When it comes to LGBTQ issues, this year’s candidates for the Georgetown University Student Association executive offer little beyond the empty buzzword of “diversity.”
To provide insight into what these candidates can do for the LGBTQ community, a coalition of the major LGBTQ clubs on campus — GU Pride, Queer People of Color and the McDonough Alliance — united to create the 2019 LGBTQ Report Card. This measure scores each candidate on four categories — awareness, advocacy, vision and policy — based on their responses to a 10-question survey on LGBTQ issues.
To ensure transparency, we have published our complete methodology, including the anonymous grading process, on our website. There, students can read our score breakdowns and candidates’ original responses.
Ultimately, we saw a disheartening lack of vision for future policy and awareness of LGBTQ issues from all the candidates. Candidates who were the loudest in stating that they cared about LGBTQ issues were unable to even identify issues we face.
The quality of candidate responses varied from underwhelming to downright offensive. Nicki Gray (NHS ’20) received 81 percent; a B-, while decent, is a disappointing score to lead the pack.
The second-highest score, earned by Sina Nemazi (COL ’21) and Roya Wolfe (SFS ’21), was just 68 percent, a meager D+. Scores dropped with candidates Norman Francis Jr. (COL ’20) and Aleida Olvera (COL ’20), who received a 39 percent, an abysmal F. Ryan Zuccala (MSB ’20) and John Dolan (MSB ’20) brought up the rear at just 13 percent, which we felt compelled to give an F-.
Despite initially agreeing to participate and receiving half a dozen reminders over the span of two days, Francis and Dolan did not fill out the survey. Thus, their default scores of 0 percent cut the Francis-Olvera and Zuccala-Dolan tickets’ scores by half.
Candidates’ responses revealed several concerning trends. First, many tickets failed to demonstrate actual plans for working with our community. Instead, candidates relied on buzzwords like “inclusion” to cover for their lack of actual policy. For example, while Zuccala claimed, “there is no other platform that is as committed…to helping the individuals in this group [The LGBTQ community],” he couldn’t accurately identify a single issue impacting our community, let alone how he would address it.
Responses also revealed condescending attitudes towards our community. When asked about the assets of the LGBTQ community on campus, Nemazi suggested it was our ability to “be open and heavily supported by the Georgetown community.” We failed to see how the need for support could be considered a strength.
More unnervingly, Dolan said our strengths were merely, “Diversity, inclusivity, and great fashion sense.” While we decided to treat this answer as the joke it was likely intended to be, we were disheartened that Dolan, among other candidates, struggled to name a single good thing about our community. These patronizing attitudes rattle our faith in this year’s candidates’ ability to advocate for communities like ours.
Though we work through the lens of LGBTQ issues, we do not speak for the entire LGBTQ community. This report is not an endorsement or an attempt to tell students how to vote, but constructive criticism for current and future GUSA candidates.
To improve, candidates must foster genuine relationships with LGBTQ organizations before campaigning starts rather than attempting to do so after getting elected. Many candidates acknowledged their lack of expertise regarding LGBTQ issues and their desire to reach out to student leaders. However, from the entire slate of candidates only Gray reached out to our three groups’ leaders to learn about our work and community.
Despite the general mediocrity of this slate of candidates, there is hope. Candidates’ desire to support the LGBTQ community is evident, as is their willingness to engage with student leaders. Candidates also expressed genuine desires to uplift the voices of student leaders in their work.
In their responses, Wolfe and Olvera emphasized the importance of intersectionality when approaching LGBTQ advocacy. As both candidates expressed, our community is complex, and different forms of privilege exist that must be addressed for advocacy to succeed. As Olvera explains, “students of color and especially trans students of color may often feel scared and overshadowed by the white-ness of the school and the LGBTQ community.”
Additionally, Gray shows promise in her past work; she indicated that she has led peer mentorship within GERMS to educate crews on medical challenges specific to the LGBTQ community.
Nevertheless, we cannot be complacent in knowing our candidates merely claim to support our communities.
We hope that candidates in the 2019 election take our advice to heart; however, if we want to see better candidates in the future, it is essential that students of all identities vet their candidates to ensure they don’t conflate self-proclaimed passion with actual policy.
This article was updated Feb. 4 to reflect that Nicki Gray reached out to a GU Pride leader.
GU Pride, Queer People of Color and the McDonough Alliance are undergraduate groups serving the LGBTQ community at Georgetown.