Freshmen move-in to campus begins this Friday afternoon, and prefrosh previews are still along the way. As we’ve done each year, Vox runs a comprehensive review of the last year’s important on-campus news stories. The past two semesters have seen some interesting headlines pass through: from the birth control debate to the unionizing of on-campus workers. Much to learn you still have, young padawans.
All you need to know about GUSA (goo-sa)
The Georgetown University Student Association is your undergraduate student government. The government is comprised of a president, vice-president, cabinet, and 25-member Senate (elected at-large and for dorms).
Last semester’s election was heated. Six candidates ran against each other for the GUSA executive positions, with a variety of campaign antics. Some tactics failed, and some tactics were just plain corny.
Currently, the GUSA president is Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) and the vice-president is Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS ’13). You are to address them on campus as “your honor” and bow deep at any sighting. In the first few months of their reign, Kohnert-Yount and Gustafson established a Secretary for Social Justice, supported a resolution to increase the burden of proof standard to clear-and-convincing, and promised to support student interests throughout the future campus plan negotiations.
There are six advisory boards—Georgetown Program Board, Center for Social Justice Advisory Board, Club Sports Board, Performing Arts Advisory Council, Media Board, and the Student Activities Commission. Student groups must submit their budget proposals to the GUSA Financial and Appropriations committee. Last year, SAC requested $205,961. Many other advisory boards requested slightly more than usual for the coming year.
What you should know: GUSA allocates the student activities fee that students pay every semester.
Why you should care: Unfortunately, Gustafson and Kohnert-Yount strive to answer this eternal question: What does GUSA do? We’ll get back to you when they find the answer.
The Student Activities Fee Endowment reform, referred to as SAFE, comprises and funds some of the bigger projects Georgetown students and administrators are working on for the coming year. SAFE proposals together amount to $3.5 million dollar budget. In the past year, three SAFE reform proposals passed to support these initiatives: Georgetown Energy, the new Social Innovation and Public Service fund, and the creation of the New South Student Center.
A little history: In 2001, the student activity fee was divided into two parts, with one half devoted to establishing SAFE. When the University’s endowment capped $1 billion, GUSA requested $3 million from the University for SAFE to reach the goals GUSA hoped to accomplish. After this failed to follow through, eventually the fund was forgotten about by newer generations of GUSA. For more detailed background look to Voice Editorial Board Chair Rachel Calvert’s feature on SAFE reform.
A SAFE revival began in 2009, when students rediscovered the idle fund and passed a resolution to bring it back under GUSA control. The three proposals, outlined below, became the focus and thrust of SAFE for GUSA.
- In an effort to create a new social hub for student life, NSSC is Georgetown’s solution to an ongoing debate over whether or not to bring back the age-old Healy Pub. In 2011, many alumni and students put together a proposal to reintroduce an iconic pub of Georgetown’s past in Healy Hall. Despite many efforts to reopen the pub, the administration refused to support the initiative. In fact, the administration played a large role in actively blocking efforts to bring Healy Pub back to life. Thus, New South Student Center became the logical answer: a space that the University calls “a living room for future generations of Hoyas.”
- Georgetown Energy’s primary focus involves installing solar panels on top of several Georgetown townhouses. The group also introduced a “revolving green fund” which will support several student-led sustainability projects. Some of these projects focus on providing more options for compost trash, as well as hosting events to promote awareness on sustainability issues and climate change.
- The SIPS final proposal creates a separate funding board to support social innovation and public service at Georgetown. A nine-person board of students, alumni, and faculty will allocate $100,000 each year in grants or through organizations to support students and alumni in their pursuits.
What you should know: Healy Pub would’ve been awesome.
Why you should care: Because Healy Pub would’ve been awesome.
When it comes around to spring semester, you’re bound to hear a word or seven about the famed “Georgetown Day.” Every spring at the end of the semester, Georgetown students devote an entire day to festivities and celebrations in honor of the end of the school year.
Last spring, Georgetown Day lost a lot of the flesh and blood it had from years past. The University failed to organize and initiate a student planning committee in the fall semester, leading to a scaled-down version of the annual event. While the University and planning committee blamed the delay in planning on “lack of student interest,” students never received an email in the fall to solicit student help. The email explaining the scaling back of Georgetown Day, sent to students by Associate Vice President Jeanne Lord , can largely be parsed to the overall point: Georgetown Day will no longer be a party day for undergraduates. Campus Plan and neighborhood relations= more important.
First, the university announced that Georgetown Day would no longer have the traditional beer garden and inflatables on Copley Lawn. The following month, students were informed that metal barricades would surround Copley Lawn with security guards and DPS officers standing at the entrances to insure no liquids or drinks would come onto the lawn.
However, that very same day, after mounting student pressure and protestation, the Georgetown Day Planning Committee emailed all students to announce that no area on the lawn would be barricaded. “We believe that removing the barricades on Copley Lawn and replacing them with security checks at the entrances to the lawn accomplishes our goal of providing a safe environment while addressing your concerns that our security plan was too rigid,” the planning committee said in the email.
While Georgetown Day 2012 was certainly a battle between students and administrators till the end, the day centered on off-campus parties and remained a pleasant time for most.
What you should know: The Man can never kill the spirit of Georgetown Day.
Why you should care: Oh, you’ll care.
Last February, representatives of the Georgetown Dining Services union Unite Here! and University food services provider Aramark reached a three-year contract agreement with several important benefits, including a 50-cent per-year pay raise. Student support, especially through the student group Georgetown Solidarity Committee, proved invaluable throughout the process. A month before the contract agreement, workers and students held a demonstration in the cafeteria to demand a fair contract and put a little fire under the heels of Aramark managers.
Union negotiations began in the early spring of 2011, and continued for a year until workers were able to agree on a contract with the Aramark managers. A contract does not mark the end of the story, however, and workers remain committed to ensuring the contract is true to their needs. “I look at it like it’s our first house: it’s not our dream home, but it’s a house,” Tarshea Smith, a Leo’s worker and union member said to the Voice in February. “We came a long way.”
Paul Ryan v. Georgetown
At the end of last semester, current Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) spoke in Gaston Hall to defend his budget’s compliance with Catholic values.
Two days before his scheduled lecture at Georgetown, almost 100 Georgetown Jesuit faculty and administrators signed a letter criticizing Ryan’s budget and his hope to cut antipoverty programs and undermine social welfare. The letter claims that Ryan’s budget is at extreme odds with Catholic moral teaching.
The day of Ryan’s speech, approximately fifteen members of GU Occupy stood both outside and inside Gaston Hall with signs protesting his presence on campus. During Ryan’s speech, the students dropped a banner in the hall that said “Stop the War on the Poor. No social justice in Ryan’s budget.” Ryan did not comment or respond directly to the protests or the letter from the Jesuit faculty.
Look back for part two of the post, detailing the birth control debate and Sandra Fluke.