Updated: March 10, 2022 at 10:27 a.m.
A two-time Student Association presidential candidate is mounting his third campaign for the SA’s top post.
Christian Zidouemba – a senior studying international affairs and international business – became the second candidate to join the race for SA president Thursday, unveiling a platform to promote campus accessibility, help constituents advocate to the SA and aid students struggling to afford rising tuition costs. Zidouemba ran for SA president during his sophomore and junior years, losing both bids to former and current SA presidents Howie Brookins and Brandon Hill, respectively.
He finished in fourth place in a pool of six candidates during the 2020 SA presidential election during his sophomore year before coming in at third place during the next year’s race. Students cast their votes by ranked-choice voting during both years and will do the same later this month.
Zidouemba said he can hold SA members accountable because of his outside perspective, which has bolstered his platform that focuses on similar initiatives as previous years. He said he can recognize what students need and how the SA should accommodate them because of his experience as a repeat candidate.
“I’m an outsider,” he said in an interview. “I’m never embarrassed every year that I run. I love to be an outsider and to look at things from a different perspective.”
Zidouemba, who will graduate this spring, said he still plans to attend GW during the next school year to pursue a master’s degree in management, which is housed in the School of Business.
His entry into the race comes after SA Sen. Dasia Bandy, ESIA-U and the chair of the SA’s diversity and inclusion assembly, announced her presidential campaign late last month. If elected, Bandy would become the first Black woman to serve as SA president at GW.
Zidouemba said he plans to offer additional mental health resources and increase accessibility on campus for students with disabilities after a professor denied a student from bringing their service dog to class earlier this semester.
“You have seen the incident that just happened in the last three months, and the Student Association hasn’t done anything,” Zidouemba said. “They didn’t even condemn it. And that’s why I’m talking about being on the side of the student, not on the side of the administration.”
The Student Association called on the University last month to fire GWSB professor Marie Matta who denied junior Liza Malinsky bringing her service dog to class without paperwork after Disability Support Services officials told her she did not need any. The SA also demanded that officials fire Alicia Bitler, a GWTeach professor who said the N-word in a classroom in an anti-racism course.
Zidouemba said he will advocate for more diverse dining options as part of the University’s new unlimited dining system that will open three new all-you-can-eat dining halls in Foggy Bottom next fall to offer a global cuisine for students of different ethnicities. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition requesting officials to keep GW’s current meal plan open to all students after this academic year, citing concerns about higher costs and fewer options under the new dining system.
“I already see now so many people complaining already about the food options on campus,” Zidouemba said. “So as a president, I will advocate and work with admin to make sure that these resources are there and that we are not only focusing on American food, but we have food that represents our student body because we have people from everywhere.”
Zidouemba said if elected, he will work to increase donations to offer more scholarships in hopes of making GW more affordable for students with low-income backgrounds, including first-generation students. Officials announced last week that the University’s cost of attendance would surpass $80,000 for most undergraduates next academic year.
“If you increase tuition without increasing scholarship, that’s actually a burden for first-generations who want to come to GW but won’t be able to do that,” Zidouemba said.
Zidouemba said he is committed to improving the relationship between the student body and the SA. He said GW community members need to understand that the SA is meant to serve them instead of the administration.
“I don’t really care what you think if I run two times or three times,” Zidouemba said. “It’s all about making an impact and making sure that students who are not reaching the SA know there are resources out there and the Student Association is there to serve them, not to just be there fighting against each other for a resolution that’s not beneficial to the whole entire student population.”
Zidouemba said his work with offices and organizations like the Alumni Association, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the African Student Association has also prepared him to take office as president. He said he aims to make students from all backgrounds feel welcome on campus under his presidency.
“No matter your ethnicity, ability or political belief, I strongly believe that this campus is a place for you,” Zidouemba said.
This post was updated to include the following:
This post was updated to clarify Zidouemba’s plans to attend GW as a graduate student during the next school year.