Updated: March 26, 2018 at 9:55 a.m.
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
Major: Latin American and Hemispheric Studies
Club/activities: Former secretary of Black Men’s Initiative, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Residence Hall Association, freshman representative for the Black Student Union, freshman representative and secretary of Casa Blanca
Previous SA experience: Committee aide on the finance committee, Elliott School of International Affairs senator, finance committee member
Favorite GWorld Spot: Chick-fil-A
Dream job: U.S. ambassador to Haiti
Favorite show on Netflix: “Black Mirror”
Fun fact: I can type exactly 93 words per minute.
Most-used or favorite emoji: Crying laughing face
Favorite movie from past year: “Black Panther”
Ojani Walthrust’s favorite childhood book taught him a lesson on inclusion that he wants to bring to GW.
Walthrust said he was moved by “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” which tells the story of a young boy on the autism spectrum. The book shows how autism affects his everyday life and follows the boy as he travels to find his mother, who he was told was dead but discovers is actually alive.
He said the book is indicative of a larger problem of people not understanding those that are different from themselves – an issue he’s seen at GW and wants to address as executive vice president.
“I want to be able to help those who are often misunderstood and whose voices are often overshadowed,” he said.
Walthrust said he aspired to take on a larger role in the SA after serving as a senator this year – but he only decided to run for executive vice president out of a desire to improve the uncomfortable environment created by a racist incident on campus last month, in which two members of Alpha Phi were featured in an offensive Snapchat post that went viral.
“I was personally affected by that,” he said. “I know a lot of people who were affected as well, and so I want to make sure that we hold the University accountable and make actual change.”
Walthrust was a co-sponsor of the Alpha Phi Bigotry Act, a resolution passed unanimously last month in the wake of the social media post that demanded the University remove the sorority from campus and add sections to the student code of conduct to condemn and punish “racialized” language.
In his platform, Walthrust proposes promoting diversity and inclusion on campus by establishing an executive cabinet position for a Multicultural Greek Council representative to the SA and giving an MGC organization a campus townhouse. The senate resolution also created an MGC cabinet position and encouraged officials to prioritize giving vacant townhouses to multicultural Greek organizations. Officials have taken up several points mentioned in the resolution.
Walthrust also wants to establish a space in the Multicultural Student Services Center for students to receive academic aid and tutoring help.
He said his experience in student Congressional debate in high school prepared him to listen and be receptive to the credibility of other arguments – a skill that would help him lead the senate. He said many people are close-minded about their viewpoints, but his personality and calm demeanor allow him to discuss any issue respectfully.
He doesn’t take himself too seriously, though.
As a self-identified “sneakerhead,” Walthrust loves to collect sneakers – Balenciaga stretch high tops are his favorite – and he has a passion for the show “Survivor.” He hosted pretend versions of the game with his friends as a child – and he said he hopes to eventually create a reality TV game club at GW, like those at the University of Maryland and American University.
As a Latin American and Hemispheric Studies major, Walthrust said he is passionate about Haiti and would love to travel there one day to “explore his roots” as a Haitian-American. He spent his spring break on a community service trip with the Organization of Latin American Students – a student organization that promotes diversity and celebrates Latino American culture – creating murals in the Dominican Republic.
Walthrust said he wants students to know, given the competitive nature of GW, that there’s more to life than academics. He said students are able to improve their community.
“People have the power to change things in the area, people have the power to implement policy here,” he said. “Even as 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds, we can make a difference.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported Walthrust’s nickname. It is now correct. We regret this error.