The 2016 Georgetown University Student Association executive race began as the presidential and vice presidential ticket of Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Chris Fisk (COL ’17) launched its executive bid at midnight Wednesday in Red Square. They are the only candidates to publicly launch a campaign thus far.
According to GUSA Election Commissioner Grady Willard (SFS ’18), the presidential and vice presidential ticket of Tony Pezzullo (MSB ’17) and A.J. Serlemitsos (COL ’17) has also filed to run.
The 2016 race, with only two tickets, sets a different tone from the hotly contested 2015 campaign of six presidential and vice presidential pairings.
Just before midnight, around 50 students from Khan and Fisk’s team entered Red Square from the Intercultural Center accompanied by a portable stereo with strobe lights and the song “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar before taping up their poster with the slogan “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.”
Alex Bobroske (SFS ’17), Khan and Fisk’s campaign manager, said the slogan is focused on unifying various student groups to come together and advocate on behalf of students when working with university administration.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy in the administration, a lot of reasons that different communities on campus aren’t connecting with each other, or not getting the best advocacy they can,” Bobroske said. “And so that’s the first part of our campaign, is identifying those barriers, and then the second part is building bridges between different communities on campus to make GUSA more inclusive and actually representative of campus, rather than being perceived as a club itself.”
Khan explained that following last year’s executive election, she and Fisk wanted to focus on bringing the Georgetown community together.
“I think, coming off of last year, there was a really divisive and toxic election; I think a lot of people were dissatisfied with what happened there,” Khan said. “This is student government at the end of the day, and what we saw was all that division was not what was good for Georgetown and we wanted to really see people working together.”
Fisk said that inclusivity will be featured prominently in his and Khan’s campaign.
“We’re also strongly pushing a message of inclusivity overall. Restructuring GUSA is the main way of talking about that inclusivity,” Fisk said.
According to Fisk, inclusivity, restructuring GUSA and socio-economics are three principal topics of the platform.
Kotryna Jukneviciute (COL ’18), executive officer of the GUSA senate and co-director of outreach on the Khan-Fisk ticket, said that the campaign will focus on increasing student body engagement with GUSA.
“I think the central goal of this campaign is student engagement because up until this point, you’ve had a lot of very competitive campaigns that have been focused on winning, whereas our goal is more engaging the student body and getting people to have a voice in GUSA, and to have them heard,” Jukneviciute said.
Khan and Fisk’s campaign is one of the largest in GUSA executive campaign history, with around 200 members.
According to Bobroske, the Khan-Fisk ticket also took a more open approach to policy development.
“One of the differences that we did this year compared to past years was, generally, GUSA campaigns would dole out a platform from one or two key experts in the field and just adopt that as their plan,” Bobroske said. “This year we started with that, we went to the experts, but that was only step one. The next part was sitting down and having a meeting open to anybody in our staff, anybody who are experts in the field.”
Serlemitsos wrote in an email to The Hoya that his team has been preparing its candidacy for months, even though it was unable to launch the campaign Wednesday night.
“Tony and I are very excited to announce our candidacy. We have been working in private with our team for months. We are very excited to roll out the campaign in segments,” Serlemitsos wrote. “We apologize that we couldn’t be at Red Square [Wednesday night], as we were both out of town. But we are very excited about the race.”
According to Pezzullo, his and Serlemitsos’ plans to launch their campaign Wednesday night fell through at the last minute.
“We had sent two of our campaign staff Suneel Mudaliar (MSB ’17) and Jack Maher (COL ’17), but the two of them evidently forgot about campaigning tonight. But we’re looking forward to re-energizing them tomorrow … hopefully getting the campaign started in full,” Pezzullo said.
According to Pezzullo, Mudaliar and Maher will serve as co-campaign managers of the Pezzullo-Serlemitsos ticket.
Willard said that even though this year’s election has fewer candidates, it still stands to be an interesting race.
“I think there’s some good debates that we’re going to have. As you know, there is a referendum on live registration versus pre-registration. … There are also critical issues on [Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle] bus turnaround, dining — we just had some news from [Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students] Todd Olson on Kehoe Field,” Willard said. “A lot of issues to be talked about with a couple of candidates, so I think it will be a good election year.”
Serlemitsos wrote in an email to The Hoya that his campaign will seek to provide students with a greater voice and a better environment in which they can enjoy themselves.
“We believe that there need to be additional changes to empower students and thusly balance the scales,” Serlemitsos wrote. “We understand that Georgetown is a place for education, but there are people that want to have fun, and we want to create the right environment for that fun. We believe this issue is paramount to our campaign.”
While he does not want to publish the campaign’s complete platform yet, Pezzullo said that it includes plans to fight Georgetown University Police Department’s proposal to expand jurisdiction outside the front gates.
“We don’t want to give away our entire platform just yet; we want to roll this out sort of in parts,” Pezzullo said. “Something that we do want to oppose is going to be the … legislature that would expand the GUPD jurisdiction off campus and if we can’t get the full movement on that, we at least want to stop pre-emptive patrolling.”
Pezzullo said that results from the University Sexual Assault and Misconduct Climate Survey, which ends Feb. 15, will form a significant part of their platform.
“For [the survey], we’re going to move to a different part, putting forward our platform of how we’re going to work with those results later on in the campaign,” Pezzullo said. “We think that’s an extremely important issue that deserves the attention of an entire interview or an entire day. We don’t think that’s something that we want to address alongside all the other issues because it is so important.”
Pezzullo expressed confidence in his campaign’s ability to win with competitive edge.
“I think right now we are the greatest campaign on this campus,” Pezzullo said. “We respect our competition very much, but we expect to squash them. I’m not worried, and I feel very confident. All I’d like to say is that for too long Georgetown has been mired in slow growth and in policies that haven’t really taken shape in any substantive way. At one time, Georgetown was great and I think what we’re going to do is, we’re going to make Georgetown great again.”
As for the Khan-Fisk campaign, Fisk said the team will take a down-to-earth approach with its campaign.
“Yes, we’re going to be very serious in terms of policy, but we’re also people first, we’re students first. And I think that us approaching this whole situation with the fact that we are just like everyone else and all of us need to work together,” Fisk said. “I think we will just be unabashedly ourselves.”
The McDonough School of Business features prominently in this election compared to years past, with both presidential candidates being in the MSB, and the two vice presidential candidates in the College. Last year, 11 out of the 12 students campaigning were in the College, while in 2014, five students were in the School of Foreign Service and three were in the College.
Micki Gallien (SFS ’17) said that she struggles to see the importance of the GUSA executive campaign.
“I don’t know too much about GUSA as a whole. I have a few friends who are really active in it and they’re all really great people with really great intentions and I respect them and wish them all the best, but I haven’t seen exactly how it matters who’s running any of it,” Gallien said. “Maybe that’s just my ignorance — I don’t know exactly what they do and who exactly can accomplish what difference it makes, if any, who’s in what position.”
The presidential and vice presidential debates will be held Feb. 10 and Feb. 15, respectively, before the election is held digitally Feb. 18.
Hoya Staff Writers Molly Cooke, Ashwin Puri, Patricja Okuniewska and Jack Lynch contributed reporting.