Updated: April 10, 2018 at 2:15 p.m.
The Student Association Senate voted to remove Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, from his post as senate pro-tempore and initiated censure proceedings against him early Tuesday morning after Forrest was accused of anti-Semitism while running for executive vice president.
Sen. Andrew Lama, ESIA-U, argued in favor of removing Forrest from his role, saying he has already indicated that he does not intend to return to the SA Senate. Forrest was not present at Monday’s meeting.
“It is not in the senate’s best interest to have a senate pro-tempore who admittedly is not going to do anything, who is not going to act in his function as pro-tempore and he just wants to hold the position,” Lama said. “His lack of resignation, not just from the senate but from the position itself, speaks volumes and I think we need to do it for him.”
The vote, which occurred just after midnight Tuesday, comes two weeks after Forrest faced intense criticism for past Facebook comments about Jewish student groups. Forrest called for a boycott of a multicultural event in 2014 for including Jewish student groups that he claimed supported Israeli military action against Palestinians. The comments resurfaced on the student Facebook group “Overheard at GW” last month at the height of Forrest’s campaign for SA executive vice president.
Forrest overwhelmingly lost his race two days after the comments began circulating.
The senate also voted to suspend a bylaw requiring that a vote to remove a chairperson must take place at least one senate meeting after it’s introduced.
“We know that Brady will not be returning next week for the senate meeting, we know that he already has no intention of trying to come back to the senate as pro-tempore,” Sen. Jan Yonan, CCAS-U, said. “At this point, the only reason for following the bylaw is just to follow the bylaw and to wait it out. I don’t think there is any reason to do this.”
The vote will formally remove Forrest from his position as second-in-command of the senate, where he serves as a member of all senate committees.
Forrest said it was “incredibly concerning” that the senate voted to get around its governing rules to remove him from his leadership position.
“It’s disappointing that the bylaws were either suspended or disregarded to continue a campaign against me rooted in dubious accusations,” he said in a text message. “The process exists so that proper and deliberative decisions to represent the student body can be made, and when that process is disregarded, then there isn’t any basis besides a few people’s opinions.”
The senate also voted to initiate censure proceedings against Forrest, which, if successful, could result in up to a one-month suspension from the senate, long enough to keep him out of the body for the remainder of the current term. Senators will hold a hearing within the next few weeks to determine whether Forrest can be formally censured.
Roughly 80 students packed the public gallery at the meeting, which began Monday night and lasted into Tuesday morning. Students urged the senate to impeach Forrest during about an hour of speeches at public comment.
Junior Erick Cohen, a Latino and Jewish student, said students need “to get serious when we feel attacked on campus,” beginning with a change in how students qualify anti-Semitic behavior.
“Anti-Semitism on this campus did not begin with March 26,” Cohen said, referring to the day Forrest’s post resurfaced on Facebook. “Many of us feel that we cannot vocalize our concerns because we will be waved away or ostracized from our other circles if we share how we’re feeling.”
Hannah Finkel, the president of Chabad GW, said while Forrest has a right to voice his own beliefs, he should not serve as a public figure because his beliefs are not representative of the student body.
“When I think of anti-Semitism, I think of the demonizing, delegitimizing and slanderous language Senator Brady Forrest has publicly used to talk about Israel within and outside his role of the SA intentionally straying from the facts and spreading lies,” she said.
At the end of the meeting, senators also unanimously passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism on campus, which stated that the senate “will not stand for anti-Semitic acts and speech.”
“Making sure that people aren’t discriminated against is important,” Sen. Will Raderman, U-at-Large, who sponsored the resolution, said.