The president of the Student Bar Association did not step down Monday night, the resignation deadline she faced from the SBA Senate following allegations that she made an insensitive remark about a Jewish student organization.
Ali Kingston, the president of the SBA, said she is continuing to work with administrators and students to decide the best resolution after she was accused of referring to members of the Jewish Law Student Association as someone’s “Jew friends” last month. Kingston, who had remained silent throughout much of the controversy, issued a public statement Friday denying the allegation but offering an apology for “the pain and hurt I have caused.”
In a statement emailed to law school students and obtained by The Hatchet, Kingston said she did not refer to the group as someone’s “Jew friends” but instead used the phrase “the Jews” to “offhandedly” refer to JLSA while discussing a violation the group had recently incurred. Kingston claimed that, in reference to the violation, an SBA member had asked her, “Why do you hate the Jews?” and she replied, “I do not hate the Jews.”
Kingston said she was “deeply remorseful” about making the comment and for fostering “disrespect and insensitivity.”
“I have always strived to promote an environment of mutual understanding, respect and appreciation for the differences of those in the GW Law community and beyond,” Kingston said. “Yet in this instance, I completely failed to appreciate the consequences of my word choice.”
The SBA Senate called for Kingston’s resignation last Tuesday after weeks of back-and-forth between Kingston, JLSA and senators. Members from both JLSA and the senate requested a private apology from Kingston last Monday but decided to pursue public action after they said her response was not satisfactory.
In an interview Monday, Kingston said she decided to speak out because her name was at the center of the controversy, but “I was the only person in the situation that [students] weren’t hearing from, and that’s troubling.”
Kingston said since issuing the statement, she has heard only positive feedback and has received nearly 300 comments of support through Facebook Messenger, text and email, but she is still having individual conversations with members of the law school community to hear their thoughts.
She said she is “exploring all options” and will engage in discussions with law school officials and students to decide how to best handle the controversy. She declined to say which officials she is working with and said she has not yet considered what would be an ideal outcome for her.
Kingston said her executive board is currently researching several options, including possibly organizing a school-wide referendum for students to vote whether she should step down.
“I was elected by the student body, and the decision should be made by the student body,” she said. “I think that decisions made by small groups of people aren’t always reflective of what the student body wants.”
Law school spokeswoman Liz Field declined to say which administrators are working with students, what resolutions they are considering and why officials decided to become involved, deferring to students.
Kingston added that the SBA Senate called a special meeting Tuesday night, where she will answer questions from senators and the student body.
“This week, we’ve kind of put a pause on normal SBA functions in order to dedicate our time and energy to finding a path to move forward,” she said. “My No. 1 concern is healing the student body and getting back to a functioning place so that all of our student orgs can go back to hosting events and servicing their constituents.”
David Beiss, JLSA’s vice president of external outreach, declined to comment on Kingston’s statement but said the group is working with law school Dean Blake Morant to find a solution that is “mutually beneficial for everybody.” He declined to say what solutions the group is considering, adding that both the law school and JLSA would update members of the community “at the right time.”
“It’s been a very difficult time for the whole school,” he said. “Everybody in the school is very concerned about what’s happening, and I think that people are hopeful that a resolution comes soon so we can start healing as opposed to continuing to divide.”
He said Kingston allegedly told another member of the SBA that “your Jew friends are going to get in trouble.”
Beiss added that while members of the SBA Senate and some individual members of JLSA called Kingston’s alleged statement anti-Semitic last week, the group’s official position characterizes the comment as “highly inappropriate and insensitive.”
“We look forward to resolving this matter in a productive, conciliatory and efficient manner,” JLSA said in an official statement Monday. “We will be forthcoming with updates as soon as we are able.”
Sarah Kerrigan, the attorney general of the SBA, also issued a statement Thursday saying that the SBA Senate bylaws do not give the body the authority to initiate impeachment proceedings based on allegations of discriminatory behavior. Instead, she said the matter should be handled by University officials because the accusation is a violation of the student code of conduct.
“Without a proper inquiry into the allegations made and obtaining evidence from both parties to the allegations, it is clear that the SBA Senate has shirked in its duty to provide all students due process,” Kerrigan wrote in the statement sent to law school students, which was obtained by The Hatchet. “As such, the SBA Senate has grossly overstepped its authority, broken basic decorum and set aside fundamental principles of fairness.”
Kerrigan declined to comment further, deferring to the statement.