The Student Association Senate rejected the first piece of legislation backed by its newly elected leader Monday, which looked to step up awareness of sexual assault around campus.
The majority of the group – about two dozen senators – abstained from voting on the resolution, which was put forth by Sen. Shashwat Gauntam, SoB-G, and supported by incoming SA executive vice president Kostas Skordalos, who was elected on a platform largely centered on sexual assault prevention.
It specifically called for employee training on how to handle incidences of sexual assault, a campus-wide awareness campaign and a wider time frame to file allegations of sexual assault – three issues that GW’s Deputy Title IX Coordinator Tara Pereira has already announced that GW plans to tackle.
The majority of senators, including Sen. Nick Gumas, CCAS-U, said the bill lacked concrete language and specific goals. Gumas, who is also the president of Allied in Pride, said passing Skordalos’ resolution would cause the senate to “lose legitimacy,” and noted that the senate should pass a more thorough bill about the issue in the future.
Gumas and Sen. Omeed Firouzi, CCAS-U, will join Skordalos in crafting a “more comprehensive” bill this week. Gumas said they hope it will pass the senate this year.
“Kostas thankfully made this a salient issue. If we’re going to get this involved in debate, I would like to have all the research laid out and not just a resolution saying sexual assault is bad,” Gumas, a sophomore, said. “I want concrete steps. I want more specifics. It pains me to not be drastically in support of this, but I just can’t.”
Along with helping Gumas and Firouzi pen the new bill, Skordalos said he will spend the summer completing more research and meeting with administrators including Pereira.
“It’s something that affects everybody,” Skordalos said. “I think the majority of the senators know that it needed to get done.”
Pereira announced in October that GW would launch a website detailing the University’s new sexual assault policy. The website, called
HAVEN, is expected to launch this spring and is designed to inform both victims and students accused of sexual assault about support services around GW.
Pereira also said in January that GW plans to extend the time frame during which a student can take action against an alleged perpetrator to one and a half years, from the current 180-day policy.
The University already trains faculty and staff on how to respond when a victim of sexual assault comes forward about his or her experience. Employees who are most likely to act as first responders – such as Center for Student Engagement, house, athletics and Greek life staff – must also participate in 90-minute training sessions.
Outgoing executive vice president Abby Bergren used her final minutes with senators to criticize them for not passing the resolution, calling it a “wasted opportunity” to support student groups.
“If you guys wanted more information, look it up. Ask these questions before these meetings,” Bergren said. “When students are passionate about an issue, they try to gather all the tools at their disposal to advocate for them, and this is one of them. This is something we could have done.”