Live Updates: Tracking the recent Student Association power struggle

Media Credit: File Photo by Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

The Student Association’s executive cabinet voted Friday to remove Christian Zidouemba as SA president because of a lack of confidence in his abilities and his alleged mishandling of the SA’s response to demands for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ firing from GW Law’s faculty.

But just one day after the event that some have called a “coup” of the presidency, two cabinet members withdrew their votes, preserving Zidouemba’s hold on the SA’s top post. As the situation evolves, The Hatchet will follow the latest on the status of the SA’s leadership.

Here’s where things stand:

July 6, 2022 at 5:26 p.m.
Student Association Senate hears testimony on presidential kerfuffle

The Student Association Senate began its investigation into the vote to remove President Christian Zidouemba and heard testimony that revealed “hostile” work environments and threats of termination led to the attempted ousting.

Six witnesses testified to the Senate Tuesday, and four more will begin testifying when the hearing resumes at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Dylan Basescu, the former legislator general, said he was concerned that Zidouemba would “hurriedly fire” cabinet members who were involved in the removal vote, which required the vice president, treasurer, legislator general, communications director and the chief of staff to vote unanimously.

Basescu said Zidouemba had asked him how to go about terminating Sakhshi Sharma, his executive secretary of diversity, equity and inclusion. Basescu said after Zidouemba rejected his proposed statement in response to the University’s decision to maintain Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on GW Law’s faculty, and after discussing Zidouemba’s actions with senior policy advisors, he became concerned about Zidouemba’s capacity to fulfill his duties as president.

In testimony, Zidouemba said he wanted cabinet members to express their opinions in a respectful environment.

“I have never intended to fire anybody in my cabinet,” Zidouemba said. “And I have always appreciated the different views that I have in my cabinet.”

Former Chief of Staff Cordelia Scales said Zidouemba’s “increasingly erratic behavior” and threats of termination caused the removal vote, which she said she still supports.

-Erika Filter

July 2, 2022 at 11:10 p.m.
Zidouemba retains SA presidency as cabinet members resign en masse
SA executive branch leaders announced Zidouemba would retain the presidency after the vote to remove him from office led to more than a day of confusion, contention and chaos within the SA.

SA Vice President Yan Xu and Communications Director Aiza Saeed withdrew their votes to remove Zidouemba Saturday in separate emails to the chief justice of the Student Court. The withdrawals ended the controversy that began Friday afternoon when the executive cabinet unanimously voted to remove Zidouemba. Zidouemba, Xu and Saeed released a joint statement Saturday night reiterating that Zidouemba remains president and apologizing for the “confusion, uproar and unrest” the incident caused.

At least seven members of the SA’s executive branch have resigned in the wake of the episode, including Chief of Staff Cordelia Scales and Legislator General Dylan Basescu, two members of the executive cabinet who said they stand by their votes to remove Zidouemba from office.

The joint statement states a “rumor” that Zidouemba was preparing to fire members of the executive branch because policy disagreements sparked confusion and the vote of removal, but the alleged firings were “clearly not” going to happen. Zidouemba sent emails firing Scales and Basescu Friday afternoon, even before he knew of the vote to remove him from office.

-Erika Filter

July 2, 2022 at 3:20 a.m.
SA executive cabinet members vote to remove Zidouemba as presidency hangs in question

The executive cabinet voted Friday to permanently remove Zidouemba as SA president and appoint Xu in his place in an acting capacity.

In a letter to SA leaders, Xu said five executive cabinet members voted for Zidouemba’s permanent removal in a stunning move that could close out the shortest SA presidency in recent memory, barring a potential challenge in the Student Court. SA members said a lack of confidence in Zidouemba’s leadership and his alleged mishandling of the SA’s response to demands for Thomas’ firing from GW Law’s faculty led to the vote.

“The Executive Cabinet have voted unanimously to determine that President Christian Zidouemba is permanently unable to execute the powers and responsibilities of the Office of the President,” the letter reads. “President Zidouemba has therefore been removed from office on July 1st, 2022 at 5:38 p.m. Eastern Time.”

The letter states Xu has immediately assumed “the duties of acting president” before he will become the permanent president one week later, despite later acknowledging in a statement to The Hatchet that Zidouemba is also still the current president.

-Erika Filter

July 1, 2022 at 12:43 a.m.
Dozens of student leaders continue push to remove Supreme Court Justice from faculty

Fifty student leaders penned an open letter Thursday calling on the University to remove Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is currently part of the law school’s faculty.

Student Association senators, members of the SA’s executive cabinet and leaders of student organizations like Sunrise GW signed the letter, which calls on officials to “rethink” their decision not to fire Thomas, who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and repeal federal abortion protections last week. The letter argues that because the University does not allow discrimination based on “protected characteristics” like race, gender and sexual orientation, it should not employ and platform Thomas as he tries to “strip individuals with uteruses of the right to medicine and queer individuals their right to legally exist.”

The letter argues Thomas’s lecturing contributes to discrimination, which signatories say nullifies the University’s “academic freedom” defense of Thomas.

“Academic freedom means to learn freely and fairly – absent of discrimination,” the letter reads.

SA President Christian Zidouemba did not sign the letter. He said in a statement to The Hatchet that his cabinet is “working hard” to represent students.

“Cabinet members are able to express their views to the public, and I welcome healthy interaction between students and their government,” he said. “This topic is very important to me, and I want to ensure we carefully consider the many viewpoints and concerns shared by students.”

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