Updated: April 24, 2018 at 6:21 p.m.
Student leaders condemned the Student Association Senate for failing to censure Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, after he was accused of anti-Semitism for past Facebook remarks last month.
The senate failed Monday to reach a two-thirds majority to censure Forrest, an action that could have suspended him from the senate for up to a month. The vote – which tallied 17 in favor of censure, six against, with four abstentions – took place in the middle of a more than six-hour-long senate meeting where senators approved a controversial pro-Palestinian divestment resolution.
Senators initiated censure proceedings against Forrest earlier this month after removing him from his role as pro-tempore. Forrest faced accusations of anti-Semitism last month after students resurfaced old Facebook posts in which he called for a boycott of a multicultural event because it was co-sponsored by Jewish student groups, which Forrest said supported Israeli military action in Gaza in 2014.
When the senate returned from the censure hearing, students who turned out to speak during public comment about the resolution railed senators for missing the two-thirds threshold.
Joe Vogel, a former SA senator, lambasted the senate, saying the representatives let students down and did not stand for Jewish students on campus. He said the senators overlooked a moment to speak out “against true hate, true intolerance and true anti-Semitism.”
“I want you to look in the face of every single one of the students in this room and tell them that you did not vote to protect them when an anti-Semite who was supposedly a leader at this University spoke anti-Semetic rhetoric,” he said. “Shame on you.”
Sydney Nelson, the SA’s executive vice president, said she was “frustrated” with the result of the censure hearing because the senate failed to hold each other accountable after an incident widely regarded as anti-Semitic.
“There are disagreements, there are differences in political views – but there’s also flat-out racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism,” she said.
Student organizations also released statements denouncing the senate after the verdict was announced.
Members of GW for Israel said in a Facebook post early Tuesday morning that instead of debating the resolution at the senate meeting, the organization “witnessed the SA fail to condemn anti-Semitism.”
“GW for Israel will do what the Student Association did not,” the statement read. “We condemn anti-Semitism. We will continue to fight its prevalence on this campus in all its forms.”
The Jewish Student Association released a similar statement Tuesday, saying the group had hoped senators would build on previous statements condemning anti-Semitism, but instead, “they failed as the representatives of Jewish students and as leaders on a campus that should foster a joyous multicultural community.”
“The Jewish Student Association calls for the cultural and religious community at GW to
stand up with us and condemn the failure of the senate,” the statement read. “We hope that this campus will ring with voices proclaiming the rights of every student, culture and religion, to be at home here.”
GW College Republicans released a statement Tuesday condemning the senate for passing the resolution and failing to censure Forrest “for his anti-Semitic comments.” The statement said the resolution alienates Jewish and Israeli students and commended University President Thomas LeBlanc, who said the University would not implement the proposal in a release Tuesday.
“Given the events of last night’s meeting, the senate has proven they do not care to advocate for the safety and wellbeing of all students,” the statement read.
The GW College Democrats also said they were “extremely disappointed” in the senate’s decision because “it is the responsibility of the SA to foster community and inclusivity, but that is not attainable if blatantly anti-Semitic comments are tolerated.”
“It is not possible to harbor an inclusive campus when student leaders are not held accountable for their hateful comments,” the statement read.
Jared Gans, Lizzie Mintz and Meredith Roaten contributed reporting.
This post has been updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that six senators abstained from the censure vote. Four senators abstained. We regret this error.