GUSA Roundup: “Let’s remind everyone that the consitution mandates equal representation.”

In this week’s edition of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate, the senators had some fun with democracy, and came dangerously close to acting like ANC2E.

Equal representation, schmequal schmepresentation

Last night, the ad hoc committee in charge of redistricting presented their plans to reduce the discrepancies among GUSA Senate districts sizes. The gist is that smaller districts are being consolidated but the representation per district is increasing. For instance, Harbin and Darnall, previously three districts, are now one district with three senators.

This way, the population of each district is consistent within 10% to ensure a constitutionally mandated equal representation–with one exception: Copley Hall. Copley exceeds the limits to “preserve the system in general,” according to Vice Speaker Nathaniel Tisa (SFS ’14).

That’s right: GUSA exceeded their 10% deviation using theneighborhood cohesivenessargument. To boot, one senator suggested scrapping this plan in favor of one that would give freshman more representation because they vote in higher numbers (and no one off-campus votes). Since [EDIT] this plan increases the number of off-campus seats to five but only four people ran in the last election the senate now has three seats empty (constitutional violation in itself!), it would be easier to reallocate the seats to freshmen who actually, y’know, run. Anyway, the Senate might be misinterpreting that whole “equal representation” clause.

At this point, Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ’12) went there and compared these suggestions to the ongoing vaguely illegal ANC redistricting process. “The concern of whether or not we can find people to run is an institutional concern and not a representational concern,” said Talbot.

One issue brought up by Senator Laura Kresse (SFS ’12) was that, assuming that the larger districts will increase competition for Senate seats and that competitive races have tended to see less female participation, won’t this plan make GUSA even more bro-y? Maybe Kresse didn’t say it exactly like that, but this is a valid concern. But it was determined that it would be better to address GUSA’s gender disparity in other ways.

Ultimately, the redistricting bill passed as proposed.

SIPS is back

At the meeting, several members of the Social Innovation and Public Service fund steering committee presented the final proposal on how the SIPS fund would work if they received the $1.5 million from the student activities endowment.

The fund, which hopes to raise an additional $1.5 million from alumni within five years, would fund two types of projects. First they would partner with existing groups on campus, like Compass Partners, and second, they would give money to novel ideas. Young alumni (Class of 2001 and later), individual students, and student groups who do not have access to benefits would be able to apply.

One problem is that the fund might be plagued the problems the original endowment had, namely lack of university support [EDIT: SIPS has received support by the university]. According to Nick Troiano (COL ’12), the office of advancement hasn’t agreed to let them raise alumni money yet, but even without the alunmi matching, the fund would remain solvent until 2033.

Moving forward, Finance and Appropriations chair Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) announced the timeline for the referendum. Solar panels and New South have their final proposals due on the 28th of November. The senate will vote on them on December 4th, after which they will draft a referendum. The final referendum will be on January 24-26.

5 Comments on “GUSA Roundup: “Let’s remind everyone that the consitution mandates equal representation.”

  1. Query:

    Does GUSA have a plan on how to use IRV in a multi-member district? IRV works great for single member districts, but for multimember districts you have to switch to Single Transferable Vote. You still rank the candidates, but the ballot counting is a bitch, since it’s not a majority vote that elects them but is dependent on the number of candidates running and the votes cast.

    Long story short: You need a real computerized IRV/STV system to work this out — it’s really difficult to do it by hand in a fair way. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counting_Single_Transferable_Votes. Keyform voting isn’t well suited to this.

  2. Dearest Vox:

    Unlike yourselves I don’t have vast amounts of experience in the intricacies of balancing unmatched wit with one-of-a-kind insight, but here are a few corrections:

    ~The Senate had one empty seat after the resignation of the senator from Nevils, which has already been filled by a special election. (Congratulations, Vail!) At no point have we had three empty seats.

    ~As to the section on the Copley deviation: no one in the room on Sunday said that “no one off campus votes.”

    ~More importantly, no one used a “neighborhood cohesiveness” argument. Yes, we were redistricting, no, we were not redistricting like the ANC. Copley has ~13 students more than the ideal, but there was no feasible geographic way of fixing it. The “system” I was referring to is the new one of more equitable representation based on districts, and we decided the fact that students/rep is now tremendously more equal across the board is a positive one we want to stand by.

    ~Off campus districts were increased from 3 to 5 to make sure everyone is represented equally. As one of the most important pieces of the plan, I’m confused as to why you would omit it and work instead to hint that we’re trying to accomplish the opposite.

    I encourage everyone to look through the actual report, available here: http://www.box.com/files#/files/0/f/149641451/1/f_1170529109.

    -Nate Tisa

  3. Matt – The Election Commission is looking into a new system for next year. I’ll leave it up to them to clarify, but I think they agree with what you’re saying.

  4. Thanks for the compliment Nate!

    Corrected the senate seat line. But then what was Clara Gustafson’s emphatic, “We are in current violation of the laws of our organization!” talking about? (that’s a direct quote; thus the “” )

    And having “no feasible geographic way” of staying within 10% for certain districts is the neighborhood cohesiveness argument by definition.

  5. Matt and Ryan,

    1. A new computerized voting system will likely be implemented by next semester which will allow us to preform to calculations more easily utilize IRV next semester and beyond.
    2. We already have districts that select multiple winners using IRV. The results are determined by using the final vote tallies in the last round of voting. The reason this works is because rather than selecting winners it eliminates the losers first and then you simply stop eliminating when you have the number you want.
    3. It is ineffective to compare the Georgetown layout to any average neighbourhood. Houses are much easier to simply divide than entire buildings. The committee deemed that a system of buildings spliced by floor or room was a far greater cost than a single deviation of 13 students from the range. Additionally, the committee had no way of knowing what vacancies etc will look like next year. As a result, it is entirely plausible that Copley could comfortable fall into the range.

    -Ethan Chess

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