Anyone who chooses to assume the role of Student Association president also voluntarily chooses to assume a higher level of personal responsibility. As SA President Audai Shakour faces charges of sexual harassment brought by an SA colleague, it is important to remember that all individuals involved in ongoing investigations are innocent until proven guilty. Even so, each public figure at this University should take the opportunity to reflect upon the manner in which they act both in their public and private capacities.
Careless behavior by any GW student has the potential to engender serious consequences. Student representatives – and the SA president in particular – face an unparalleled level of scrutiny derived solely from their status.
Last year the SA’s executive branch spent more than $400 on a private dinner at Sequoia. While the controversy basically amounted to a lack of good judgment in the early days of the administration, then-SA president Omar Woodard learned the hard way that none of his actions would go unnoticed, whether he was working publicly on an initiative or privately deliberating with his closest advisers.
It is only fair that such responsibility and scrutiny are put upon the SA president. Even more than SA senators or student organization presidents, the SA president has unfettered access to administrators, speaks to the freshman class at Colonial Inauguration and is the only representative of the student body before the University’s full Board of Trustees. Accordingly, it is important for the University to have a student representative that acts professionally in all aspects of their life during their time in office.
Often, the people who win the SA presidential election have an immense amount of personal magnetism and charisma. As a result, the SA president receives the respect and admiration of many underclassmen. It is easy for someone in such a position to lose sight of the power and influence that comes with the position.
In an interview with The Hatchet, Shakour categorically denied all charges of sexual impropriety against him. While the outcome of his case is yet to be decided, serious questions about Shakour’s ability to govern during this crisis have arisen.
As of now, four of Shakour’s advisers in the executive branch have resigned, and members of the SA Senate are drafting a petition letter for his resignation.
While he obviously cannot comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigation – other than his general denial of the allegations – Shakour must address the issue publicly. He needs to respond to inquiries concerning his ability to govern in addition to how he plans to more forward with his initiatives in light of the investigation and executive resignations.
If Shakour deems it impossible to continue effectively while the investigation proceeds, he should seriously consider taking leave from his duties to allow the SA to operate without the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the executive branch’s future.
The facts in this case have yet to be determined. It is also unclear whether the turmoil within the SA’s executive branch is linked to the sexual harassment investigation. Even so, Shakour must evaluate his ability to lead and explore proactive means to address negative perceptions about his leadership abilities.
SA officials – and Shakour most of all – must make the tough decisions in the coming weeks to ensure the continuation of SA functions regardless of the outcome of the sexual harassment investigation.