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Student Association

The SA Senate passed a resolution Monday night to support accessibility of online materials for disabled students. Max Wang | Hatchet Photographer

The SA Senate passed a resolution Monday night to support accessibility of online materials for disabled students. Max Wang | Hatchet Photographer

The Student Association Senate passed a resolution Monday night in support of a congressional bill to increase accessibility of educational materials for the hearing and visually impaired.

The senate voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which backs the Access to Instructional Materials of Higher Education Act. If passed by the House Representatives, the act would create a commission to compile a list of voluntary guidelines universities should follow to prevent those with disabilities from being unable to access resources.

The resolution addresses a described “inadequate level” of accessibility for visually and hearing impaired students on GW websites like admissions, Banweb and Blackboard.

Sen. Peak Sen Chua, MISPH-U, said the bill will place an emphasis on the need for GW to make sure that access to instructional materials, which can affect student’s grades, are equal for everyone.

“What the bill does is reaffirms our principle as an inclusive, friendly environment,” Chua said.

Disability Support Services offers academic services like sign language interpreting and real-time captioning transcription for hearing impaired students and converting textbooks to alternative forms like audiobooks for visually impaired students.

The senate also unanimously passed a bill clarifying that graduate student umbrella organizations can access and use all of the money in their SA general fund. Student groups can receive an allocation for the next fiscal year based on the amount students contributed this year.

In 2015, the senate passed a bill allowing these umbrella organizations to start collecting money through student fees to make sure that graduate student fees went toward events for those students, instead of programming designed for undergraduates that they can’t participate in.

Sen. Elena Kuo-LeBlanc, SOB-G, said she sponsored the bill because she would like graduate students to be able to hold more events to bring the community together.

“We do have a shorter time frame at GW,” Kuo-LeBlanc said, “There are students who never see their funds.”

Kuo-LeBlanc added that the funds would be used to hold more social events for the graduate community, ;ole happy hours.

Three students were also unanimously appointed to the Joint Elections Committee.

Aimee Triana, who worked on the committee last year, said she would focus on social media advertising. Alex Simone, who has been on the committee for the past two years, said she would like to focus on making sure the elections are held during a time when graduate students are on campus. Teddy Clamp, who also served the past two years, said he would focus on making sure there are no campaign violations.

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Sen. Arian Rubio, CCAS-U, sponsored a bill calling for Student Association election dates to be set between March 1 and April 15. Lisa Blitstein | Hatchet Photographer

Sen. Arian Rubio, CCAS-U, sponsored a bill calling for Student Association election dates to be set between March 1 and April 15. Lisa Blitstein | Hatchet Photographer

The Student Association Senate passed a bill Monday night allowing the Joint Election Committee to set the dates for this academic year’s SA elections.

The dates for the SA general election have varied in the past: in 2015, elections were held on March 25 and 26, after spring break, and elections for this SA were on March 9 and 10, before the break.

The senate voted 26 to two in favor of a bill which stipulated that while the committee may choose specific dates, those dates must be between March 1 and April 15.

Sen. Arian Rubio, CCAS-U, said he sponsored the bill to ensure that the elections do not fall on a law school or graduate program recess, which could limit student engagement in the voting and campaign process.

“This legislation makes sure the needs of the community will be involved in the dates of the election,” Rubio said.

The senate also voted unanimously – with three abstentions – in favor of an amendment to hold student organizations financially liable if they are not using the resource center supplies responsibly.

The amendment calls for the finance committee to charge student group’s SA accounts up to the price of whatever items were lost, damaged or never returned. If funds in the account are insufficient, the committee can withdraw the amount from the student group revenue accounts or deduct from future allocations.

Earlier this year the SA opened the resource center for student groups to have access to the most commonly requested office supplies like scissors and poster paper.

Sen. Devan Cole, CCAS-U, sponsored the bill but was not present. SA Chief of Staff Rayhaan Merani said the bill should not be a significant issue as the majority of the supplies are under $10, meaning any fines would not be a significant burden to student groups.

The amendment was added to a bill stipulating that if student groups use funds for prohibited reasons, they may be fined up to the entirety of their remaining funds or be ineligible for allocations for the remainder of the fiscal year. Prohibited expenses include using funds for gambling, as contributions in both on and off-campus elections, as gifts or prizes, to compensate members, for financial securities like stocks or to buy any University-prohibited items like weapons or drugs.

The resignations of Sen. Guarav Sharma, SoB-G, and Spencer Legred, the vice president for student activities, were also announced.

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Students gathered in Kogan Plaza Wednesday night to stand with groups affected by the election of Donald Trump. Lisa Blitstein | Hatchet Photographer

Students gathered in Kogan Plaza Wednesday night to stand with groups affected by the election of Donald Trump. Lisa Blitstein | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Friday, Nov. 11 at 8:54 p.m.

This post was written by reporters Elise Zaidi and Callie Schiffman.

Hundreds of students gathered in Kogan Plaza Wednesday night to stand in solidarity with communities directly affected by the upcoming presidency of Donald Trump.

Hosted by Our Revolution GW, the event was titled “Post-election group cry: Tissues and issues” and called for GW students to join with student leaders from GW’s liberal, multicultural and religious groups in the face of unapologetic white supremacy, according to the Facebook page for the event.

Keiko Tsuboi, one of the event coordinators, said they organized the event to support students from different backgrounds who will be marginalized by the Trump presidency.

“We organized this as soon as we got up because we walked outside and the campus was dead. The looks on people’s faces was just shock, disappointment, and pure disbelief,” Tsuboi said. “We knew it was going to takes weeks and months to process all of this and let the reality of our president sink in.”

Tsuboi added that while students should take the time to process the changes, GW also needs to start mobilizing for the future.

Student Association Sen. Devan Cole, CCAS-U, said he has never seen such gloom on campus and hopes GW can rise above stories he has heard of people calling others derogatory racial slurs since news broke Tuesday night.

“I came out here to show solidarity with my brother and sisters, the marginalized and the vulnerable on this campus who are living in such fear right now, who are discouraged and confused and scared. We are here to support them,” Cole said.

SA Director of Sustainability Frank Fritz said students on campus are fearful that a Trump presidency will bring Islamophobia, anti-black sentiment, homophobia, anti-queerness and misogyny to the forefront of the American consciousness.

“I would say most GW students would not have expected the outcome that we had. We saw a candidate who is the antithesis of the values that we embrace at this university,” Fritz said. “We organized this rally because Donald Trump has brought immense and unprecedented hatred to our campaign trail.”

Other students who attended the event commented said they also noticed the somber tone that has fallen on campus.

Progressive Student Union member Kei Pritsker said students on campus are shocked as students struggle to take the news of Trump’s election well.

“I don’t think anyone saw this coming and I still don’t think people are ready to cope with this reality,” Pritsker said.

Amira Bakir, a student at the event, said she has turned to her friends from all different religions and backgrounds for support on campus.

“It was a surreal moment. I am from a first generation immigrant family. I am a Muslim American. Today was really hard because I called my parents and they were just so removed from everything that is happening here. They didn’t know how to support me,” Bakir said.

Olive Eisdorfer said the “numb” mood on campus and in D.C. comes from the uncertainty people feel in what a Trump presidency means for themselves, their families, friends and student organizations.

“Seeing hundreds of GW people that supported each other and that were here to listen and here out in the cold to was exactly what people needed,” Eisdorfer said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:

The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Keiko Tsuboi’s name. It is spelled correctly now. We regret this error.

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The SA voted to amend joint election committee regulations, back any future fall breaks, and limit public comment times. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

The SA voted to amend the Joint Election Committee charter, back any future fall breaks, and limit public comment times. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

The Student Association Senate passed three new bills Monday night, including a bill clarifying rules for the Joint Election Committee that earned unanimous support.

The bill called for several changes to be made to the JEC charter, like mandating that committee financial expenditure reports be made public in all races, including those for Class Council and Program Board, and that students who withdraw their candidacy prior to the voting period must submit a notice to the committee. This allows the committee time to notify the senate and remove names from the ballot.

During the last SA elections, presidential candidate Tony Hart dropped out from the race two days before voting began, but his name still appeared on the ballot.

The bill also clarified the posters each candidate is permitted, which were first redefined in another bill passed by the senate last academic year. Students running in the spring for the highest positions of SA president, SA executive vice president, program board chair and vice-chair may hang 10 posters in each of the four locations. Candidates for at-large seats may hang seven posters in each location and all other offices are limited to five posters maximum per location.

Sen. Sydney Nelson, ESIA-U, said she sponsored the bill because the clarifications ensure clarity and financial transparency.

“The bill allows the integrity of the election to be maintained,” Nelson said.

Nelson added that altering the notice time for a candidate to withdraw from the ballot from three days to 24 hours provides more flexibility.

The Senate also passed a bill 18 to three in favor of limiting the public comment time to five minutes per speaker.

Sen. Michael Overton, ESIA-G, said he sponsored the bill because it still encourages public involvement but also enables the Senate to conduct its business in a more timely way. Senators have the choice to overrule the chair and give students more time if needed.

Sen. Michael Overton, ESIA-G, sponsored a bill to improve timeliness at Senate meetings. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Sen. Michael Overton, ESIA-G, sponsored a bill to improve timeliness at Senate meetings. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

“I have noticed a trend since the beginning of the year that meetings tend to run long and other senators tend to leave because of other commitments,” Overton said. “This allows for the most democratic process possible.”

The Senate also unanimously passed a resolution declaring their intent to encourage the University to add fall break to future academic calendars.

Between 30 and 50 percent of students living in Amsterdam Hall, Shenkman Hall, West Hall and Thurston hall left campus during the break while South Hall had no noticeable decreases, according to data provided by GWorld card tap-in analysis included in the bill.

SA Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno, who first began the process for creating a fall break two years ago, said that he was approached by multiple students who said the break was a necessary and important break for their mental health.

“I would like to see it through future years at GW so we can make the lives of students better,” Falcigno said. “If it can be done it should be done.”

Owen Evans was elected unanimously to move from the role of assistant to vice president of academic affairs following the resignation of Vaishali Ashtakala for personal reasons earlier this semester.

Evans said he would focus specifically on lowering or removing the fine for students who are in their 18th credit class. This issue especially affects students looking to graduate early, he said.

“We have to give people control of their schedules,” Evans said. “That is my main goal for the rest of the semester if I am confirmed, to work on and improve the policies we already have.”

The Senate also added nine new members, four by secret ballot and five approved in uncontested elections.

These elections come after a heated debate during the last SA meeting in which senators failed to pass a resolution to rework the selection process. The proposed bill would have ensured that senators could write in name of an applicant or indicate the seat should remain unfilled to avoid the current process in which a seat is filled automatically if one person applies for it.

Jack Jomarron ran on diversifying the dining options and expanding sexual assault reports and was chosen to fill the vacant U-at-Large seat, while Arian Rubio, who will take on the CCAS-U seat, said he would increase access to academic resources and focus on affordability on campus.

Alysha Cieniewicz successfully ran for the GSEHD-G seat on improving the graduate community by hosting events like game nights and happy hours for constituents. And new SOB-G senator Elana Kuo Leblanc said she would work to increase communication among departments in the business school.

Five uncontested seats were also filled by Scott Barber for the Graduate School of Medical and Health Sciences, Shuyi Zhang for the Graduate School of Professional Studies, Julie Duffy for the first-year non-voting graduate seat and both Luz Maria Jasso Gascon and Ashley Raye Smith for the two open Columbian College of Arts and Sciences graduate seats.

The senate also voted to turn the Duffy’s first-year non-voting graduate seat and the School of Nursing graduate seats into two U-at-Large seats.

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The SA voted unanimously Monday to show student support for increased community engagement. Lisa Blitstein | Hatchet Photographer

Sen. Nate Pasko, ESIA-U, sponsored a resolution for increased community engagement. The bill passed unanimously at a Student Association Senate meeting Monday night. Lisa Blitstein | Hatchet Photographer

The Student Association Senate passed a resolution urging GW to engage more in the D.C. community Monday night.

The senate voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which calls for officials to purchase locally sourced products, hire employees from the area, expand community education programs and invest in community development funds. The resolution also encourages student organizations to find ways to work with D.C. groups.

Sen. Nate Pasko, ESIA-U, said the bill will make GW stand out nationally as an institution that supports community engagement and service.

“I support this because it is an opportunity for real progress in the University,” Pasko said.

Pasko added that he sponsored the bill because it sets a precedent for students and officials to get involved around D.C.


Members of the GW chapter of the Roosevelt Institute worked with SA senators to draft the resolution.

Noah Wexler, the economic development director for GW’s Roosevelt Institute chapter, said during the meeting that the bill demonstrates students’ passion for the D.C. community.

He added that there is a perception that students and administrators don’t engage with people and organizations outside of GW in Foggy Bottom and other parts of the District.

“The main reason for the bill is that often times students and administration think there is a gap between Rice Hall and everywhere else,” Wexler said.

During the meeting, SA Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno announced that Sen. Miriam Karim, CCAS-G, resigned from her position due conflicts with schoolwork.

Sen. Zachary Graybill, SEAS-G, said the senate currently has 11 unfilled seats. Applications for those positions will close Oct. 28, he said.

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Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016 2:19 p.m.

SA votes in favor of fossil fuel divestment

The SA voted unanimously Monday in favor of divesting holdings in the University's endowment from fossil fuels. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

The SA voted unanimously Monday in favor of divesting holdings in the University’s endowment from fossil fuels. Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, at 3:53 p.m.

The Student Association Senate voted in favor of divesting the University’s holdings in fossil fuels Monday night.

The senate voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, which called for GW to remove all fossil fuel investments from its the endowment.

In 2015, the senate voted in favor of allowing students to vote on whether or not GW should divest its fossil fuel holdings. More than 70 percent of students who voted in the 2015 SA elections supported the divestment referendum, but officials said in the spring that they would not divest those holdings.

At least seven students spoke in favor of the measure, saying GW should act as an example to other universities when it comes to green initiatives.

Frank Fritz, an organizer for Fossil Free GW, said fossil fuel divestment is time sensitive because the damage done to the environment by fossil fuels is increasing for each generation.

“It is quite often said that we will be the first generation to directly feel the effects of climate change and we are the last ones who can do anything about it,” Fritz said.

Fritz added that GW should stand against the fossil fuel industry as a matter of principle to encourage other companies and universities to do so as well.

Sen. Logan Malik, U-at-Large, said the resolution calls for the University to commit to divest those holdings and pledge to never again to invest in fossil fuels. He cited GW’s mission statement, which states that the institution is dedicated “to furthering human well-being” as a reason why the University should divest.

“I believe and the students believe that we are violating our University mission statement,” Malik said.

Sen. Nick Pasko, ESIA-U, said the point of the resolution is to encourage a dialogue with administrators.

“This resolution is intended to stand in solidarity with the vast majority of students who want this issue addressed by their student leaders,” Pasko said.

SA President Erika Feinman also spoke in favor of the measure, saying senators should support the bill because D.C.’s pension fund voted over the summer to divest its fossil fuel investments.

“It is very important that GW join with the city on important issues,” Feinman said.

The senate also added six new members, three by secret ballot and three approved in uncontested elections.

Patrick Nordstrom ran on affordability, divestment, gender-neutral bathrooms, and improved representation for transfer students, and was chosen to fill the vacant U-at-Large seat.

Apsara Sankar ran on altering the amount of required courses in the first year development program at the business school. She will fill the SoB-U seat.

Michael Guest, who serves for the United States Capitol Police, ran on increasing security. He will fill the CPS-U seat.

Three uncontested seats were also filled by Aishwarya Khurana for the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Megan Robinson for the law school and Nicole Oli the Milken Institute School of Public Health and Human Services in uncontested races.

The senate also voted to turn the undergraduate seat for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences into another U-at-Large seat, citing the small number of students in that program and the large amount of interest from undergraduates in other programs joining the senate.

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Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 10:14 a.m.

SA senate elects new chairperson pro tempore

Zachary Graybill, G-SEAS, was elected chairperson pro tempore of the Student Association Senate Monday. Photo by Sam Hardgrove | Photo Editor

Sen. Zachary Graybill, G-SEAS, was elected chairperson pro tempore of the Student Association Senate Monday. Photo by Sam Hardgrove | Photo Editor

The Student Association senate elected a new chairperson pro tempore Monday night after the senator who previously held the position resigned.

Former Sen. Evan Bursey, U-at-Large, resigned from his senate position for personal reasons, SA Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno said during Monday’s meeting. This year was Bursey’s second term as an SA senator.

The chair pro tempore heads the senate’s leadership committee and would take on the executive vice president’s role of presiding over the senate if the executive vice president were to step down or was otherwise not able to fulfill his or her duty.

Two senators, Sen. Zachary Graybill, G-SEAS, and Sen. Evan Bryan, G-CPS, were both nominated for the position. Graybill won in a written vote.

Graybill served as an undergraduate senator for two terms before being elected to the graduate position. He was also a member of the senate’s finance committee, which he said during the meeting has prepared him for the chairperson position.

“I’ve appreciated seeing over the past few years our missions, and I’d love to have this position,” Graybill said.

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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 10:08 a.m.

SA Senate passes affordability resolution

Sen. Evan Bursey, U-at-Large,

Sen. Evan Bursey, U-at-Large, introduced a bill at Monday’s SA Senate meeting requiring senate committees to report on affordability at GW.

The Student Association Senate passed a resolution Monday night requiring each of the senate’s committees to create reports on the state of affordability for students at GW.

Each committee, which focuses on a different topic within the University – like student organizations or academics – will submit a report at the end of the academic year with explanations of costs students encounter on campus and detailed recommendations for solutions to reduce those costs.

Sen. Evan Bursey, U-at-Large, who introduced the bill, said the bill fits with the SA’s overall goal to make academics, student life and student organizations more affordable and accessible.

“Affordability is where advocacy is needed most,” Bursey said. “Every student knows how unaffordable the student experience can be at GW.”

SA President Erika Feinman ran on a platform that included improving affordability on campus by reducing co-pays for GW’s health services and lowering the cost of printing.

The senate also passed a bill Monday recognizing University President Steven Knapp following his announcement this summer that this academic year would be his last at GW.

Sen. Logan Malik, U-at-Large, said students should appreciate Knapp’s focus on sustainability, diversity and combatting campus sexual assault.

“He pointed the University in the right direction as far as those issues are concerned,” Malik said.

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University President Steven Knapp issued a statement Tuesday about race relations on campus. Hatchet file photo

University President Steven Knapp issued a statement about continuing to improve race relations on campus. Hatchet file photo

University President Steven Knapp called for a campus-wide concentration on racial inclusion this upcoming academic year in a statement reacting to racially charged shootings last week.

Knapp said in the statement sent Tuesday that the GW community should push to create a “sustained and serious” dialogue about race on campus during his final school year as University president.

“In the coming year we will strengthen and accelerate our efforts to make sure we realize our promise to be a community of scholars in which the interests, contributions and aspirations of all our students, faculty, and staff are recognized, respected and given the fullest possible scope,” he said. “I invite every member of our community to join that effort.”

Knapp’s statement was in response to last week’s “national outrage, mourning and prayer,” he said: Two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were killed by police officers in separate events last week. Five police officers were shot and killed  in Dallas at a “Black Lives Matter” rally Thursday night.

This is the second time in a year that Knapp has issued a University-wide statement about race relations on campus: In November, he addressed protests surrounding racial bias at the University of Missouri that led to the institute president’s resignation.

Since his first statement, Knapp has been “moved and saddened” to learn about the barriers minority students and faculty face at GW, he said in Tuesday’s statement.

Faculty, staff and students should prepare graduates to encourage inclusivity beyond GW, he added.

“Our most important contribution to addressing the sources of such violence is not through what we say or do here but through the graduates who, when they leave us, carry their knowledge and their commitment to justice beyond these walls and out into the world we count on them to change,” Knapp said.

During his tenure, Knapp has presided over an effort to make the University accessible to diverse students. He oversaw creating a vice provost position focused on diversity in 2011, and he hired a new vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement in May. Knapp also participated in a discussion at Howard University last year about race on campuses with student leaders and administrators from universities across the District.

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Sen. Brady Forrest, CCAS-G, said this year's budget approval was running more smoothly than last year's process. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Sen. Brady Forrest, CCAS-G, said this year’s budget approval was running more smoothly than last year’s process. Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Student Association Senate passed a budget Monday night to fund student organizations through next academic year.

The bill was approved by the senate, after relatively little debate, by a vote of 27 to 1. The budget distributes about $980,000 of the SA’s approximately $1.3 million budget to student groups across campus.

More than 110 groups saw a decrease in initial funding, but Paden Gallagher, the chair of the finance committee, said drop was because more funding was set aside for co-sponsorships given throughout the year.

“In general organizations are going to cuts, but there will be more access to money later on,” he said. “That will be great for student organizations, I promise.”

The finance committee will have about $344,000 to give out to student organizations during next academic year, about $160,00 more than was set aside this year.

Gallagher said many academic-focused student organizations received last funding in this year’s budget compared to last year. He added that arts groups also initially received a significant budget cut, but the appeals process, which gave out $65,000 to 50 student organizations, which helped to lessen the gap.

SA President Andie Dowd said she will sign the budget, avoiding the contentious fight that occurred last year after then-SA president Nick Gumas vetoed the initial budget because he said it failed to fund too many student organizations. After a weeks-long battle, the senate overrode Gumas’ veto in a special session and Dowd signed the bill.

“This is heaven compared to last year,” Sen. Brady Forrest, CCAS-G, said. “I’m glad this is going so smoothly.”

At the final meeting of the current term, senators also passed a resolution calling for the University to allow student staff members to attend President Steven Knapp’s office hours. Sen. Brandon Brown, GSEHD-G, said that as a staff member he is currently not allowed to meet with Knapp despite the fact that he is also a graduate student.

“All graduate students who are also staff double down and work here and should have same rights as all other students,” Brown said.

The senate also passed a resolution commending senate chief of staff John Lindsay for his work with the SA throughout the past academic year.

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