Georgetown University’s student Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner is a tough gig. Our commissioner doesn’t have many—or any—allies on the issues that matter most to students. If our commissioner is voting in our interest, he or she is probably voting alone. Even when student commissioners simply speak to their colleagues about the student perspective, we’re pretty sure their words fall on deaf ears.
But as if that weren’t bad enough, it’s even harder to become the sole student commissioner on Georgetown’s ANC than it is to be the student commissioner. Freshman Jake Sticka (COL ’13) has committed to running for the position in November 2010—but it’s going to be an uphill battle just to get himself on the ballot. Add that to the serious challenge of even finding someone who actually wants to run, and Georgetown University is lucky we have an ANC commissioner at all.
Finding a candidate is work. While it doesn’t make sense for Georgetown students’ purposes, current ANC Commissioner Aaron Golds (COL ’11) explained that due to the election cycle, only freshman can run. The student commissioner must live on Georgetown’s campus for his or her entire tenure, so a potential student commissioner has to commit to running his or her freshman year, get on the ballot on the August of their sophomore year, run in November, and serve from January of an odd-numbered year (sophomore year) to December of an even-numbered year (senior year). To establish and maintain residency, that freshman also has to commit to living on Georgetown’s campus for a minimum of two and a half summers and to forgo ever studying abroad.
It’s not surprising, given all of these restrictions, that of the eight or so students who attended information sessions Golds held at his house about the position, only one student opted to run. But Sticka has committed, in spite of the constricting nature of the job.
“I’m pretty concerned about whether or not the student voice is being heard, and whether or not the community actually respects the University and the students’ role in the community,” Sticka said. “Hopefully, on the ANC, I can advocate for those interests.”
His first challenge will be running, period. To get placed on the ballot, Sticka needs the signatures of 25 residents of his single member district who are registered to vote in D.C. Compounding the difficulty of finding 25 students, faculty-in-residence, or Jesuits who fit that profile to sign his petition, the petition is released by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics on August 1—when most of campus is gone—and is due 30 days later, along with filing paperwork. (It’s worth mentioning at this point that these hurdles that potential student commissioners face are the result of DCBOEE policies that apply to the whole city, not because of Georgetown ANC policies).
The DCBOEE will provide Sticka with a list of residents who qualify to sign his petition. But as Golds recalled, the list didn’t exactly make finding signatures a breeze.
“The list had about 650 names, mostly of people who had graduated years ago,” Golds said. Former President Leo O’Donovan, who hasn’t lived on campus for year, and many Jesuits who were long deceased, crowded the list, too.
Sticka realizes that getting enough signatures will be a challenge, and is already gearing up to canvass faculty-in-residence, Wolfington Hall’s Jesuits, and students living on campus over the summer. So why do it?
“I’m hoping I’m wrong here, but the fact that the Campus Plan for 2010 probably won’t be resolved with the community by the time I would assume office,” Sticka said. “I look forward to being able to advocate on those issues. I feel as though everything the University is asking for is reasonable. The neighbors are acting … I won’t say irrational, but they could be a little more cooperative in their relationship with the University.”
The candidate field is still wide open, and Golds emphasized that he would help any student prepare to run who wanted to. As for other students living on campus, he encouraged them to think about registering to vote in D.C. before August 1 so they can sign Sticka’s or other candidates’ petitions. (The DCBOEE does not process voter registration during the petition period since they are understaffed).
“I would encourage any students to register in D.C. because any decision the ANC makes is going to have a much greater impact on their lives. I realize that when you’re voting for president or congress it doesn’t count as much,” he said. “But local government is going to have a fairly large impact on their lives while they’re here. It already has.”