank, community, is inspired by Estes and Howell’s concern that the student body shares too few common experiences at Georgetown that make them feel welcome and united.
Apart from a commitment to organize more community events, the second plank includes a range of policy priorities, including improving accessibility, expanding access to stipends for off-campus mental health care and increasing sexual assault awareness and training.
With their third plank, charity, Estes and Howell hope to instill a “culture of service” at Georgetown. They plan to organize a community service day and encourage student groups and individuals to organize their own community service projects.
In their GUSA budget proposal submitted to the Election Commission on Wednesday, Estes and Howell request $17,500, a relatively lean total compared with Nair and Rahman’s $25,325 request and Sirois and Doherty’s $28,000 request.
Estes said he stands out among the other presidential candidates because of his range of GUSA expertise and his relationships with administrators and alumni, which he said would help the pair advance their policy goals. Estes has worked with administrators as a student representative on the university’s Speech and Expression Committee and last year on the executive board of the Alumni Association.
As vice president, Howell said he would bring an outsider’s perspective to GUSA that resonates with a common criticism that GUSA is small, insular and self-serving. Last year’s executive election saw a 38 percent turnout from the student body.
“A lot of people are turned off by the student government on this campus. Voter turnout is abysmally low,” Howell said. “A big part of this is how do we get GUSA to better interact with the students?”
With their similar personal backgrounds and conservative views, the candidates said their main shortcomings as a ticket concern their ability to represent the entire student body.
“We recognize that we’re conservative students; we’re Catholic students. We know what communities we’ve been involved in on campus and which we haven’t,” Estes said.
In the GUSA senate last spring, Estes was the only senator to vote against two resolutions expressing opposition to two of President Donald Trump’s policies that affected Georgetown student. One resolution expressed support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy and the other voiced opposition to an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, according to public voting records and various then-senators serving with Estes.
Last October, Estes publicly defended the socially conservative views of Love Saxa, a student group that promotes traditional views of marriage and sexuality, amid calls for the university to strip the group’s funding by students who claimed the group’s stance on gay marriage fostered hatred against LGBTQ students.
Estes said he does not agree with all of Love Saxa’s views, and insisted he would defend the rights of any group on campus whether he agreed with them or not. While working on GUSA’s free speech policy team, he said, he worked with the president of the pro-abortion rights group H*yas for Choice to defend the group’s right to promote its views on campus.
“We’re here to love every student, to fight for every student and the causes that are brought to us that need to be fought for,” Estes said.
The candidates hope to unify the student body around the issues they plan to work on, including improving campus accessibility and expanding access to mental health care. Specifically, Estes said the ticket’s focus on affordability speaks to a common Georgetown experience.
“We were brought here on financial aid. We’re both here on scholarships. I’m working two jobs just to support my time to even be here at Georgetown. And that’s an issue that a lot of students relate to. That goes beyond skin color, that goes beyond our beliefs,” Estes said. “I ask that you evaluate us based on our policies, based on our platform, for what we believe is good for the student body.”