GUSA 2013: Shavonnia and Joe on Feminist Issues at Georgetown

14 Feb

Throughout this week we will be posting pieces by Georgetown University Student Association Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates. We reached out to all five tickets asking them to respond to how they see feminism and feminist issues at Georgetown. 

We believe that the two most important aspects of our platform this election are improving student happiness and leading Georgetown towards a more progressive campus. The way we plan to accomplish these goals is, in part, to address practical issues in the day to day operations of GUSA and the Georgetown administration, and to emphasize the important role of social justice both on campus and in the community.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary online, feminism is “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.” Feminism influences our goals and remains closely aligned with the specific proposals we put forth in our platform, since the way women are treated can affect the happiness of Georgetown students, true workplace and educational equality leads to a more progressive campus, and as we firmly believe that all genders should be treated equally. This is just one example of our commitment to social justice. We would like to offer examples of what we intend to address on campus next year, particularly issues that are important from a feminist perspective.

We aim to work with the administration and New Student Orientation (NSO) coordinators to introduce a workshop on sexual assault risk reduction to be led during NSO, beginning with the incoming freshman class in Fall 2013. We envision a program similar in layout to pluralism in action, but one that better addresses the issue of sexual assault on college campus; the prevalence, the steps to be taken to avoid sexual assault and measures to adequately care for survivors of assault. By discussing this important topic in small groups with specifically trained NSO Orientation Advisors, we believe that incoming students at Georgetown will be better equipped to make the right decisions during their matriculation. Furthermore, the small group setting and the space given for discussion during NSO allow for a forum where questions can be asked and a back-and-forth of ideas can occur. The importance of planning such a program for the NSO period is to make sure that students are aware of exactly what is not tolerated at Georgetown and so they can be explicitly aware of their rights.

We want to ensure that women cannot receive alcohol violations if they report that they were drunkenly assaulted. Our goal is remove every disincentive for women to avoid reporting assault. By preventing women from being written up if they choose to report that they were assaulted while intoxicated, we hope to remove some of the barriers to accurately caring for survivors of assault.

Furthermore, we propose that if a student is charged with sexual assault while intoxicated, that student should be charged with the harsher sexual assault charge, rather than the “lighter” drunk charge. We believe that choosing to drink while in college is an individual choice left up to each and every student. However, choices made while under the influence are still choices made by each individual. To that end, it does not seem acceptable to us that the gravity of the decision to sexually assault another person should be in any way lessened due to the consumption of alcohol. We feel that the full weight of the punishment for sexual assault should be given, because no exceptions should be made. Sexual assault is unacceptable and there is no room for it at Georgetown. Unfortunately such a message is not being sent to the student population, unless we are willing to punish those who choose to assault others to the harshest extent we can.

We want to mobilize students to petition for Congress to reauthorize the latest draft of the Violence Against Women Act, also known as VAWA. It is an important piece of legislation that needs to be addressed by the United States government. We as a student body want to express to Congress that we support this bill. We aim to gather as many signatures as possible on our campus and also work in conjunction with other student governments of nearby college campuses in our greater Washington, DC community. The VAWA bill reauthorization would have benefits to women on campus, as well as women on a national level and these legislative changes are important. It is not enough to stay silent and merely rely on the provisions that are still in effect from the previous version of the bill (last passed in 1994).

Lastly we would like to to emphasize and express our disappointment with the distinct lack of women in student government leadership on campus. While we applaud the many women who sit on the boards of or are presidents and co-presidents of student activities groups or are leaders and role models in their various communities at Georgetown, we would love to see more women run for positions and serve on the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA). Shavonnia is not only one of the very few female senators involved in GUSA but she is also the only African-American GUSA senator. We are thrilled that both the president and vice president this year were the first all-female ticket to lead GUSA, but we would like to see women on campus and all students of color better represented. We want to see more of them in leadership positions on campus.

Check out their website or facebook page for more information!

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