Yesterday at 4:30 p.m., the senate of the Georgetown University Student Association convened for its weekly meeting. The meeting began with Secretary of Student Safety Charlie Joyce (COL ’12) getting the paperwork in order for Senators to begin driving SafeRides vans, a program which GUSA had intended to begin this past weekend but pushed back because of the capital campaign.
The opening remarks and briefings from the various GUSA departments included an announcement that Senator Adam Mortillaro (COL ’12) from Nevils is resigning from his post and a few comments about the success of this weekend’s Campaign for Georgetown launch, which Vice President Greg Laverriere (COL ’12) described as “a lot of fun.”
After the opening briefings, the senate delved into three issues of pending legislation, the most divisive of which was the Executive Department Establishment Act. Per this act, which needed a simple-majority approval by the senate to pass, the departments represented in the GUSA Executive’s cabinet would be codified for the first time in the body’s history. This means that the existence of certain departments within the cabinet, such as the Department of Sustainability and the Student Advocacy Office, would be called for by the GUSA Constitution. The act also includes a “sunset clause,” by which these departments would expire at the end of the Executive’s term, giving the next administration freedom to create their own departments.
This “sunset clause” was the main point of contention among the senate. In his Executive briefing at the meeting’s beginning, Vice President Laverriere said that this clause would threaten the existence of certain departments that have been beneficial to the University community, that that in passing it GUSA members would be “hurting ourselves by not laying a framework for GUSA to build upon.” He also asserted that if the Senate were to pass the Act, the Executive would subsequently veto it, a very uncommon practice in GUSA.
Other attendees disagreed about the problems with the sunset clause. Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ’12) reminded the Senate that this act already restricts the Executive more than ever before, and that in the past, before the departments were codified, Executives largely followed precedent and “didn’t feel compelled to reinvent the wheel.” Senator Matt Morris (COL ’14) added that without the sunset clause, the Executive would find itself restrained by an “old or outdated structure.”
After a fierce debate, 14 Senators voted in the Act’s favor, with five voting against it and three abstaining. Since the vote only required a simple majority, the Act was passed.
The other pieces of pending legislation were not quite so disputed. The Senate voted about the Senate District Reconciliation Act, which would establish an ad-hoc committee to reanalyze the representation of students in each district. This committee would consist of the three Election Commissioners, three Senators, Vice Speaker Nathaniel Tisa (SFS ’14), and one member of the Executive—a structure which Tisa said would ensure objectivity. The legislation was passed with one senator abstaining from the vote, and the remaining 22 voting yes (well, 21—Senator Cannon Warren (COL ’14) voted “yea”).
The Senate also voted on the Omnibus By-Laws Reform and Reconciliation, which proposed such amendments as the ability for Senators to attend meetings via Skype, passing it unanimously. They then voted to consider ratifying the D.C. Student Alliance charter, which would help GUSA to interact with similar bodies at other local universities and increase the collective voice of D.C. college students.
“There’s no sunset clause or anything?” Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) joked. The legislation was passed with a unanimous vote.