Fact Checkers: Ben and Sam want better club funding, open-door drinking, and a free speech Batman

Vox continues to look through this year’s GUSA executive election campaigns in its Fact Checkers series with a closer look at presidential candidate Ben Weiss (COL ’15) and vice presidential candidate Sam Greco‘s (SFS ’15) campaign, which purports to empower Georgetown students to achieve their passions with a hashtag (and maybe a little bit more).

Their extensive platform is split into four overarching themes. Vox shall now attempt to elucidate the goals, context, and feasibility of some of their proposals; the following analysis is meant to be informative, but not exhaustive.

Cultivating Student Potential

Club Funding

Policy point: Create a new club funding structure, in which each club elects a representative to a small board of “like-minded clubs,” which will then elect a representative to “an overall Student Organization Board, who will oversee all club funding.”

Vox says: Ben and Sam expressed dissatisfaction at the current advisory board structure. “[It] is an appointed, not elected, system of unevenly-sized boards, all of which have different rules and regulations, where not every club has a representative, and where there is no formal relationship between the boards,” Weiss wrote in an email to Vox. It remains unclear as to what exactly this board would replace. It could take over club funding responsibilities from the GUSA Finance and Appropriations Committee, Student Activities Commission, and various advisory boards (such as Media Board and the Advisory Board for Club Sports). The advisory boards are run by the University, so whether that would be possible in the future remains unclear.

While this change is well-intentionedstudent club funding reform has been a focus for many GUSA executive campaignsVox isn’t sure they make a good enough case that this policy, which is still incredibly unclear, would make the needed changes.

Unity, Community, and Service

Freshman open-door alcohol policy

Policy point: “Implement an open-door policy for freshman, in which students would be free to drink openly in their dorm rooms, provided that the door to their room stayed open.”

Vox says: Yes, you read that right. “Underage students would be able to drink openly in University housing, though only in their dorm rooms, and only as long as their doors remain open,” Weiss wrote. Taking a page from Stanford, Ben and Sam want to discourage freshmen from secret binge drinking and want RAs to prioritize health and safety rather than to patrol and penalize students, which they believe creates a harmful drinking culture.

“Achieving this policy is no small fight. It would require legislation from the City Council and extensive work with the University administration,” Weiss added. “Even if we fail to achieve it, the initiative is worth it for the conversation it engenders.” The recent implementation of an alcohol amnesty policy  in addition to the open container policy in Village A and Henle shows that the University has begun to understand that college students do, in fact, drink alcohol. Hopefully our unhappy neighbors will finally be pleased.

Free Speech

Policy point: Establish a special representative for so “the administration will never censor any student without GUSA having a say first.”

Vox says: Appointing a person to work on free speech issues, they believe, will help enforce a campus-wide free speech zone that Tisa mentioned in a forum in Jan. 2014. “The Representative would make her phone number available to all student groups on campus and would respond immediately to University transgressions,” Weiss wrote.

Under the proposed policy, H*yas for Choice would have had a “Special Representative” from GUSA there while GUPD attempted to remove them from Healy Circle. Vox doesn’t understand exactly how this would be feasible; perhaps a Bat-Signal would help, too. While this policy is well-intentioned, Vox isn’t sure how this would help if the Free Speech and Expression policy has not yet been clarified.

Student safety

Policy point: “Install more emergency blue light stations throughout campus.”

Vox says: Though campus safety is very important, this probably might not happen. Since Aug. 2013, GUPD has been promoting a smartphone app called Emergensee for students to contact officers. Chief of Police Jay Gruber said in a University press release that no new blue emergency phones will be installed in the future. “They’re very expensive, and they’re rarely used because they’re static,” he said. Vox would prefer that GUSA focuses on making current blue light stations actually functional and useful, as Voice article recently found that there are many problems surrounding the little-used system.

A Better Campus

Hoyalife.com

Policy point: Create an online hub where students can book rooms, view an events calendar, browse job listing and housing ads, and reserve appointments at the Student Health Center.

Vox says: Ben and Sam said that Hoyalife, being catered to the student, will be different from Hoyalink. “Hoyalink is a system that clubs use to communicate with the campus community, each other, and administrative bodies such as the Student Activities Commission and the Center for Student Engagement,” Weiss wrote. In 2002, GUSA created a similar online hub, my.georgetown.edu, so we’ll see if GUSA is able to build one that would actually be used by students.

Sustainability

Policy point: Create “the first effective recycling program at Georgetown … [that ensures] our recycling actually gets recycled.”

Vox says: Referring to the 2012 GUSA Recycling Audit, Ben and Sam expressed concern about the effectiveness of recycling at Georgetown. “The lack of clear labeling on recycling receptacles has led to ‘contamination’ in which waste was placed in the wrong receptacle,” Weiss wrote. In the email, Ben and Sam did not clarify how they would fix this issue, and Vox isn’t sure what else they would do in addition to the new bins put in place in dorms and apartments this past year.

Dining

Policy point: Create a meal exchange program for Aramark-managed locations such as Hoya Court, Starbucks, and Cosi, and create a “personalized meal swipe system” where students can pick a combination of Flex Dollars, meal swipes, and dining locations.

Vox says: Our meal plans might indeed change in the future, coupled with Ben and Sam’s advocacy. University administrators said in a Hoya Roundtable in Nov. 2013 that reforming meal plans will be part of the master planning process, which will involve pricing out meal plans to include retail dining options. The Hoya reported in Nov. 2013 that a pilot program for students to use meal swipes at Einstein Bros. Bagels was made permanent. However, Joelle Wiese, associate vice president for auxiliary services, had expressed financial and logistical concerns for opening up meal swipes to locations such as Elevation Burger. Vox hopes this change could actually be accomplished.

Academics

Feel like a fantabulous Hoya/Hogwarts student

Policy point: “Open Riggs Library and the Bioethics Library to students more frequently for studying, especially during midterms and finals.”

Vox says: Easily achievable. The Bioethics Library is already open during the daytime and “is considering extending hours throughout the academic year,” according to its website. Vox will dare to speculate that allowing students to feel like they’re in a lavish movie while in Riggs Library will greatly enhance productivity and deter procrastination, a common problem for Lau dwellers.

Photo: Courtesy of Sam Greco

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