Student Association President Arielle Geismar said she spoke with officials last week to amplify students’ disapproval of the University’s decision to arm some GW Police Department officers next fall during an SA Senate meeting Monday.
Geismar said she and SA Vice President Demetrius Apostolis met with GWPD Chief James Tate and Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Colette Coleman last Thursday to echo “student concerns” about arming about 20 GWPD officers next fall during her presidential report. She said she is working with officials to mitigate the decision and hopes the University withdraws their choice but that she doesn’t know if it will be possible for students to reverse the plan.
Geismar added that she reiterated students’ objections to the decision during a meeting with the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee last Friday and will raise student’s opposition again in the Board’s upcoming meeting May 19.
“I’m pushing into the lens of students don’t want this, and I’m having those conversations,” Geismar said. “This past week was my first week in office, so I’ve had the power to do that and had the opportunity to have those conversations.”
Apostolis said the meeting with Tate and Coleman last week provided “clarity” about why officials are planning to arm officers but that he won’t provide further details from the meeting because he didn’t know what information he could “get out” yet. He added that he and Geismar spoke with student organizations like the Public Health Student Association and that the research cited in public health students’ letter against the arming decision addressed to officials last week — which finds that armed guards in schools are not associated with significant reductions in rates of injuries or deaths during mass shootings — was “eye-opening.”
“Our GW community wants to be involved in these issues,” Apostolis said. “This year, it’s our goal to make that possible.”
Senators also unanimously passed a resolution to increase senators’ attendance at meetings for the upcoming year.
SA Sen. Simon Patmore-Zarcone (Law-G) sponsored the Senate Attendance Reform Act, which states that any senator not physically, virtually or present by proxy — when a present senator represents an absent member in voting — for a total of three committee meetings throughout the semester will be considered eligible for suspension. The bill states that senators may be present by proxy for six senate meetings but will be considered absent after their sixth absence.
Patmore-Zarcone said reaching quorum in the Financial Services and Allocations Committee was “difficult” last term because of senators’ absences, and the bill will hold senators accountable for the time commitment they pledged to the body. He said the senate “functions well” when senators remain engaged in their work and dedicate the appropriate amount of time to their goals.
“People who do not show up to meetings do not contribute,” Patmore-Zarcone said. “They don’t share in the work of that committee and they take a seat away from someone who might really want to do work.”
Apostolis said he reserves the right to approve absences for medical and mental health leaves, academic commitments and religious exemptions as presiding officer of the senate. SA bylaws state that the Governance and Nominations Committee will hold a hearing to consider next steps for senators considered eligible for suspension.
Senators also approved a new senate chairperson pro-tempore and nine senators as committee chairs.
Senators confirmed SA Sen. Amy Cowley (ESIA-G) as the senate chairperson pro tempore in a 17-10 vote against SA Sen. Ethan Fitzgerald (CCAS-U). Cowley said she will help draft legislation and connect senators with members of administration to help senators achieve their goals and that she plans to create a system that ensures students who fill senate vacancies during the term complete “necessary” training because they lack the preparations Apostolis provided to incoming senators after SA elections in April.
“I want to create and implement a robust training system so that new senators do not have to try and figure it out on their own, which as someone who filled the senate vacancy last year, I can attest to being extremely difficult,” Cowley said.
Senators unanimously confirmed SA Sen. Ethan Lynne (CCAS-U) as chair of the Financial Services and Allocations Committee. Lynne said he will use his prior experience as the former senate committee clerk and the president of Thurston Hall’s Residence Hall Association Hall Council this past year to be a “fair” and “effective” finance chair.
Senators unanimously confirmed SA Sen. Andrew An (ESIA-U) as chair of the Physical Facilities and Urban Affairs Committee. An said his “extensive knowledge” of University facilities systems like FixIt, the system students and staff use to request facilities repairs, and AIM, the back-end system used to assign facilities requests on campus, qualifies him to address issues like the “contractor loophole,” where officials grant unauthorized contractors access to residence halls.
Senators unanimously confirmed SA Sen. Dan Saleem (CCAS-U) as chair of the Sub-Committee on Sustainability. Saleem said he believes the University should divest from fossil fuels but that the SA needs to be “practical” and not damage GW’s finances from divestment. He said he plans to continue communication with the Office of Sustainability by using information and context that the former sustainability chair, Brita Ostermeier (CCAS-G), provided him.
Senators also unanimously confirmed SA Sen. Jonesy Strell (CCAS-U) as chair of the Community, Advocacy, and Inclusion Committee. Strell said as a student with hearing loss, he feels the SA has done little to support him and other minority students who have faced discrimination and “assault” regarding their student rights. He said he is dedicated to helping every member on the committee further their advocacy work as chair.
Senators confirmed SA. Sen Emmy Ly (SOB-U) as the undergraduate chair of the Student Life Committee in a 15-10 vote against SA. Sen Ethan Fitzgerald (CCAS-U). Ly said she has found it difficult to be involved in student life on campus because she is a commuter student, and will advocate for commuter students to gaining tap access to dining halls and residential buildings and expanding the commuter student lounge on the fourth floor of the University Student Center.
Senators unanimously approved SA Sen. Noor Khalil (SMHS-G) as graduate chair of the Student Life Committee. Khalil said he ran for the chair position because he enjoyed being on the committee last term and that he will work to make graduate students feel less disconnected from student life.
Senators unanimously approved Anika Gupta (SOB-U) as undergraduate chair of the Education Policy Committee. Gupta said she will work to ensure that all professors record their lectures because she relies on rewatching lessons to write down notes as a student with ADHD. She added she plans on fixing campus printers because she finds they often do not work.
Senators unanimously confirmed Adriana Sandoval (CPS-G) as the graduate chair of the Education Policy Committee. Sandoval said she plans on creating systems to help graduate students find jobs and develop professional skills.
Senators unanimously approved Eli Bak as the senate’s chief counselor, Henry Mills as the senate’s deputy counselor, Jacob Schwartz as senate secretary and Katelyn Moon as communications director. Senators also unanimously approved Maya Renteria as the junior director of the Legislative Budget Office and Conner Linggi and Alexander Wilson as the office’s assistants.
This article appeared in the May 11, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.