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

GUSA’s Wasted Opportunity

The GUSA assembly voted Tuesday to create a commission to reform election bylaws. This first step formally initiates intensive reforms sorely needed after last spring’s 10-week GUSA election fiasco, which ended with both candidates, as well as the chair of the deciding Constitutional Council, citing fundamental flaws in the election guidelines.

GUSA President Kelly Hampton (COL ’05) and the assembly should be lauded in establishing the commission. But the sad fact remains that this commission should have been formed three months ago. Now the freshman class stands poised to carry out their first Georgetown student government election under bylaws proven to be unsound.

On April 30, three days after being sworn in as president, Hampton published a viewpoint in The Hoya which included a vision for campaign bylaw reform, saying the election “was just ugly enough to serve as the impetus for some real, tangible changes to occur in GUSA.” Hampton was correct. If nothing else, this administration’s mandate is to improve the election bylaws. Despite making progress in other matters this summer, however, the Student Association – whose current members were all elected or appointed in the spring – have idled on this issue.

Past GUSA presidents have set a precedent of completing their most important projects during the summer. Last year, Brian orgenstern (COL ’05) spent the summer attending meetings which brought an end to the 24-hour residence hall security policy. Two years ago, Kaydee Bridges’ (SFS ’03) administration launched my.george-town.edu as students returned to campus. While Hampton has made progress on some issues this summer – meeting with the head of the Citizens’ Association of Georgetown, providing student input to various administrative departments and working to formalize the way GUSA operates – the most important one went largely unattended until last Tuesday.

The end of last school year saw widespread dialogue centered on restructuring the process, and the malodorous imprint of the failed election offered motivation enough to launch the reform effort at the first post-election GUSA meeting in May. Passion about election reform and the motivation to animate already shaping plans and ideas was at a painfully obvious peak last spring. The capability and willingness to reform were there five months ago – yet this effort is only now taking shape, weeks before elections begin.

While the need for campus-wide input demanded delaying the finalization of reforms until after the school year began, GUSA should have initiated work on those reforms last spring. The bylaw-reform commission could have been formed immediately after the spring assembly elections and could have used the summer to move the reform process forward. Research could have been conducted, recommendations could have been collected, proposals could have been drafted and debate could have taken place. GUSA could have begun the academic year with a prepared set of proposals to present to the student body upon returning to campus. Instead, GUSA can only present students a resolution authorizing the creation of a five-member commission.

Had GUSA dispatched this committee last spring instead of last Tuesday, the year’s first assembly could have solidified recommended changes and brought the motion to the student body for debate. New bylaws would have been ready in time for the freshmen elections, and the vote could have served as an important test of the new campaign guidelines’ effectiveness, with ample time to make adjustments before February’s more weighty and high-profile executive election.

The incoming assembly and administration inherited a largely shattered and precarious GUSA, tainted by controversy and a drawn-out failure to respond effectively. Hampton has already set out to ambitiously reorganize GUSA’s operation, and a strong and active leadership can still transform the anger and confusion of the spring into reform and reinvigoration for the fall.

But in delaying the reform process to the beginning of this school year, GUSA has forfeited the opportunity to implement new bylaws for a fall election. And it has further forfeited some, if not all, of the momentum that resulted from last February’s election debacle. It remains to be seen if it can be recovered.

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