GUSA senate holds emergency session after resignation of GUSA president

September 12, 2018

This post has been updated.

Update 06/28/2019: Added a comment from Nair stating that “No complaint has ever been lodged against me regarding my conduct with either the Title IX office or the Office of Student Conduct.”

Update 07/03/2019: Added a comment from university administration confirming Nair’s statement.

The GUSA Senate convened yesterday in an emergency session following the resignation of former GUSA President Sahil Nair (SFS ’19).

Directly before the Senate’s late-night public session, members of the GUSA senate and executive gathered privately and heard GUSA Executive chief of staff Aaron Bennett (COL ’19) speak about allegations which members of the student body, including GUSA senators, have leveled against Nair. No individual directly involved with the allegations has come forward publicly. The Voice has no additional verified information regarding those allegations, or any others concerning Nair.

Nair could not be reached for comment at the time of the initial publication of this story.

Nair wrote in a June 28, 2019 email to the Voice that, “No complaint has ever been lodged against me regarding my conduct with either the Title IX office or the Office of Student Conduct.”

A university administrator confirmed Nair’s statement in a July 3, 2019 email to the Voice. “Sahil Nair has not been the subject of any complaints nor found responsible for any violations of the university’s Code of Student Conduct,” the email read.

GUSA Senator Sam Dubke (SFS ’21) noted that he and other senators were told of the allegations only days before Nair resigned.

Dubke said that as far as he was aware, few people knew before last Wednesday of any accusations. Before last Wednesday, those aware of the existence of the allegations were, he said, “limited to Aaron Bennett, chief of staff, and Naba, who is the current president.” In an interview conducted after the senate session, Dubke said that Bennett had admitted in the closed-door session to knowing about the allegations prior to last spring’s GUSA executive election. Asked where Bennett had learned of the allegations, Dubke said that he did not know. “It seems that everybody is taking it as fact,” he added.

In an email to the Voice, Bennett wrote that he and GUSA Vice President Naba Rahman (SFS ’19) had not been aware of specific allegations until after the election.

Had we been aware of a specific allegation or story, we would have either demanded that he leave the ticket or we would have removed ourselves from the campaign,” Bennett wrote.

He added that he takes the allegations very seriously, which, he believes, his actions demonstrate. “This is consistent with the information I emphasized to GUSA membership at a closed GUSA forum on Tuesday evening,” Bennett wrote.

Because Nair had already resigned, the allegations’ veracity was no longer directly relevant to the question of whether other members of the GUSA executive should resign, GUSA Senator Dylan Hughes (COL ’19) said. The question now, Hughes said in an interview after the session, is “what action was taken on the allegations.”

“The action that was taken,” Hughes said, “was nothing.” As a result, Hughes said, he believes Rahman and Bennett are unfit to continue in their positions in the GUSA executive.

Like Dubke, Hughes said he did not know the source of the allegations. Hughes also said that Bennett did not provide proof of the allegations. Hughes said that neither he nor anyone he was familiar with had affirmative proof of the allegations. But Hughes said that “the large number” of allegations, combined with the behavior of members of the GUSA executive, was sufficient to demand resignations.

Later in the senate session, Senator Chad Gasman (COL ’20) called for the resignations of all the leaders of GUSA. During the session, senators and members of the public debated what would happen should the executive be without a president for an extended period. In that scenario, some members said, the question may fall to the GUSA Constitutional Council. Gasman noted the importance of GUSA’s work, but said that GUSA’s leadership was not helping the body’s work. Gasman argued that GUSA executive leadership was not necessary.

“What tonight has shown is that GUSA needs a fucking reality check,” said Gasman. “Our job is not about keeping ourselves in power. Our job isn’t about having these meetings publicly.” Instead, Gasman said, GUSA’s job is to advocate for students.

During a night filled with discussion about the GUSA constitution and bylaws, Gasman advocated for more extreme measures.

“It’s our goddamn constitution,” Gasman said. “We can choose not to follow it. Let the constitutional council make their decision. I’m just not going to fucking listen to it. To be completely honest, if what GUSA needs is a self-imposed restoration without any leadership where people just do their own work and actually talk to the people of Georgetown … then that’s what GUSA goddamn needs.”

Gasman cited audience members and others in saying that the student body desired that sort of sea change in the way GUSA works.

“I don’t think for the rest of this year GUSA can be an effective body until at least everyone in the senior staff is gone,” Gasman continued. Gasman also called for the immediate resignation of all those in GUSA who knew in advance about the matters which prompted Nair’s resignation.

No consensus was reached during the discussion about the necessity of the executive’s leadership, though among those senators who spoke on the matter, Gasman was in the minority.

The only roll call vote the senate took was on a resolution introduced by Hughes which spelled out the recent history of the allegations made against Nair and demanded the resignation of Rahman, Bennett, and nine other senior executive staffers who had previously tendered and rescinded their resignations. It also provides that, should Rahman not resign, impeachment proceedings will get special consideration during next Sunday’s regularly scheduled senate meeting. The vote was unanimous, with Senators Martinez and Bhargava abstaining and Senators Farrara and Xie absent.

Jack Townsend
Jack is the Voice's executive news editor.

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Student of Georgetown

While I cannot agree more with the need to re-examine and further evaluate our sexual misconduct processes, how the GUSA senators and many who came to a very quick judgment in this currently unclear matter reacted is extremely disappointing and ultimately wrong.

In this institution where we have failed many sexual misconduct victims, and also in the meantime wrongly accused many innocent “transgressors”, what we usually did was to dismiss claims either of these parties made as “impossible” or “unashamed”. We are, however, in the process of reckoning that mistakes can be made and thereby growing to be more careful and offering more people a chance to defend themselves. Shouldn’t we at least give a chance for those who are accused of these allegations to speak up? What these senators are doing, what many of these spectators are doing, is prematurely shutting down the conversation and tilting the scale of justice towards a side when facts and truths have not even emerged at all. That is wrong, and something I would find a hard time defending. Now, I would expect senators like Chad Gasman to probably argue that they and the rest of the senate are defending everyone’s interest and indeed opening the room for discussion. But to that I respond, how does screaming out an emotional exposé help in finding the truth of the matter? To me, throughout my reading of both this article and the one published by the Hoya, groups of students have shown little respect for people’s privacy and the process for people to speak up and bring evidence to the floor.

Georgetown has not done a good job in maintaining the welfare of its students by leaving the Title IX office directorship empty. That needs to be fixed immediately. Victims need to be given a way to privately and healthily express their experiences. But before all is “said and done”, there also needs to exist objective and peaceful evaluation of situations like these. People who represent the voice of the students need to allow for peaceful arguments from both sides of the incident, or at least offer the opportunity to both sides and give them some time before a decision is made. Threatening with impeachment and yelling about completely “not listening” to the advice offered by other parts of our student government is neither objective nor peaceful. However, I do want to point out that I am a fervent believer in Chad’s right to express whatever they want. I am expressing mine in saying that jumping to the conclusion so quickly is not a responsible resolution.

If Sahil is objectively shown to have engaged in sexual misconduct, the punishment should be fair and serious indeed. If other members of the senior leadership are proven to have deliberately hidden evidence or lied to investigative bodies, then the punishment should be serious as well. I believe that many of the senior leaders and our elected leadership ultimately do care about the welfare of the student body and truth and justice. But that’s why this community needs to be united by reason, not by unproven claims and hatred. For now, I am just going to look at the facts and summarize the situation as this. Georgetown is not doing a great job with providing formal outlets to students with Title IX allegations. There have been allegations about our elected student body president for sexual misconduct and assasult. There also have been allegations about other members of the governing body who may have deliberately hidden evidences. (Rumors and unproven stories should not be held against those students because it’s impossible for them to verify the truthfulness of those claims. Furthermore, they are entitled to a right of privacy in the face of not having participated in anything directly related to the misconduct allegations when they occurred.)

I 100% respect the accuser(s)’s rights to privacy. And I hope that the accused will issue an official statement. But before that occurs, we should all allow for some time for those involved to respond. This student body should represent the students and offer due process and rights to all sides. Blindly blaming any side without proper evidence or investigative processes is not only morally wrong but also inconsiderate in general.

I hope that everyone involved in this situation may find some peace, and I encourage all to keep an open mind and respect people’s privacy before justice may take its place. Thank you.