The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA), often referred to as the Student Association, is the student government of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. modeled after the United States federal government, it consists of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.[1] The current President of the Student Body is Clara Gustafson (SFS '13), and the current Vice President of the Student Body is Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS '13).

The current Constitution of the Student Association was adopted in March 1990, replacing the original GUSA Constitution of 1984 which was deemed inadequate for the needs of the student body.[2] It remained unamended until September 2006 (a previous "amendment" was erroneously certified in the mid-1990s; it was later thrown out by the Constitutional Council as violating the Constitution's voter threshold for amendments), when the legislative body, previously known as the "Assembly" and elected at large, was replaced by the Senate with campus-based representative districts.[3]

In 1997, the group supported the addition of crucifixes in university class rooms, and in 2003 supported the use of only fair trade coffee in campus shops.[4][5]


GUSA succeeded in extablishing a College Readership Program that provides students with free copies of The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today. GUSA also played a significant role in the creation of the GOCard, or "GeorgetownOne Card," which consolidated the functions of five other cards into one technologically advanced device.[6] In 2006 it also expanded weekend service of the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle (GUTS), a popular and student-supported mode of transportation used to bring students from campus to the nearest Metro stop, increasing weekend service fivefold.[7] GUSA also proposed and eventually helped create the popular Grab-n-Go dining option, creating a carry-out option for the main student dining hall.[8] GUSA also funded "Georgetown Forever," a controversial spirit movie made to commemorate many Georgetown traditions.[9] Recently, GUSA made use of financial oversight powers granted to it by the 2006 constitutional amendment, auditing the Student Activities Commission, Media Board, and other advisory groups, and controversially turning up more than $800,000 in unspent funds.[10] Since then many of these groups have come under pressure from GUSA and the student body to spend these funds, and some of the advisory boards have announced plans to expand existing programs or invest in new capital projects to benefit the student body as a whole.[11][12][13][14]

Legislative Branch

The Legislative Branch consists of the Senate, a body of twenty-five Senators, and is led by Speaker Adam Talbot (COL '12), who is in his second term in that position, and Vice Speaker Nate Tisa (SFS '14).[15] Consisting of five standing committees, the Senate controls all funding and is arguably the most influential branch of government.[16] The Senate also has the ability to create student commissions, composed of Senators and non-Senators, to advocate for specific issues, such as alcohol policy reform, Code of Conduct reviews, and diversity recommendations.[17] Known for its diverse and ambitious membership, the Senate has recently enacted far reaching legislation including SAFE Endowment Reform, the coordinated student legal response to a new District noise ordinance, and the beginning of a pilot program that would allow for limited gender-neutral housing.


The GUSA committee structure has gone through a number of permutations since the Senate's establishment in 2006. The current system was created in the fall of 2009 and consists of six different committees.

The Standing Committee on Finance and Appropriations is the sole body in charge of the allocation of the Student Activities Fee (as of February 2010, with the passage of the Act to Improve Student Activities Funding), which funds student groups, and must approve all GUSA legislation that deals with the appropriations of funds.[citation needed] FinApp, as it is affectionately known within the Senate, is the only committee to which Senators must be elected by the full body instead of being appointed by the Speaker.

The Standing Committee on Ways and Means is chaired by the Vice Speaker of the Senate and consists of the Speaker, Vice Speaker, and the chairs of the other five committees. Ways and Means is in charge of overseeing internal protocol and vetting Executive appointments to external boards, such as the Board of Directors. Additionally, the Ways and Means Committee is charged with holding these student appointments accountable to the student body at large.[citation needed] All by-law changes must first be approved by Ways and Means, as well.

The Standing Committee on Academic Affairs coordinates with the Academic Councils of each of Georgetown's four undergraduate schools, and fosters dialog and exchange between students and faculty.[citation needed]

The Standing Committee on Housing, Facilities, and Technology advocates for students on these issues, and works on things such as expanded meal plans and improved campus housing. For the 2006 school year, GUSA was involve in a joint effort with the Residents of Color Council and Leaders in Education About Diversity in creating a floor specifically focused on diversity.[18]

The Standing Committee on Community Building, Outreach, and Fundraising's portfolio is simply to ensure that GUSA has an open line of communication with the student body as a whole, and to coordinate activities and outreach campaigns with that end in mind.

The Standing Committee on Student Life works on all other aspects of student life. Following outrage at the university policy change, it was part of lobbying in opposition to a proposed campus-wide ban on kegs.[19][20] The administration ultimately decided not to ban kegs, which is seen as the result of successful student lobbying efforts.[1] The Student Life Committee deals with issues related to student life, social justice, religious affairs, programming, athletics and other facets of student life not covered by the other Committees.[citation needed]

Executive Branch

The President and Vice President, elected by the entire undergraduate population each year, oversee an Executive Staff that deals with the day-to-day operations of the Student Association.[1] Additionally, the President and Vice President appoint secretaries for twelve Cabinet Departments, ranging from Student Safety to Strategic Development.[citation needed] These departments are staffed by students who do not have to be elected to participate.[21] In addition, the Executives appoint student representatives to various External Boards, including the Board of Directors, the Alumni Board of Governors and the Speech and Expression Committee, with the advice and consent of the Senate.[17]

Judicial Branch

The Judicial Branch consists of the Constitutional Council, which oversees all internal Student Association disputes and is charged with stewardship of the Constitution.[citation needed] It consists of three members.[citation needed] Until the March 1990 Constitution, no body existed that discharged a judicial function.[citation needed] The Constitutional Council was not active until the late 1990s and first part of the 21st century, where students increasingly used it within the scope of its functions.[citation needed]

Notable alumni

File:Clinton at Georgetown 1967.jpg

GUSA is a successor organization and in its most current form was established relatively recently, although its predecessor organizations date back to the 19th Century. The longest forerunner to the GUSA student government was "The Yard". Former Yard Presidents include: former Senator Philip A. Hart; and famed magazine publisher Condé Nast.[citation needed]

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton ran for student body president during his junior year at Georgetown and although he had been president of the Freshman and Sophomore classes, he failed to win election.[22] Former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) was Chair of the former Assembly (the predecessor body to the GUSA Senate) from 1992-93.[citation needed] Various other GUSA alumni are now elected officials in federal and state office, as well as throughout federal departments and agencies.[citation needed]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Georgetown University Student Association: About. Georgetown University (2007). Retrieved on 2008-03-10.
  2. Stewart, Mike (March 23, 2006). "Fixing what’s broken". The Georgetown Voice. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  3. Murchison, Twister (November 14, 2006). "Fall Brings Winds of Change for GUSA". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  4. Hansen, Ronald J. (November 21, 1997). "Georgetown debate angers D.C. cardinal: Hickey chides university on crucifixes". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  5. "University approves measure supporting Fair Trade coffee". Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. March 20, 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  6. Keller, Caroline (September 28, 2001). "STUDENT LIFE GU One Card Planned To Start Next Semester". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  7. "Students Secure Funds for Expanded GUTS". The Hoya. March 28, 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  8. McIntosh, Kerry (September 10, 2004). "Takeout Lunches Introduced". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  9. Santulli, Stephen (November 8, 2005). "GUSA Plans Pride-Boosting Movie". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  10. Cai, Julia (April 3, 2008). "$800,000 in Club Funds Unspent". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  11. Cai, Julia (April 11, 2008). "Club Budgets Tackle Excess Reserves". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  12. Cai, Julia (April 15, 2008). "GUSA Approves Activities Budget". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  13. Cohen, Rachel (April 8, 2008). "SAC’s Folly Continues to Confound". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  14. "Dollars Should Bring Change". The Hoya. April 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  15. Keneally, Meghan (February 16, 2007). "GUSA Senate Struggles For Identity". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  16. Georgetown University Student Association: Senate. Georgetown University (2007-08). Retrieved on 2008-03-10.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Georgetown University Student Association: Constitution. Georgetown University (2007). Retrieved on 2008-03-10.
  18. Haygood, Ryan P. (December 14, 2005). "A band-aid on a diversity head wound". University Wire. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  19. Kinzie, Susan (September 8, 2007). "Georgetown Students Bristle At New Restrictions on Parties". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  20. Nahill, Kathleen (October 16, 2007). "GUSA Senate Plans To Form Alcohol Review Committee". The Hoya. Retrieved 2008-03-10. 
  21. Georgetown University Student Association: External Boards. Georgetown University (2008). Retrieved on 2008-03-10.
  22. O'Neill, Paul R.; Paul K. Williams (2003). Georgetown University. Arcadia. p. 110. ISBN 0-7385-1509-4. 

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