Prefrosh Preview: What is GUSA and what does it do?
GUSA, or the Georgetown University Student Association, is, in simple terms, the Georgetown undergraduates’ student government. For various reasons, students tend to be strongly opinionated about GUSA. Many jump right in and run for GUSA or work for some part of the organization. Many more students, however, don’t care about or downright despise GUSA, generally out of ignorance for what it actually is and does.
For starters, GUSA isn’t technically a government. GUSA is an elected body of representatives, sure, but those representatives don’t decide on rules and requirements. The administration does that. What GUSA is truly for is to serve as the primary intermediary and negotiator between the student body and the administration.
GUSA has two main parts: the executive and the senate. The senate has about 25 senators, who are elected at the start of each academic year to serve as representatives for the different housing sections of Georgetown, and the executive has the President and Vice President, although each executive pair brings in a whole team of other students to help them run things.
There are sometimes differences in opinion on specific issues, but, for the most part, every elected student is on the same side and works in the student body’s best interest when negotiating with the administration.
Campaigning is pretty much the main reason for the hate GUSA gets. Every September, tons and tons of people run for the various senatorial positions around campus, and each candidate’s opinions and major issues are, hilariously, identical, making it hard to pick out the best senator in the bunch. The sheer volume of candidates, combined with door-to-door knocking done by many candidates, unfortunately turns a lot of students against GUSA.
While the September senatorial campaigns are hectic and unmemorable, the executive election campaigning in February is, in contrast, much more focused and substantive. There are almost always five or fewer tickets and they can have big differences in their issues and personalities.
Last February, Trevor Tezel (SFS ’15) and Omika Jikaria (SFS ’15) won the executive election and currently lead GUSA. While they were in office for under three months during school, a few major things happened, the most important of which was the administration’s decision to institute a third-year on-campus housing requirement, beginning with the Class of 2017.
Tezel and Jikaria got some criticism for the change, but others recognized that they did their best to delay the inevitable and helped ensure exceptions for study abroad and transfer students so they could live off-campus their senior years.
GUSA can’t change the course of human history but it doesn’t need to. A big push for student activism on GUSA’s part can cause big changes in Georgetown. Last fall, for example, then GUSA executives Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) and Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) revealed that the administration was considering building a satellite campus (or “residence,” if you like semantics) to meet the Campus Plan’s requirement of having 385 additional beds on campus by fall of 2015.
The ensuing campaign against the satellite campus resulted in a student referendum and the University’s relenting. Of course, the University could have ignored the whole thing and done the satellite campus anyway against GUSA’s will, but GUSA made sure the administration knew that we’d all be really mad if they did that.
So the next time you hear someone say “GUSA sucks, they can’t even do anything,” before slamming their door in the face of a door-knocker, remind them that that’s kinda the point.