Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Girls Don’t Give GUSA a Chance

Do you remember that segment on Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the others?” Well, if you went to the GUSA debate on Tuesday or looked at THE HOYA’s description of the candidates last week, you might have noticed a disparity. Out of the 16 students who ran for student association president or vice president this year, only one was a girl.

In fact, since my freshman year, 48 students have run for GUSA, and only three of them were women. What’s more, there have been just two female presidents in GUSA’s history.

At the same time, a record number of women ran for the GUSA Senate this past fall, according to outgoing GUSA Chief of Staff Mariclaire Petty (SFS ’08). And other GUSA committees, such as the cabinet and policy groups, are typically at least 50 percent female.

This discrepancy begs the question: For a school full of students who pride themselves on the length of their resumes, why do so many women decline to run for major offices?

To get to the bottom of the issue, I thought it would be better to let individuals speak for themselves – specifically, a set of female student leaders at Georgetown who would have been excellent as school president – to find out why GUSA did not appeal to them.

GUSA’s biggest weakness, I found, is that it has competition. Women often simply want to pursue opportunities in other fields, and I don’t think that women should be criticized for wanting to join the newspaper or The Corp instead of student government.

“To be honest, I can’t give a reason why I was not involved ever with GUSA,” said Liz Fossett (SFS ’08), former president of the Georgetown University College Democrats. “I think I have always been more interested in big picture things rather than affairs on campus and was never sure how much GUSA could really change such affairs on campus anyway.”

Even this year’s lone female candidate for vice president, Anna Schubert (COL ’09) is a newcomer to GUSA, having spent most of her time on the Hilltop in GERMS.

oreover, many women are uninterested in running for GUSA because, like everyone else, we just don’t see the organization as being very effective or respected by the university community. Women at Georgetown want to effect change – they just don’t see GUSA as the way to get it done.

“I realized this year that I could find many other ways to enact change and spur discussion without ever running for a position in GUSA,” said Obehi Utubor (SFS ’09), a junior who participates in groups like the alcohol policy working group, Black Theater Ensemble and the disciplinary review committee. “I wish those in GUSA realized this.”

But putting the bad reputation of GUSA aside, women do tend to work in different ways than men do. It’s not that there’s something inherent in women that hinders us, but women often have different preferences about the work they pursue. For example, women are inclined to be behind the scenes.

“Based on my and my friends’ preferences . girls like to do things where they can really get deeply involved in a project, see the direct impact of their work, et cetera,” said Petty, the GUSA official. “This isn’t to say presidents don’t get very heavily involved in a few projects . but they have to spend a lot of their time doing more `figurehead’ stuff, which is an important role, just not one that appeals to everyone.”

One thing that public figures can’t really do – and that women often like to do – is cultivate one-on-one relationships with regular people. For example, Rebecca Magee (COL ’08), who has been a resident assistant for three years, said that she would rather work with students individually instead of on the macro level of student government.

“Being an RA has allowed me to develop personal relationships with university staff and to better understand how the university works. In that way, I can help students learn how to get things done and to get what they need from university resources,” Magee said. “Most importantly, I feel that I can help students personally and emotionally on an individual basis that is not a part of a lot of larger student body-oriented organizations.”

Sometimes, though, working at the lower levels of an organization can seem like a 21st-century manifestation of the public man, private woman divide – a workplace substitute for the thankless domestic work of the home.

“Our campus activities, from clubs to community service to programming, are dominated by females in all shapes, sizes and colors,” Utubor said. “Yet we do all the work, and I still feel as if the recognition is not there.”

So, if women do want to get more recognition, why aren’t we putting ourselves out there for the most recognizable position at Georgetown?

Well, the biggest hurdles may be the ones that girls create for themselves. Our generation, which is obsessed with perfection, has made high-risk, high-payoff opportunities seem too dangerous to attempt. Losing an election is not just disappointing but embarrassing after you’ve plastered the dorms with flyers of your face.

“Women in our society are often expected to be perfect, and the fear of failure can lead one not to want the spotlight,” said Katherine Boyle (COL ’08), who won the prestigious Mitchell Scholarship. “On an individual level, I do think that students of Georgetown, male and female, should encourage young women on campus to `risk’ running for elected office.”

agee admitted that the idea of campaigning for herself was out of her comfort zone.

“Though I do not necessarily see that as a gender-specific characteristic, I think the lack of precedence could absolutely be a factor in reducing the `comfort level’ of girls who might otherwise consider running,” she said.

Plus, many women find that it is difficult to try when there have not been many trailblazers. The last female GUSA president, Kelley Hampton (SFS ’05), was elected before any of us current undergrads got here.

“Sometimes it just takes one female to be in charge to attract more female applicants, but that will just require the right person stepping up on their own impetus,” said Jillian Perlow (COL ’08), the former chief financial officer of The Corp.

So, young women of Georgetown, maybe GUSA is worth giving a shot. The race for president or vice president won’t be such a lonely road if more women take the chance; although more women might lose, more women will win, too. Really, the biggest disappointment of all would be that the right people are too afraid of running to try.

Emily Liner is a senior in the College and a contributing editor of THE HOYA. She can be reached at linerthehoya.com. SKIRTING THE ISSUES appears every other Friday.

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