This post has been updated.
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.
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.