Prefrosh Preview: On-campus news you can use

Just like last year, Vox has compiled a guide to “news you can use”, or in other words, an excessively comprehensive review of last year’s important news stories. Today, we cover the on-campus issues that made headlines. Check in later this week for the year’s biggest crime stories.

Plan A: Hoyas for Reproductive Justice

In March, the United Feminists and H*yas for Choice created Plan A: Hoyas for Reproductive Justice. The campaign pushed the University to provide contraceptives, sex education, rape kits, the HPV vaccine, and informational resources on reproductive health. Plan A Hoyas also campaigned for less restrictive freedom of speech and expression policies.

After a series of escalating protests failed to get the University’s attention, protesters chained themselves to the John Carroll statue during GAAP weekend. The protesters unchained themselves after campus administrators sent them a letter, but it’s unclear what the letter said. The campaign organizers claimed victories, but not all of them could be substantiated. The campaign sparked debate about University funding and free speech policies, as well as what it means to be a Jesuit school.

General Petraeus and the counter-protesters

When General David Petraeus came to speak at Georgetown in January, a small, unaffiliated group of protesters interrupted his speech by shouting the names of soldiers who died in Afghanistan. The backlash against the protesters was swift. A group of counter-protesters, called Hoyas for Respectful Dialogue, formed to protest the tactics of the first protesters. Hoyas for Respectful Dialogue, along with a coalition of campus conservative groups, wrote a letter of apology to Petraeus and protested the protesters in Red Square.

GUSA and Club Funding

While the Georgetown University Student Association has long been known for election debacles, interpersonal bickering, toothless resolutions and general incompetence, this past year, GUSA has become substantially more powerful and efficient.

First, a bit on GUSA structure (Senate hopefuls: it’s pronounced “gus-uh”): the GUSA executive includes an elected president and vice president, along with a cabinet of their choosing. The GUSA senate is made up of 25 senators who represent dorms, apartments, off-campus housing or just run “at-large.” While some seats are hotly contested, in other districts, no one runs. The speaker runs senate meetings, and a parliamentarian keeps records and makes sure meetings follow procedure. The senate’s bills are posted here and meetings are livestreamed here.

GUSA president Calen Angert (MSB ’11) and vice president Jason Kluger (MSB ’11) were reelected to their second term in February with 50.1 percent of the vote and a record election turnout of about 44 percent of the student body. Their platform focused on their successes from last year: a LSAT prep course, a GUSA fund for clubs, and club funding reform. They have said that along with some key leaders in the GUSA senate, they represent the “New GUSA,” which they say is increasingly transparent and efficient.

The big debate last year was club funding reform. Every semester, Georgetown students pay a $50 student activities fee, half of which goes into an endowment to help future students, the other half of which goes into club funding for the year. Under the old funding structure, 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—met with the GUSA Finance and Appropriations committee to reach a consensus about how to split up the money. Students have long been frustrated that the advisory boards (mainly SAC) had overly bureaucratic processes and could not be held accountable. Under the new structure the advisory boards offer recommendations, but GUSA’s Finance and Appropriations Committee ultimately decides how much money goes to each board, including how much goes to GUSA’s own operating budget. Once GUSA secured control over the budget, it threatened to withhold funding from advisory boards that did not make six reforms. While the Voice editorial board agreed SAC needed reform, it was also quite skeptical of some of GUSA’s changes.

Hoya Independence

Two years ago, the Hoya was in the midst of finalizing a deal for independence from the University when it came under fire for its April Fools Issue. Students arranged a sit-in at the Hoya’s office over content they found offense. The Hoya hosted a forum for feedback and instituted a series of changes, but Media Board delayed Hoya independence another year. This past year, the Hoya’s board of directors decided to postpone independence again due to financial considerations.

Heckler’s KKK Satire

This year, the Georgetown Heckler, an online satire magazine, lampooned the Hoya by depicting Hoya staffers as unwittingly engaging in KKK traditions. The article featured a photo of a KKK cross-burning. Student Commission for Unity Founder Brian Kesten (COL ’10) held another forum to discuss Heckler content students found to be offensive. Since the University’s Media Board does not fund the Heckler, no sanctions could be levied.

12 Comments on “Prefrosh Preview: On-campus news you can use

  1. GUSA became more efficient this year ??? HAHAHAH!!! that’s if you count their swift ignorance of group emails and communication and their rejection of new club applications on minor technicalities …

  2. You could have called this one: “Prefosh Preview: Things We All Wish Never Happened.”

  3. Long live Jack Steuf!

  4. I assume you’re referring to the GUSA Club Fund, the new fund GUSA set up to offer some additional $15,000-30,000 in financing to clubs or individuals with good ideas, outside of the constrictions of SAC or the other funding boards.

    The minutes are available here:

    From a quick perusal, it looks like they’re doing a pretty good job of transparently handing out several hundred to several thousand dollars per meeting. I should also note that any requests that are denied can be appealed to the Finance & Appropriations Committee, made up of elected and accountable Senators.

  5. By transparent and efficient we mean that GUSA is only sending itself on somewhat lavish retreats and acting moderately corruptly. (Cupcakes anyone?) The utter egoism and self importance of these “elected and accountable Senators” and petty bureaucrats in training is disgusting.

  6. A couple of things, from an old GUSA hand about to go abroad for the year:

    -Great writeup. One thing I would add is that by the final meeting of last year’s Senate, GUSA had received full, written commitments from all advisory boards and GPB on the six reforms, funding all advisory boards to the best capability of the student activities fee. I’m really eager to watch as SAC especially implements these much-needed and long-negotiated reforms that give clubs a vote on their representatives, require SAC to spend down its reserves to a level deemed necessary by Dr. Olson’s office, and a new pilot program for beginning-of-the-year block budgetary allocations.

    -@student: I’m sorry you felt that way. I’d encourage you to try again this year and please be advised that you can appeal any decision of the GUSA Fund to the Finance & Appropriations Committee.

    -@Jacob: I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve been in GUSA the past two years and have never been on a lavish retreat. As Speaker of the Senate this past year, I deliberately opted not to hold any retreat at all, because I thought our time and money could be better spent. I think if you actually cared to meet with any of the GUSA representatives, who are also members of a wide and diverse array of clubs, groups, and interests around campus, it would be pretty clear that your anti-GUSA platitude is just that.

    -Other great services that continue to be provided and managed by GUSA include the weekend GUTS bus service, GUSA Summer Fellows (which allows a growing number of students with unpaid summer internships to get free housing and a stipend), and GUSA Subsidized LSAT course (which allows a pool of students to take a professionally-taught LSAT prep course for a fraction of market price). GUSA can lay claim to a long Georgetown tradition.

    As I get ready to leave Georgetown for a year, I can say with confidence that GUSA is a vital and effective student government. I would encourage everyone interested in representing and advocating for the student interest to run for the Senate in early October. You’ll find it’s much more fulfilling than sniping anonymously in a comment thread.

    Hope everyone has a great year.

    Adam Talbot
    GUSA Senate Speaker, 2009-2010

  7. ““I think we already have something of a hubris problem.” Adam Talbot.

    My apologies for the comments about the retreat, I was misinformed. However, I stand by my charges of egoism and corruption. I look forward to the day your wretched organization lies broken under the heels of the student body. Until then, have a nice year abroad.

  8. @Jacob: And now the context:

    “The GUSA meeting closed with a short discussion about the potential GUSA retreat. Senator Eric Cusimano (SFS ‘10) jokingly suggested convening of the Senate in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, a suggestion shot down by Speaker Talbot, who said, ‘I think we already have something of a hubris problem.'”

    You’re truly a hero for journalism. Your Jacobin sentiments are also duly noted; I only hope to be so lucky as to miss my date with the guillotine.

    But really everyone, we meet once a week, usually in a Healy classroom, usually in T-Shirt and shorts. Come see what all the oppression is about!

  9. Ah, a new year means . . . well, more or less the same old GUSA haters coming out of the woodwork to once again offer unconconstructive criticism with both the eloquence and high-level critique of a Lyndon LaRouche supporter. Offer solutions? Actually help out the student body? No, these crusading Upton Sinclair’s of the Georgetown Jungle are content merely to pepper any proposed GUSA measures with, “hahah GUSA is a failed institution and will never get anything accomplished” and, once accomplished, “[GUSA] is only sending itself on somewhat lavish retreats and acting moderately corruptly. (Cupcakes anyone?)”

    Cupcakes, anyone, indeed.

    Welcome, freshman readers. You’ll be seeing a lot of this.

  10. “Your Jacobin sentiments are also duly noted;”

    You shall not silence this Marat, mon ami.

    I’m not the one who regularly engages in fraudulent elections that consider less than 50% “record” turnout. Nor am I the one who purged several presidential candidates off the ballot a day before the election. Nor do I feel the need to spend my fellow students money on treats for my supporters.

    @ Matt, you want a solution? Fine. Abolish GUSA and bring back the Yard. Club presidents actually know what their members want, actually stand up to SAC and are able to deal with problems without the constant need to spout platitudes or ineffective committees.

  11. If you’re looking for entrenched elitism, the possibility for extreme corruption and the Mt. Vesuvius of Egoism, look no further than the Yard. Efforts to bring back the Yard have all, to a man, failed. This op-ed from a club leader the last time the bete noir of the Yard came up summarizes the concerns neatly — dozens of committees, more parliamentary process than the House of Representatives, and, despite having some 120-odd members in a deliberative body, real power is concentrated in the hands of about 11 people.

    The Yard comprises three bodies: from lowest to highest, the Yard Assembly, the Yard Commons, and the Yard Council.

    The Yard Assembly is body of all undergraduates, required to meet once a semester, although quorum required to conduct business is only ‘the number of chairs in Gaston Hall’ — no hint of egoism there. The Assembly has no actual power — it can only vote to make suggestions to the multitude of officers, other bodies, committees, subcommittees and councils. All its proposals are, further, subject to review by the Yard Commons.

    The Yard Commons is composed of all the club leaders from the major student groups on campus — easily 100+ people. They meet once a month. 100 people in a room? What a productive body! Powers? It can only basically veto or approve the Yard Assembly’s proposals and the Yard Council’s resolutions (but not budgetary allocations, discussed in a second). Actual powers? . . . Oh, I forgot, it gets to elect nine members to the Yard Council. So what does the Yard Council do?

    The Yard Council, the apogee in all this mess, is made up of the Yard President, Yard Vice President, Yard Treasurer, Yard Secretary, presidents of the four respective academic councils, presidents of the four respective classes, two representatives from the residence halls, and the nine Yard Commoners. That’s 23 in total. They have exclusive jurisdiction over the administration and budget of the Yard, including where groups get office space and funding. The Yard President, alone, gets to appoint every member of all the committees, including SAC.

    How does funding work? Each student gets 10 funding “credits”, representing 75% of their student activities fee, that they can divvy up amongst the clubs of their choice. This, of course, would result in many clubs being massively overfunding (the College Dems, etc.) and some being massively underfunded despite their utility. Anything they don’t allocate goes to a Reserve Fund, along with 25% of the student activities fee. SAC administers this ‘Reserve Fund’, but it can only make recommendations — the Yard Council has to approve each allocation from SAC.

    There’s a lot more, of course. I haven’t gotten into the various committees, subcommittees, ‘Presidential Advisory Councils’ and so forth. And who is actually directed elected by all students in all this? Just two members — the President and the VP.

    But no, of course, the Yard would not be about “spout[ing] platitudes or ineffective committees.”

    And now, the op-ed I alluded to earlier:

    The Yard is promising more representation but only offers the illusion of putting real power in the hands of students. Under the “exclusive jurisdiction” of the Yard Council are a number of boards and sub-boards, Advisory Councils, Alumni Councils, Cabinets, Judicial Councils and “Standing Committees.” Somewhere under this umbrella is a Student Activities Committee, which places 12 people in charge of additional allocations for nearly 100 clubs. The Yard claims to “shift [money allocation] into student hands, and away from administrators and non-elected students” (from Web site FAQ), but if you read the constitution, standing committees (including the Student Activities Committee) are appointed by the Yard Council President. The Assembly (that’s you) can merely make suggestions to them (if you make the meeting). The Commons has the power of veto concerning “general resolutions of the Yard Council,” but “not pertaining to allocations” (Article 3.4.2). Under the Yard plan, club leaders do not receive any special recourse to funding boards of any kind. Instead, the Yard Commons meets once a month to debate the finer points of parliamentary procedure.

    This is not why I became a club president.

    I am the president of the Medieval Club. I created this club because I have a passion for Medieval Studies and I wanted to share that with Georgetown. The Yard threatens to turn my job from being a president to being a politician and a fundraiser. I will have to call into question each one of my members’ loyalty to convince them to hand me their “10 units” of funding, or I will be forced to root for extra funding in the “Reserve Fund” — along with every smaller club on campus. Most importantly, beginning clubs will not have access to the same funding as other clubs, and will therefore be at a disadvantage when attempting to establish a permanent member base.

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