In the words of founding father John Adams, “I say, that Power must never be trusted Without a Check.”
In the first week of November, the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) will issue a referendum that has serious implications for the future of our student government. The referendum proposes to consolidate the GUSA’s Senate and executive bodies, which would effectively abolish the senate, constitutional council and presidency. Instead, there would be but one body divided into committees composed of elected representatives. While GUSA’s rationale for consolidating its branches is to improve efficiency, this move is not a viable solution for several reasons.
For one, this proposal would remove the checks and balances in the system that we currently have. And I get it, GUSA does not really have an influence on anything concrete anyway, so why should this matter? Well, the point of consolidating these branches is to create a body that can more efficiently instigate change, but if there is only one entity making these crucial decisions, there will be nobody to challenge it. A single entity cannot effectively represent the diversity of thought throughout the entire student body. History is replete with examples of one-party governments abolishing prior governments that were the locus of their systems.
Second, the proposed restructuring both limits the number of students that can engage and participate in student government and restricts the opportunities for students to explore different areas of government. At a school whose reputation relies heavily on its policy and foreign service programs, we must create opportunities for as many students as possible to apply theory learned in the classroom by serving as student government representatives. In fact, instead of dismantling the current system, we should be thinking about redefining its purpose.
I know there are students who look down on GUSA and its inefficiencies. But GUSA’s follow-through shouldn’t be of concern. In reality, this body is largely a symbolic entity — and a flawed one at that — and that’s okay. After all, it is a student-run organization that operates under the university with red tape and stakeholder interest at play. The central focus of our student government should instead be a means of learning how to disagree effectively and work toward consensus, which by design is less efficient. GUSA’s proposal is a way of evading that consensus.
As a significant number of Georgetown students are considering careers in government and policy, the GUSA Senate provides us with the perfect training ground. It serves as a microcosm of the U.S. Senate where student representatives actively campaign for support, draft and debate legislation and, most importantly, engage in contentious yet productive debate on important bipartisan issues — whether they concern campus life, the country or the international stage. The United States wouldn’t dismantle an entire government system because its representatives couldn’t get the job done. Besides, efficiency isn’t the main point of our system; the main point is to structure a process —slow, but effective —for achieving consensus.
Ensuring GUSA’s current system’s survival is an essential part of the Georgetown student body’s spirit. There are people out there who value this cocurricular activity. I was a GUSA Senator my sophomore year and found it to be a very rewarding experience for the reasons I mentioned. Whether or not you care about student government, I strongly urge you all to vote against this referendum.
Layla Weiss is a senior in the McDonough School of Business.