When students go to the polls — or rather, open up their browsers — on Feb. 21, they will cast their votes for the Georgetown University Student Association’s next president and vice president. It is important to remember that the position up for grabs requires more of an ambassador for student interests than individuals with executive power. To be effective, GUSA’s executive will need to cultivate a strong working relationship with student organizations and leaders — as well as with top administrators — to effect tangible change. This year, we endorse Jack Appelbaum (COL ’14) and Maggie Cleary (COL ’14) because they are best equipped to effectively represent students at the university bargaining table and implement concrete, practical solutions to the challenges facing Georgetown students.
Appelbaum and Cleary have strong backgrounds in student rights advocacy that would serve them well in the executive post.
Appelbaum has been involved with the Student Activities Commission for two years, having served most recently as chair, and was instrumental in constructing the 2012 Student Life Report. His experience has given him a comprehensive knowledge of the challenges student groups face and his constant dealings with the administration make him most capable to navigate red tape.
Cleary, the former chair of the Georgetown University College Republicans, proved herself while director of executive outreach under the Meaney-Laverriere executive in 2010-2011. She demonstrated an ability to keep up dialogue between students and the student association.
With the opening of the New South Student Center in fall 2014, accessible student space on campus will be significantly increased. In the meantime, however, access to adequate student space remains a prevalent issue that needs to be addressed, especially given that forthcoming construction will oust some student groups from their existing spaces in the NSSC.
Other platforms aim to create more space for students on campus. This goal is admirable but increasingly unrealistic with the recent completion of Regents Hall and construction of the NSSC soon underway — two projects the university can use as compelling leverage against opening up spaces to students traditionally reserved for other purposes. Appelbaum and Cleary instead meet the student space issue head on by advocating for better utilization and allocation of student space that already exists, offering practical solutions that will be felt by students on campus now.
Many of the ticket’s proposed renovations — such as the replacement of outdated televisions in common rooms and the addition of permanent barbecue grills to Leavey Esplanade — are realistic and inexpensive enough to be completed during their term.
Funding reform for student groups is a contentious topic among GUSA tickets — and for good reason.Appelbaum and Cleary have the experience and insight necessary to pave the way for effective reform. Whereas current funding allocation is placed under several advisory boards whose decisions are based largely on the portion of the Student Activities Fund to which they happen to lay claim, consolidating all groups under a single advisory board would allow groups to engage in fairer competition for a piece of the entire fund, which is composed largely of the student activities fee that all Georgetown students pay. While a streamlined system is likely to increase efficiency and fairness, it must not come at the cost of the collaborative nature of specialized advisory boards, a concern raised by other GUSA candidates. A consolidated funding mechanism is a logical idea, but advisory boards should continue to exist as means of communication between similar student groups.
Additional Platform Goals
In an election with so many tickets, ideas are bound to overlap, and the idealistic chatter can start to sound a lot like white noise. Appelbaum and Cleary, however, have a few appealing and unique ideas that they plan on prioritizing. For one, they plan to institute a local landlord fair to alleviate the stressful and grueling process virtually every Georgetown upperclassman faces when his three years of guaranteed housing are up. They would continue the farmers market, complete with added GOCardpayment capabilities. They also propose creating faculty advisors for student groups to help facilitate creating stronger ties between students and the varied talented professors Georgetown has to offer.
Solutions for Georgetown
Appelbaum and Cleary have shown they are not only committed to listening to student voices but equipped with the experience and knowledge to clear roadblocks and make student ideas a reality. For tangible solutions and change on the Hilltop, vote Appelbaum and Cleary on Feb. 21.
One of the most memorable highlights and student victories of last semester was the passing of the Clear and Convincing referendum, a move to formally adjust evidentiary standards in the Code of Student Conduct that GUSA made a priority to push forward. Appelbaum and Cleary aim to continue the fight for student rights by educating the student body about the resources they have on campus. Together, they aim to increase the visibility of the Student Advocacy Office, which was originally responsible for the referendum. The dedicated advocates in the SAO provide valuable information for students to guide them in any conduct-related conflicts with the university.
Nonetheless, Appelbaum and Cleary need to consider more substantive free speech goals, a topic they failed to mention in their platform. Expanding free speech zones is a pursuit worth considering; although the university’s policy toward free speech may be too rooted in its Catholic identity to overturn in one fell swoop or indeed in one term, slowly expanding free speech zones to include more than Red Square and Leavey Center could make a small but important improvement for Georgetown students’ right to free expression.