On Monday, three of the four presidential candidates met to debate the key issues of the 2017 GUSA election. Kamar Mack (COL ’19), John Matthews (COL ’18) and Garet Williams (COL ’18) participated in Monday evening’s debate.
The debate was strictly structured, and candidates responded individually to questions. In fact, when Matthews attempted to question Williams on his ideas about budgeting, the moderators immediately stopped him.
Matthews expressed his disappointment with the debate format.
“Candidates are not permitted to respond to each others’ answers and have organic conversation,” Matthews explained to The Georgetown Review.
Despite the lack of actual debate, the event distinguished the candidates on two issues in particular: affordability and GUSA culture.
As the conversation moved to affordability, each candidate was asked about specific policy changes they will make. Williams told the crowd he wants to increase inclusivity and create a task force within GUSA to “clarify where the money is going.”
Mack specifically called for “zero-based budgeting” which would encourage the university to be more prudent by “taking every university department and evaluating on a year-by-year basis.”
Last, Matthews proposed a system to hold professors accountable on their textbook choices. He called for a “due diligence report” in which professors would have to “reasonably justify their choices.”
Mack and Matthews specific to criticized Williams for his vague on transparency.
“Garet and Habon state nothing about college affordability on their platform beyond ambiguous calls for transparency and many of their proposals are contrary to reducing college costs,” Matthews said.
The issue of the GUSA culture distinguished the candidates along similar lines.
“We are formally cross endorsing the Matthews-Matz campaign because we share the same priorities and we want to focus on…changing the GUSA culture,” Mack announced early in the debate.
In contrast to Matthews and Mack’s views on reforming GUSA culture, Williams praised the current GUSA leadership.
“So many of the reforms that have happened with GUSA over the past year have been so incredibly important,” Williams said. “Enushe and Chris ushered in a new GUSA, quite frankly.”
During the audience Q&A, current GUSA president Enushe Khan stood up to ask a question.
Reading a pre-written statement, Khan openly attacked Matthews and his campaign regarding several policy proposals. She ended her 3-minute statement with a question: “What is one of your policy changes that has not already been worked on or is not impossible?”
Matthews drew applause from the crowd with his pointed response.
“I mean we can talk all day long until we’re blue in the face that GUSA is working on the issues for the people, but at the end of the day what action has actually been happening?”
When asked further about his response, Matthews provided several reasons why Khan inaccurately described his platform. He described Khan’s criticisms as “emblematic of GUSA’s traditional mentality of identifying problems and failing to create solutions.”
Khan argued, for example, that the abolition of the 3-year housing requirement was impossible because of contracts that cannot be changed. Yet, Matthews disagreed.
“It is not a question of if the contracts can be renegotiated but rather a question of compelling both sides to sit back down at the table,” Matthews said.
Mack also expressed concern with Khan’s comments because of the time that was taken away from other students’ questions.
Enushe Khan (COL ’17) and Garet Williams (COL’18) did not respond to The Georgetown Review‘s request for comment.