Finance chair Pryde hones in on sexual violence policy, dining and housing

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Year: Junior
Major: Economics and political science
Hometown: Seattle
Clubs/Activities: Residence Hall Association, Beta Theta Pi
Previous SA experience: Chair of the SA Senate finance committee and a U-at-Large senator, 2014-2015; vice chair of the leadership committee and the finance committee while serving as a CCAS senator, 2013-2014
If you didn’t go to GW, where you would be going to school? “Probably in California. I’m from Seattle and a lot of my friends went to California, and they have some pretty good schools and some pretty nice weather down there.”
Favorite monument: Lincoln Memorial at night
Captain Cookie order: Two snickerdoodles and ice cream in the middle
Season three of “House of Cards” or “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”? “‘House of Cards.’ Actually, I haven’t finished season three, but hopefully that’s something I’ll do when the campaign is over.”
Black and blue, or white and gold: (He didn’t see the dress.)
Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks: “I’m from Seattle, so I’m going to have to say Starbucks. Starbucks all the way.”
Android or iPhone: iPhone. “It’s hard to break out of the Apple stranglehold.”
Dream Commencement speaker: “This might be obvious, but the president of the United States, whether it’s a Democrat or Republican. It would be a great honor.”

Sexual assault prevention has already been a major topic on campus this year, and junior Ben Pryde said he’d further prioritize the issue if elected to be next year’s Student Association president.

Pryde, who has served on the SA Senate for three years, said he wants to implement a “yes means yes” policy along with ideas that have already been discussed, like information on syllabi and mandatory Colonial Inauguration trainings.

GW currently defines a sexual act as sexual violence if consent is not given. Pryde’s proposed change would require one partner to receive verbal consent from the other partner before starting a sexual act or escalating a previous one.

“People talk about this idea of nonverbal cues. With affirmative consent, a person has to explicitly say yes and not these nonverbal cues. I think that it’s an important component,” he said.

Pryde, who is in the University Honors Program and a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity, said regardless of University policy on sexual violence and sexual harassment, students need to be better educated.

“People have this idea of sexual assault being a guy jumping out of the bushes. But, you know, it’s much more than that – it includes dating violence and it includes other sexual encounters that aren’t violent per se,” Pryde said.

Pryde is pushing for mandatory sexual assault prevention training at CI, an idea current SA President Nick Gumas presented to administrators during a Board of Trustees meeting in February.

The Seattle native also said his experience as chair of the SA’s finance committee would be invaluable as a president because of what he’s learned working with each student group to determine how much the committee will allocate to them.

“I not only know what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it, but I know how I’m going to pay for it,” he said.

Pryde also said he wants to create more affordable meal options for students, primarily by switching GW from a pound-by-pound system to a swipe system in the dining halls so students are changed a flat fee for each meal.

Pryde added that he wants to negotiate Sodexo’s contract with the University so dining halls can have a rotating menu, which would include more options for students who are vegetarian or keep Kosher. Sodexo’s contract is set to expire in 2016.

“You might have the best food in the world, but if you eat the same food every day five days in a row – even if it’s the best food in the world, you’re probably going to get tired of it,” Pryde said.

He also plans to bring changes to on-campus housing, like letting juniors live in cheaper housing options that currently are only available to sophomores – such as JBKO. Most juniors end up in Shenkman or Amsterdam halls, some of the most expensive residence halls on campus.

Pryde said the University should also prioritize affinity housing for minority students when District House, which will house about 850 sophomores and juniors, opens in 2016.

“I think that it’s a way to kind of build strong communities and support systems, and essentially support minority groups,” Pryde said.

Pryde said Gumas is already working to create LGBT affinity groups, but added that if he’s elected, he’ll “make sure they actually happen.”

Pryde also focused on mental health in his platform, an issue that student leaders have pushed to the top of the University’s priority list over the last several years. He said he hopes to increase the number of free counseling session each student receives from six to 20, and lower the additional session fee to $10. To keep up with the likely increase in free sessions, he would hire 10 additional counselors.

The University has already promised to hire the equivalent of about eight new positions in the University Counseling Center – ranging from counselors and case managers to psychiatrists – using a portion of money from next fall’s 3.4 percent tuition increase. Pryde did not say how he would cover the costs of hiring an additional 10 counselors.

Pryde said he’d prefer free counseling for students, but said it’d be “very, very expensive” to implement such a policy. Instead, he’ll push the University to pay for extra counselors by using a larger proportion of the funds from the tuition increase.

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