While this week’s Georgetown University Student Association elections may seem insignificant, they provide an opportunity for new executives to redirect resources toward issues that matter to Georgetown University students, particularly marginalized communities on campus. For the queer community, the difference between a GUSA Executive that understands us and the challenges we face and one that misunderstands or ignores queer issues is incredibly significant. The importance of a GUSA Executive that supports the queer community should be considered by all students.
The LGBTQ Report Card, a scoring of each ticket’s ability to support the LGBTQ community, is an especially useful resource for voters because it provides a concise and unbiased window into each candidate’s history of advocacy and plans for supportive poli\cies. Since the entire election process occurs over the course of only a few weeks, it can be hard for students to properly gauge each ticket’s ability to represent them and their priorities, especially on queer issues.
The difficult nature of distinguishing the policies of GUSA tickets from each other is exactly why Georgetown University Pride, Queer People of Color and Georgetown LGBTQ+ Mentors and Resources, the three largest queer groups on campus, devised the LGBTQ Report Card last year. Many Hoyas identify themselves within the LGBTQ+ community, and these students face a variety of specific challenges on campus. Queer students often must deal with disproportionate mental health issues, faculty untrained to help LGBTQ+ students, general homophobia and transphobia, an absence of intersectionality and a lack of all-gender bathrooms in many campus buildings. Furthermore, Georgetown’s status as a Jesuit institution creates additional obstacles, since the university has limited options to address many of these problems. Though the administration has made incredible steps forward in support of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, Georgetown’s Catholic heritage ensures the on-campus presence of groups and speakers who disagree with our right to marriage, our right to be who we are and our dignity.
While there are many wonderful advocacy groups on campus working for queer students, GUSA can provide resources, connections to administration and mechanisms for this advocacy work to be successful. In just the past year, GUSA has coordinated with Pride to work on mental health issues with its mental health coalition and on all-gender bathroom policies with the university, both of which specifically affect the well-being of queer students. In the latter example, Pride wanted to ensure that all-gender bathrooms would be included in plans for new buildings and renovated dorms, since new buildings like Regents Hall and most dorm floors actually lack all-gender bathrooms. Members of GUSA arranged a meeting with the master planning committee and helped codify this idea into a policy that the committee later adapted. These are just two recent examples of GUSA’s resources aiding LGBTQ+ advocacy groups in achieving better campus policies for the queer community. GUSA has the connections and the experience with administration necessary to solidify the ideas of advocacy groups into campus policy, an often unseen but crucial way to effect change.
The idea of the report card is simple: We ask candidates to answer questions about their knowledge of queer issues and resources, their history of advocacy and their policies for LGBTQ+ students, then grade their answers blindly and give them a score reflecting their ability to advocate for queer Hoyas as GUSA president and vice president. We then publish a report card that summarizes and explains each ticket’s grade, supplying quotes from their answers to inform the student body of each candidate’s ability to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.
This process may seem unnecessary to many students and potentially overcritical to certain candidates, but it is crucially important that the president and vice president of the student body can speak on behalf of all students. Any candidate who cannot advocate for LGBTQ+ students and lacks policies targeted toward queer issues on Georgetown’s campus should not and cannot be elected to the GUSA Executive.
As a Georgetown student and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, I pay attention to the GUSA presidential election, and I urge other students to do the same. Though GUSA can seem counterproductive and overly bureaucratic at times, I strongly believe these elections matter. These elections have real impacts on real people, especially marginalized communities. Even if these issues do not affect you personally, an important part of allyship is keeping queer and intersectional issues in mind when you fill out your ballots. All Georgetown students should read the report card and make an informed vote for a ticket committed to supporting LGBTQ+ Hoyas.
Finn Thompson is a sophomore in the College and the director of advocacy for GU Pride.