Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 2:52 p.m.
Student Association leaders urged the SA Senate to prioritize involving more Jewish students in the SA after a Torah was desecrated at a fraternity house last weekend during its meeting Monday.
Zachary Nosanchuk, the SA’s executive chief of staff, said the number of senators who are members of the Jewish community is not representative of the Jewish population at GW, and senators should prioritize Jewish student applications when considering senator nominations for vacancies. He said he was pleased to see many SA members – including President Brandon Hill and Vice President Kate Carpenter – attending the procession to Kogan Plaza Monday, held in response to the desecration of the Torah scroll in the TKE townhouse.
SA President Brandon Hill and Vice President Kate Carpenter condemned the vandalism of the Tau Kappa Epsilon townhouse and the desecration of the Torah as an act of antisemitism in their opening reports to the senate Monday after issuing a statement denouncing the incident Monday.
“There are two current senate vacancies it looks like, be prioritizing Jewish voices in those,” Nosanchuk said. “Talk about antisemitism, see what they think, because we need to bring more visuals to the table in order to talk about issues that are so serious like what happened on Saturday.”
The senate currently faces two vacancies after Charlene Richards, a former undergraduate CCAS senator, and Conner Hounshell, a former graduate Milken Institute School of Public Health senator, resigned within the last two weeks after the senate finished filling all the senate’s seats at its last meeting.
Hounshell said in his resignation letter that he does not have enough time to commit to the SA, but he appreciates the body’s work and looks forward to “collaboration” with them in the future. Richards did not return a request for comment.
Christy Anthony, the director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, presented several updates officials are proposing to the University’s process of responding to reports related to discrimination at the meeting. She said students can currently file grievances against students, student organizations, staff and faculty through a written statement to the dean of student affairs, but officials’ plans would reassign the offices that process these reports under the new proposal.
Under the proposed changes, officials’ handling of student grievances would fall under guidelines set by SRR’s Code of Student Conduct instead of its student grievance procedure. The proposal states that Equal Employment Opportunity and Access would take sole responsibility for staff grievances instead of split duties between EEOA and student grievance procedures.
Interim Provost Chris Bracey would oversee reports against faculty instead of SRR, still by way of the same grievance procedures, the proposal states. The proposal makes no changes to grievances filed against students.
Anthony said while student grievances would sometimes be open to the public in the past, the proposal outlines that they will now be completely conducted in private settings. She said the updates will also rename student grievance procedures to student discrimination reports.
“We’re also clarifying that if the allegation involves discrimination, that should be resolved under these procedures,” Anthony said. “We are noting that if the allegation is not discrimination that should be resolved on the college’s schools grading grievance procedures.”
Sophomore Daria Nastasia, the SA’s community liaison, said the Student Accountability Mechanism – an external committee of student leaders who advise the SA – held a meeting late last month to discuss two Hatchet opinion pieces criticizing the SA senate and finance committee. She said the external committee agreed with the article’s opinions, saying that senators should be more involved with their constituents and the finance committee should be more transparent.
Nastasia said the committee determined that senators are out of touch with the student body and suggested they spend less time on internal procedures, like internal lawsuits, and more time engaging with policy that concerns their constituents.
She said detailed minutes of finance committee meetings, which most students can’t attend, should be provided for financial transparency. She added that reports should also be accessible to students on the SA website, social media and newsletters.
“The group concluded that based on the article, their own personal opinions on the SA and opinions from their peers, is it often feels as though senators tend to spend more time on the procedural aspects of student government and therefore spend less time working on resolutions that could have a positive impact on the student body,” Nastasia said.
SA Sen. Yan Xu, ESIA-U and the chair of the finance committee, said the finance committee approved more than $84,600 in co-sponsorships last month for 12 students organizations’ events, like those held for guest speakers. He said student organizations need to reference the finance guidelines that the committee provides before claiming the SA did not give them the money they requested.
“All information is also available in the Student Handbook, and they need to read,” Xu said. “They need to read the description, and they need to read everything we’ve provided to them. Now because they didn’t read the description, they selected their thing wrong and they accused SA of not giving them money.”
The senate approved more than $440,000 in student organization allocations last month through April, but several student organizations said they received less funding than they requested.
The senate also unanimously confirmed senior Harita Iswara to fill a seat on the Joint Elections Commission, the body that oversees SA elections and referendums.
The next senate meeting will be held on Nov. 15 at 8:30 p.m. in the University Student Center.
Lauren Sforza contributed reporting.
This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet misspelled Nosanchuk’s last name. The correct spelling is now reflected. We regret this error.