Updated: Oct. 30, 2019 at 8:50 a.m.
About 150 students gathered in District House Tuesday to hear from GW College Democrats’ executive board after half of the board’s members resigned Monday.
Student leaders said five now-resigned executive board members were involved with omitting votes for a freshman representative candidate to ensure that the opposing candidate would win during the organization’s September election. The remaining College Democrats leaders fielded questions from attendees about trusting the current e-board and how the vacant positions will be filled.
“This is not an easy time for us who are remaining on the board as we are in shock and disappointed about the actions that have transpired,” Louie Kahn, the group’s campaigns director, said.
An email sent to College Democrats members Monday evening wrote that five e-board members, including the former president, left their posts to focus on mental health or academics, but two members cite e-board member behavior as their reason to leave. The group is working to send out applications to fill the vacancies, according to a second email sent early Tuesday morning.
Kahn, who said he did not learn about the incident until last Wednesday, said allegations that the recent resignations are tied to money laundering, sexual misconduct or presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson’s appearance at an organization event Sunday did not prompt the resignations. Several students posted images on the “GW memes for more rugged and less fashion-oriented teens” Facebook group connecting the event with Williamson’s recent campus appearance.
He said e-board members involved in last month’s incident have since resigned from their posts, and current leaders are establishing a “standards board” to oversee all future College Democrats elections. The student organization will hold an election for a new president in the “upcoming weeks,” Kahn said.
“Our current e-board is working hard to earn your trust, communication and accountability for here on out in the GW Democrats leadership,” he said. “We will be proceeding with normal Dems activities and we will promise to work tirelessly to earn back your trust.”
College Democrats members said at the meeting that they are wary of supporting current leaders based on former leaders’ “unethical conduct.”
Nathan Yohn, the organization’s executive vice president, said he will serve as the group’s interim president until an election takes place to formally fill the role. Yohn said he will not run for the group’s top post in the upcoming election.
“It is also my personal opinion that I don’t think anybody on this e-board right now should run for president,” Yohn said. “I feel like there should be a person from the outside, [based] on what has happened, should run for president.”
He added that members of the Center for Student Engagement advised the group not to disclose at the town hall which specific former e-board members were involved in omitting votes.
Maddie Goldstein, the organization’s Foggy Bottom freshman representative, said she did not know that the election had been tampered during her race until Sunday. She said she is willing to leave her position if members wanted her to do so.
“If me staying on here is going to make anybody feel uncomfortable in any way, of course that is not what I want,” she said. “I took this position with the goal of advocating and representing the freshmen and the greater community. So if anyone feels like I cannot or I have not been doing that or I cannot represent, of course I would be open to stepping down.”
A member of College Democrats’ leadership, who spoke anonymously for fear of jeopardizing their leadership position, said they were not present when the e-board met Monday, but the discussion was “obviously heated.” They said all members who chose to resign did so by the end of that meeting.
“There was no one saying, ‘You have to resign,’ but by the end of it, it became clear what had to be done by the members who did choose to resign,” they said.
Drew Amstutz, the group’s former vice president of communications who left his position early Monday morning, posted on his Instagram story following the town hall that he was not on campus during the freshman representative elections and played no role in the situation. Amstutz immediately resigned after hearing about the vote omissions, he wrote in the post.
Amstutz said in his resignation letter that he understood that an executive board meeting on Sunday evening “concluded without resolution for responding to these events.”
“It pains me to come to this conclusion, but I do feel as though I have no other choice than to depart from this board and let the parties involved in this situation determine the future of the organization,” the letter states.
This post was updated for clarification:
This post was updated to clarify a paraphrase from Louie Kahn.