The four campaigns competing for the 2019 Georgetown University Student Association executive seek to represent a wide variety of students. However, these candidates fall short in addressing problems that face low-income and first-generation students at Georgetown.

The socio-economic platforms of all tickets do not make actionable plans for their administrations and demonstrate one of GUSA’s largest failings — invalidating and taking credit for the work of student activists.

Norman Francis (COL ’20) and Aleida Olvera (COL ’20) stand out as the most comprehensive platform. They demonstrate an understanding of socio-economic difficulties, such as the high cost of textbooks and supplies, most likely due to Olvera’s first-generation background. The pair also identify that people of color and members of marginalized groups are disproportionately of low socio-economic status.

The pair have also proposed specific policies to improve socio-economic inclusivity. However, Francis and Olvera’s main proposals are either already underway or intangible and vague. Their only concrete suggestion — establishing a textbook and school supplies drive — was successfully completed last semester by the current socio-economic policy team in partnership with Interhall Council, and they had no part in the process. Unfortunately, GUSA candidates taking credit for student activists’ work proves to be a trend.

Sina Nemazi (COL ’21) and Roya Wolfe (SFS ’21) do not seem to understand the problems surrounding socio-economic inclusivity; the platform lacks depth and a clear vision on the topic. Their only proposed idea is to release textbook lists prior to course registration so students can find cheaper course materials.

However, the current GUSA socio-economic advocacy team and Vice President Kenna Chick (COL ’20) presented a proposal to the university in December 2018 on the exact same topic; the proposal demands course material costs be made available before preregistration and professors find low-cost alternatives to traditionally expensive course materials. In adopting these exact advocacy efforts into their platform, Nemazi and Wolfe demonstrate the alarming tendency of candidates to take credit for current projects.

Nemazi and Wolfe also call for a change of “campus culture” to improve socio-economic inclusivity; however, this broad and vague proposal is unrealistic because it is unenforceable. A campus culture both within the faculty and administration and among students cannot be forced.

Further, the pair’s rhetoric on their Facebook campaign page, “Standing Up for Socio-Economics”, incorrectly labels the low-income and first-generation community. Socio-economics is not a label or a group of people, but a study of the relationship between social and economic factors. It is patronizing to call the low-income student population “socio-economics,” and this simply demonstrates the ticket’s lack of knowledge on the issue.

Ryan Zuccala (MSB ’20) and John Dolan (MSB ’20) are more concerned with tuition than the other candidates.  Still, in discussing financial burdens in attending Georgetown, they miss a valuable opportunity to discuss socio-economic disparities on campus. Often, students assume that a decrease in tuition would benefit low-income students the most, but Georgetown is need-blind and therefore generous with financial aid awards for low-income students. Instead, from a socio-economic standpoint, the creation of resources that equalize students’ experience at Georgetown is more useful than proposed tuition decreases, over which GUSA has little control.

Similarly, Nicki Gray (NHS ’20) has not mentioned socio-economic inclusivity or any policies related to it in her campaign. The lack of policy makes it difficult for students affected by economic disparity to understand her stance or wonder if this topic is even a priority for her.

None of the candidates have adequate socio-economic inclusivity advocacy platforms. Gray ignores the issue, while Zuccala and Dolan do not understand the real problems low-income students face on a daily basis. Nemazi and Wolfe take advantage of already established advocacy work to appear to be “in the know,” as do Francis and Olvera. However, Francis and Olvera at least recognize and seem to understand the issue.

In short, all candidates either present ambiguous and unactionable policies, or attempt to exploit the work of student activists in improving socio-economic inclusivity.

GUSA’s role is to equalize the student experience regardless of socio-economic status. While all tickets fail to present original ideas for their socio-economic platforms, an understanding of the problem will make change more likely. As diversity and inclusivity are inherently related to socio-economic issues, candidates running on these values will likely do their best for low-income and first-generation students.

Though lack of policy on the area make it difficult to vote according to platforms of socio-economic inclusivity, I highly encourage students to vote for candidates that value diversity and inclusion and understand the issues facing marginalized communities on campus.

Gabrielle Elliott Brault is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. She is the GUSA Socioeconomic Advocacy Chair.

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