SBA Senate funds Gulf Recovery Network service trip to New Orleans

Media Credit: Jennifer Cuyuch | Staff Photographer

SBA senators gathered in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic at the meeting, which was held in the Law Learning Center and Garage.

Updated: Sept. 3, 2021 at 2:49 p.m.

The Student Bar Association Senate approved more than $3,000 during its meeting Tuesday night for a group of 30 students to travel through New Orleans and provide free legal services for the community recovering from coastal damage.

The senate amended its budget to allocate $3,200 for the Gulf Recovery Network, a student organization within GW Law that plans an annual spring service trip to New Orleans to offer legal and physical assistance and help “rebuild” the area, according to GW Law’s website. Third-year law student Jennifer Pantell, GRN’s co-president, said the organization needs more funding for safe urban transportation like Uber, but participants are responsible for paying to travel to New Orleans.

Pantell said the organization was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and its services are still “necessary,” especially after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana last week. The GRN provides its members with professional legal experience while aiding the New Orleans community through legal assistance, according to the GW Law website.

“The students deserve to go down to New Orleans to travel around there safely, to be able to engage in the community and the culture that they’re actually going down to assist and to work with organizations that we’re working with down there.” Pantell said.

SBA senators gathered in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic at the meeting, which was held in the Law Learning Center and Garage.

Senators unanimously approved nine nominations for the SBA, approving three executive branch staffers, five members of the faculty appointments student representative committee and a new chief judge on the SBA Supreme Court – third-year James Cowan. Second-years Justin Lewis, Neemi Patel and Krista Baca were approved to serve on the executive branch, and additions to the faculty appointments committee include second-year Michael Matthiesen and third-years Jeanmarie Elican, Kendall Lawrenz, Taylor Cross and Vania Wang.

In a 7–4 vote with two abstainers, the senate failed to reach a two-thirds majority to confirm SBA President Jordan Michel’s nominee, Alexis Pozonsky, for the faculty committee that recommends professors for tenure and promotion. Two senators raised concerns about Pozonsky’s “neutrality” and her lack of preparation for the role after her interview with the appointments committee this summer, so Michel will nominate a new student at a later meeting.

“We are going to vote no on this resolution because we did not feel like our concerns were addressed,” SBA Sen. Cyrus Dutton said. ”It’ll be a 2-week gap period between a new nominee and now, but those concerns can be addressed with some individual that has more neutrality and who can be more prepared for the interview.”

The senate also unanimously approved the creation of the Real Estate Law Association, which would serve as the University’s first real estate law organization on the law school’s list of student groups. The RELA submitted its constitution, bylaws and an interest form of potential members to receive approval from the senate.

The senate tabled legislation that would remove the word “illegal immigrant” and “alien” from any SBA legislation. Michel, who vetoed the legislation after senators passed it in April, recommended that the senate table the resolution to first better research and understand the immigrant community at GW.

“Though I agree with this resolution sentiments, it seems rushed and either ill or under advised,” Michel said in an April veto statement that was read at the meeting. “While the drop the I-word campaign is admirable, the work does not begin there, but with conversation and education.”

The SBA senate’s next meeting will be held on Sept. 14 at 9:15 p.m. in the Law Learning Center and Garage.

This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that four senators voiced concerns about Pozonsky’s “neutrality.” Two senators expressed these concerns. This post was updated to clarify that two senators voiced concerns about Pozonsky’s lack of preparedness, and senators needed to reach a two-thirds majority to confirm her. This post was also updated to clarify that Michel’s statement about removing “illegal immigrant” and “alien” from SBA legislation was made in April. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that the senate approved six nominations for the SBA. The senate approved nine nominations. We regret these errors.

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